The 2016 reboot of the DOOM franchise was one of my favorite shooters in recent memory. As someone who grew up playing the classic DOOM games on an old Mac computer, it was great to see a modern revival that kept the fast-paced spirit of the franchise alive and well.
Now, on the heels of Skyrim in VR, Bethesda and id Software have brought us a VR version of DOOM in the form of DOOM VFR. While this isn't a direct translation of the 2016 shooter, it does take place on the same timeline and universe with its own storyline. Should you strap on your headset and go straight to hell? Let's see how the experience translates to VR.
Not Your Typical Work Day at the UAC's Martian Research Facility
Having played the 2016 version of DOOM, I was familiar with the story and lore of DOOM VFR, but I wouldn't say that a general knowledge is required to enjoy the events unfolding before you.
The game's opening quickly identifies you as one of the sole survivors of the demonic outbreak on Mars. You enjoy a brief existence as a mortal human being before you are immediately killed in the opening scene.
As part of a contingency plan, your consciousness is uploaded to a battle chassis, and your goal quickly becomes clear. You need to shut down the portal to the Hell Dimension and stabilize the situation before it gets any more out of hand.
Unlike the silent protagonist of the 2016 version, DOOM VFR has a chatty main character. He often comments on the situation and reiterates your objectives, but his input isn't very helpful or needed in most cases.
The story here is simple, but it fits well into the narrative established in the 2016 release. The protagonist could have been a vessel for more lore, but instead was used for pretty standard narration. I would have preferred that his speaking parts added to the story since this is the first time I've seen a DOOM protagonist actually speak.
It's a bit of a missed opportunity, but since the story has never been a focus in DOOM, it's not surprising to see it take a backseat here.
Other than that, his narration is neither profound nor a priority. As expected, the real hook here is the gameplay, so let's see how it stacks up.
Three Ways to Play, With One Clear Winner
The gameplay in DOOM VFR is very much true to the reboot's fast-paced adrenaline-fueled excellence. That means you'll move around a lot and find yourself surrounded demons, blood, and gore almost constantly.
For those who did not play the 2016 reboot, this may be a bit of a shock when compared to other shooters, especially those in VR. While other games tend to have more methodical and cover-based gameplay, DOOM VFR doesn't give you an option to sit in cover.
In fact, staying in one place for too long spells certain doom (pun intended). You'll need to stay on the move and ever-vigilant, especially on higher difficulties.
Many of the weapons and optional mods come over to the VR version intact, including the challenges to complete each level, and hidden secrets/collectibles. Finding the "Doom guy" collectibles in each level also unlocks classic DOOM stages that are fully playable in VR, which is an excellent bonus.
While I rarely used the pistol provided, the shotgun, heavy machine gun, chaingun, plasma rifle, and rocket launcher were all used in equal measure. In addition, access to a BFG weapon gives you major firepower during more intense encounters where you need some space.
Regardless of your control scheme, the game does offer some new abilities to help keep things balanced. You'll have a shield burst that allows you to push enemies away from you if you get surrounded.
You can also teleport around as your main form of movement, or at whim if you're playing with full locomotion. When enemies are stunned, you can transport into them for an instant (and very gory) kill. You'll also use the teleportation to cross gaps, move upwards through environments, or position yourself for better combat angles.
The core gameplay loop translates very well into VR, depending on the control scheme you choose. The occasional puzzles or minigame appear to break up the action, but they're not very compelling. I could have done without them, to be honest, as they were never very engaging or challenging.
Now we come to the big question: which control scheme works best for VR players? Well, you'll have three to choose from:
- DualShock 4
- PlayStation Move
- PlayStation Aim Controller
For the purposes of the review, I played DOOM VFR with all three control options. It's worth noting, to eliminate confusion I've seen elsewhere, that both the Dualshock 4 and Aim controller offer full locomotion options.
To enable full locomotion, you'll need to enable "left stick movement" in the options menu. You'll also want to turn off the segmented turning and leave it as a smooth turning option. With these options in place, you can enjoy a fully smooth VR experience.
For some people, this kind of fast-paced movement may cause motion sickness, but I didn't experience this issue at all during my time with DOOM VFR.
