Not content with bringing us Youngblood in July of this year, Bethesda, Machine Games and Arkane Studios also pulled together a VR title for our immersive pleasure and released it on the same day. Set in 1980’s Paris it’s a counterpart to the events of its sister game, but puts you in the pants of a Cyberpilot – someone who controls the literal Nazi war machines. It’s a budget game though, coming in at under £15, and has had virtually no promotion or even released game footage up until launch. This smacks of a lack of confidence in the game, so what’s made the teams hide it away during development?
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is a reasonably simple premise – hack into several different types of machines to guide them through Paris and destroy one of the towers that’s holding the city under tyrannical rule. The Resistance have managed to coerce an insider to be the titular pilot, and they’re situated in a bunker hidden away from the action. By taking control of the various forms of transport it’s up to them to disrupt the occupation whilst getting guidance from a disembodied voice and wisecracking text on a computer screen. Whether the vehicles are a Panzerhund, a drone or the fearsome Zitadelle, they first need to be reprogrammed then sent out on their respective destruction sprees before heading into a final act of sabotage. It’s definitely very meta being a VR pilot in a VR pilot simulation.
With 4 main missions and an interactive hub area, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot isn’t a long game, and this might be why there hasn’t been a lot of attention on it from the publisher. That doesn’t mean it’s poor quality though, it’s one of the better looking and put together VR experiences I’ve played. Using the same assets as Youngblood and leveraging the most out of what VR can offer without compromising resolution or playability, it’s decent to look at and smooth to control. With Move wands being the only recognised controller, they’re either mapped to your hands so you can grab things in the hub, or work as floating joysticks to move the machines. It might sound a little strange to begin with, but once you’re in charge of a behemoth it makes more sense. Taking control requires a little manipulation though and there’s a nice touch in heading to a repair bay to remove panels and fix the machines first.
Once you’ve reached the VR cockpit, the right wand is responsible for aiming, going backwards and turning, whilst the left is for movement forwards and strafing. With the ambulation on digital buttons it’s a bit confusing to begin with, though soon makes sense as different machines are used. Each has a unique set of abilities and weapons and a one size fits all control scheme wouldn’t work. Having a short intro tutorial gets you used to what you’re piloting, then it’s straight into the action. Take the Panzerhund: it jets flames from its mouth as a primary fire, and pounces with its secondary, each devastating to ordinary troops and cars. For heavier enemies there’s a shockwave attack that comes from the panic button in the cockpit. It’s meant a little as a hail Mary last resort and with it being a big red button to hit, it feels quite visceral too. The other vehicles have their own special abilities suited to their particular roles and smashing the button at a critical point makes you feel more involved.
Because you’re switching through three combat types, the objectives change appropriately, going from quick attack, to stealth, to lumbering death dealing in each of the early missions (and combining all of them in the last). Given that the health of the electronic fighters is limited, there’s a port to plug into to recharge when you find a quiet spot. It breaks up the gameplay nicely and lets you experiment a little with what’s on offer knowing that it’s possible to repair mid-mission. There’s also the scale of each brought home too as you’re whipping through vents in the drone or stomping on soldiers in the Zitadelle. It creates a unique perspective from the VR cockpit when you encounter oversized doors inside and tiny gateways outside; heading through occupied Paris is quite nice having completed Cyberpilot’s sister game and knowing something happened in this area that’s only been hinted at. This plays it out and it’s a nice prequel to deepen the understanding of the events of Youngblood.
Whilst the assets from the other game are used to good effect, the detailing isn’t there in the levels you can move around in. It’s the usual VR problem of system resource management, though there are a few destructible points and explosive and fire effects are decent enough. What is on display is nicely detailed though, and because there’s a reasonable amount of text on display it’s good to see that it’s clear and a decent font size. It lacks any kind of introduction or menu screen advice which might leave a few players stuck trying to figure out how to move the cursor around in order to get things started (the face buttons on the Move controller it turns out), though it’s pretty intuitive after that. Also, the end of the game is a bit ambiguous, not in the story, but in the way you’re just left there forever in the hub area… it’s strange and surprising it doesn’t give any feedback that the game is actually over.
There are a few niggles with Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, mostly with it being far too short, but then what do we expect from a little over £10? It’s a fun romp with excessive weaponry that hints at other areas of the Nazi regime not covered in the core games, and sets up the chance for further adventures. If you’ve the kit to play this on then it’s worth the punt to see what can be done when tied into a major franchise, and it’ll have a couple of surprises up it’s sleeves for you as well.
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is available now on PSVR, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Media for around £13 depending on the platform.