Last year id Software released a reboot of DOOM that surprised and delighted with its refreshing take on the FPS genre. It was fast-paced, intense, rewarding and had a decent length of campaign, and outside expecting an announcement of a sequel at some point you’d be forgiven for thinking we wouldn’t be experiencing the portal to Hell on Mars for some time. Bethesda have the ability to spring new things on us though and now we’ve got DOOM VFR, a standalone adventure that really does put you in the shoes of… well… not DOOM guy. Does that matter though when you’ve a shotgun thrust in your hands and a 12 foot demon to battle?
DOOM VFR is a cut down version of the full game where you’re playing as the cyborg reincarnation of one of the unfortunate employees in the UAC facility on Mars. Loosely following the path of DOOM guy through some of the key areas from the 2016 title, you’re trying to stop the demons from spreading by closing the portal to Hell – simple really. Obviously, the main selling point here is you’re seeing the action from a more personal perspective. Scale and speed are enhanced by the VR world, you feel bad ass loaded up with massive ordinance, yet you feel more vulnerable than ever before especially when a Baron of Hell comes charging at you.
On PSVR there’s a selection of control methods to go with – DualShock 4, Move Controllers or Aim Controller – and each has benefits and drawbacks. DualShock is pretty much as you’d expect from a standard FPS so you can play with little adapting to VR, though you’ll miss out on a number of elements that make it more immersive. Using the Move option you have a gun in one hand and use the other to teleport around. It works well and gives you the ability to fully examine the beefy weapons you’re wielding. However, by far the best method is the Aim Controller because you’re able to combine the FPS movement with actually pointing and using the gun in your hand. Teleport is still there as an option to move to higher levels and out manoeuvre the more nimble enemies, and to telefrag as a finishing move (glory kills aren’t in this version), but being able to whizz around using more familiar controls really brings the game to life.
Whilst the controls might be liberating, there are a couple of odd choices in the screen real estate. Grenades or a grenade launcher are ever present on the left side of the screen, taking up quite a lot of space, and the aiming for this is via your head position. It takes a little getting used to, though you can’t help but feel it could have been delivered in a different way that wasn’t so intrusive. Your main weapon also appears to be tethered to a particular area, especially noticeable with the Aim as it doesn’t track quite as well as you want it to. It doesn’t affect pointing and shooting, just the positioning on screen vs where you’re holding the actual piece of plastic. On the plus side despite using the smooth turn and full FPS controls, I experienced no motion sickness at all, so there’s some great implementation to manage what could have been a real killer for DOOM VFR.
Graphically it looks the same as the main game, albeit at a lower resolution, and there’s no slowdown or hit to framerate at any point. To encourage you to enjoy the lush visuals there are the same collectables to go after in the form of DOOM guy models hidden in secret areas. Find all of them in a level and you’ll open up a classic Doom map so you can experience the 90s version in full VR as well. Upgrades are also found scattered around so that you can improve health and teleport slowdown (which allows you to consider where to head to), as well as unlocking secondary fire options for the myriad of weapons. Pistol, plasma rifle, rocket launcher… they’re all present and correct, though do feel a bit underpowered than I remember.
Without doubt Bethesda is spoiling us with the VR releases of their most popular titles. Skyrim VR 2 weeks ago, DOOM VFR, and Fallout 4 coming up, and each that I’ve played seems built to work to the strengths of the respective title. DOOM VFR is a great little game that contains lots of action, jump scares, and massive demons that can only be appreciated when you’re stood underneath them sticking a double barrelled shotgun under their chin. There’s a decent amount of replayability, yet more importantly it proves that FPS action games can work in virtual reality, something that a year ago I would have said there’d be no chance.
DOOM VFR is out now on PSVR and HTC Vive for around £20, but if you hunt around you can pick it up for a lot less than that.