In terms of the control options, the PlayStation Aim controller was by far the best way to play, followed by the DualShock and then the PlayStation Moves.
This may come as a shock to those who really enjoyed Skyrim VR with Move controllers (myself included), but Doom's control scheme isn't as ideal as Skyrim's setup.
When playing with Move controllers, transportation and dashes are your only options for movement. You can quickly dash in any of the four direction around you, and teleportation works well.
Time will slow down when you're aiming a teleportation destination, and this time dilation can be increased by finding Argent Cell upgrades in each of the levels.
The slow motion mechanic for teleportation is helpful in keeping things balanced, as enemies tend to move very quickly. Being able to aim independently with each Move controller is very helpful, but the major complain I have is a lack of rotation.
One of the face buttons will allow you to do a 180-degree turn, but there's no option for smooth rotation or click turning when using PlayStation Move. This means that you'll need to physically turn your body in lieu of any rotation whatsoever.
Not only is this awkward, but PlayStation VR isn't very well suited to any level of roomscale play. Turning too much in either direction greatly increases your odds of losing track with the Move controllers.
Any kind of rotation option would have alleviated this issue, but without it, playing the game this way is more cumbersome than fun.
Playing with the DualShock 4 is better, but lacks the tactile immersion you get with the other controller options. While you can move around freely with the DualShock, aiming is done entirely with your vision. The gun itself is awkwardly centered on the screen, taking up more of your vision than I would have liked.
It works fine, but it lacks immersion when compared to the other options. Finally, we have the Aim controller, which is my preferred way to play.
The Aim Controller leaves your left gun stationary on the side of the screen, which is tied to where you're looking. It's awkward, but it gives you full control over your main weapon. It also means that playing left-handed is possible, but far from ideal.
Since I'm left-handed myself, I had to train myself to play right-handed with the Aim controller. I would really be happy to see a patch in the future that removes the side arm or offers a left-handed option, but once I got used to it, playing right-handed wasn't too difficult.
The Aim controller offers full locomotion with the settings in their right places. It also offers easy access to your teleportation with the front trigger.
Accessing the weapon wheel with the R1 button on the side of the controller isn't incredibly easy to reach, but other than that, it was easily the best combination of function and immersion for me.
I think any of the control schemes could work in a pinch, and with a patch or two, they could all be polished up to work even better. In the meantime, the Aim controller is the way to go. Left-handed people like myself will need to adapt, but it's not too bad once you have some practice.
Once you've settled into your control scheme of choice, the gameplay is fast and frantic in the best way possible. Even if you decide to use teleportation for movement, it will still be one of the fastest VR games you've experienced by a long shot.
Since DOOM VFR demands a high frame rate and fast-paced action, it's perfectly normal to worry about the graphics and presentation. Let's find out what concessions were made to make this modern shooter run in VR.
Surprisingly Pristine Presentation For VR
Despite the high enemy count and ultra-fluid gameplay, DOOM VFR is quite the looker in PlayStation VR. While it's clear that some sacrifices were made in terms of resolution and texture detail, the environments and enemies come through with surprising clarity.
It's worth noting that I was playing on PS4 Pro, so this will offer some potential boosts to the resolution and detail. Overall, I felt like the frame rate was smooth and the graphics were very sharp for a VR title.
The scale of enemies and their size was a treat as well. The sheer size of a Cacodemon, for example, is very imposing in VR. I would also be remiss if I failed to mention the metal masterpiece that is Mick Gordon's soundtrack.
Just like the 2016 version, the raw and industrial metal soundtrack is an absolutely perfect pairing to the raw violence on screen. Shredding guitar tracks and guttural effects are the musical equivalent to the violence happening all around you, and it's magical.
While it only clocks in at around 4-5 hours, the price tag is right for DOOM VFR. Furthermore, the challenges, secrets, and difficulty levels all offer reasons to come back.
It's control schemes vary in their effectiveness, and while none of them are perfect, owners of the Aim controller will have the best experience. It's not the perfect transition to VR, but it gets most things right. As far as I'm concerned, DOOM VFR can drag me straight to hell whenever it wants.
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of DOOM VFR was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes. Version was tested with PlayStation VR on a PS4 Pro.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 12/4/17