I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people have been on the fence about VR over the last 12 months, is it worth investing into a VR headset device or are there only ‘experiences’ available for it? I have nothing against the odd experience, but people want games – real, full games. In 2017 we received a few of these on PSVR; Resident Evil VII, Skyrim, Paranormal Activity and The Invisible Hours to name a few. 2017 signed off with another big title game which had made the jump to VR, Doom VFR; however, instead of this following the likes of Skyrim VR, it is a brand new experience which can only be played in VR on PC or PlayStation. The team have taken a different approach with Doom and opted for a few ‘interesting’ yet annoying mechanics which may or may not impact on your ability to enjoy the title. So, come with me as I journey to Hell as I see if Doom’s VFR is an abbreviation of ‘Virtual F**king Reality’ or ‘Very F**king Rubbish’…
The game begins, like they usually do, with a short intro which has a rather intimidating ‘Pinky’ charge at you head first and slaughters you. You proceed to wake up and as you look around, you realise that you were dead but you have had your mind implanted inside of a new cyborg body. The game quickly teaches you the default control method of teleporting around and then sends you to a training lab where you learn how to fire, use your grenades and perform finishing moves. Once you have completed your training you’re able to freely move around the ship engaging with hordes of enemies as you investigate what’s happened. The story isn’t the strongest but its Doom, it doesn’t need a story – as long as it has monsters, big guns and gibs – who cares!
The ‘choice’ of controls is where I personally am not a big fan. There are three control methods within the game, allowing for the gamer to choose which suits them best – however, none of them really suited me and thus, it impacted on the experience I had and the enjoyment I got out of the game. I’ll be critical and honest and I’ll leave my personal opinion out of the verdict, but I will tell you about my experiences as we go on. All images from here on are from the PS4 and taken by myself – in VR the game looks more details and a lot better, this is the ‘social screen’ which always outputs at a lower resolution.
Option 1: Move controllers
If you are using Move controllers then you MUST play this game stood up – this means you have to have enough room around you and not have any issues with standing for periods of time. You have the ability to teleport (which is tied into you being a cyborg and also because its VR) and you can use a speed burst to dash briefly forwards, backwards, left or right – but you can’t turn. Yup you heard that right, with the Move controllers you can’t turn left or right – you can do a full 180 degrees turn, but not to the side. This means if an enemy is to your left or right then you must physically turn around to engage with them. This may not be an issue for yourselves but I don’t have the room to stand and move about without bumping into things. The good thing about this method is the fact you have both hands separately in-game – so you can see your gun in the right hand and grenades/grenade launcher on the left. The emersion in this mode is great and would be perfect if it had the ability to turn like in Skyrim VR.
Option 2: Dual Shock 4
This is the method I ended up using, however, I turned off all the ‘safety options’ and proceded to get very nauseated. That’s most likely my fault as I don’t like using the controller and only turning in increments but you do have the option. So, you can turn smooth or in steps of a chosen size, you can opt for teleport only or moving with the sick and you can change the speed and sensitivity of the movements. Sounds great right! There is one flaw, in order to aim you must move your head. So, if an enemy is coming at you then you must move and turn with both sticks whilst you move your head in order to lock onto the enemy so you can open fire! Sounds great but after a while, your neck will hurt as you’re constantly moving it around. The other flaw is the fact that in this mode your gun hand and grenade hand are always visible and literally stuck on the side of your head. This is obvious as that’s how you aim, but still, it makes you feel like one of those floating eyeballs with an arm on each side or Krang from the Ninja Turtles.
Option 3: Use the Aim Controller
I don’t own this controller but Bethesda themselves confirmed it would be my best option for their game due to my preferences (which I’ll come to soon). However, I’m unable to pay £70-100 for a controller in order to play one game at the moment, so I’m going off what I’ve read and seen in regards to this method. This controller allows you to move about and look left and right using the stick on the controller, you aim using the gun and can either teleport or move naturally. This one sounds perfect… and then you notice a similar flaw to option 2. the Aim controller requires two hands, in-game you have two hands yet in real life you are holding one device. This results in you walking around like a zombie with both arms outstretched all the time as you play. This is purely an emersion issue though as the mechanics behind it sound solid and a lot better than the previous two options.
Personally, I asked Bethesda if they could change the ‘dash’ left and right on the move controller to rotate left and right instead or lower the gun models on the DS4 method – I was advised these changes won’t be implemented and the Aim controller is my best option (if Bethesda wishes to send me one then I would happily re-review the game). As such, I was forced to play the game with the DS4 as that method was more accessible. I still believe the best method would be if they gave the game Skyrim and Raw Data VR controls and let us turn as well as move freely with the left Move controller. Regardless, I still enjoyed playing the game, it just wasn’t as fun as it could have been.
One mechanic which as returned in VR, which I was quite surprised at, is the ability to perform finishing moves on the monsters. To pull it off it is incredibly easy as well, you proceed to attack the enemies until they start flashing and then you teleport inside of them and you will literally cause them to explode from the inside out as you rematerialise. This is a great mechanic and it works really well without slowing down any of the action or causing you to stop as you figure out what to do – shoot, flash, teleport, explode – simple!
Regarding the level design, this is a brand new game – it borrows assets and settings from the 2016 hit but they have made an entirely new game out of it. However, it is much shorter and you can basically complete the game within about 4-5 hours. That is, if you don’t include the bonus ‘classic doom’ maps and also going out of your way to find all of the collectables. At times you feel overwhelmed by the number of enemies rushing at you, but that’s the beauty of doom – fast paced and full of action with no BS. I would have liked the maps to be bigger, the missions longer and the environments more varied, but the game is priced accordingly and I personally don’t think I would have lasted that much longer per level using the DS4 controller method (with no motion sickness options on) – so maybe they made the right choice?
Visually, this is up there with one of the best games I played in VR last year – you can get up close with all of your favorite Doom creatures, look at all the classic items in the holographic museum type section, and even truly feel like the Doom guy as everything looks so realistic (even though you’re not technically ‘the’ Doom guy). The VR effect works great with little to no ghosting and I never really had an issue with thinking it was too blurry or unplayable. I had to adjust my headset a few times, but once I did everything became clear (so a fault with my setup, not the game). The sound is also spot on for the game, again with many assets which were probably pulled from the 2016 game. The music is a mix of heavy metal once again and all the sound effects sound like actual screeches, bangs, pew pews and arghhhhs.
Doom VFR is a good attempt but I feel the game fell short due to issues that could/should have been resolved. What makes an FPS game great isn’t its story or the pretty graphics, it’s the controls. You need to have rock-solid controls in a game like this in order to fully immerse yourself and control whats going on around you. Having the three methods with no way to customise them let the game down and really impacted on my overall experience. The game itself, as a VR title, is one of the most visually stunning on the PSVR and the action is smooth and satisfying. If you have a PSVR and are looking for a decent game to play, you don’t want to only play horror games and experiences, and you don’t mind the controller options given then you should pick Doom VFR up as it’s cheap and is a great way to kill a few hours.
- Fast paced action which hold up really well
- All original content rather than a 'VR Mode'
- Visually stunning in VR
- Sound design is as good as the 2016 reboot
- Poor controller implementation with no means to customise
- Would have been a lot more fun if you could play in co-op or MP
- Very short
- The story was forgettable (I know it's Doom and story doesn't matter, but still)