Doom VFR

Bethesda’s ex­per­i­ment is messy in ways good and bad

Games Master - - Review -

Hats off to Id and Bethesda. Blithely ig­nor­ing the lim­i­ta­tions of the tech, de­vel­oper and pub­lisher have in­vested time and money re­tool­ing one of the fastest shoot­ers around for a for­mat where move­ment – es­pe­cially move­ment at speed – is a prob­lem. Does Doom VFR mirac­u­lously fix that prob­lem? Of course not. But it has a bloody good go. Em­pha­sis on bloody. It’s a folly, then, al­beit oc­ca­sion­ally a glo­ri­ous one. Tech­ni­cally, it’s as­tound­ing, ap­pear­ing some­how sharper than most VR games with no loss of smooth­ness. It looks like Doom, only this time you’re in it, and that’s an un­equiv­o­cal win. On pa­per, the con­trols are smartly con­sid­ered, too. A game as im­me­di­ate as Doom – here be demons, go shoot them – shouldn’t need a tu­to­rial, but it feels nec­es­sary here. The in­tro con­trives an ex­cuse to show you the ba­sics, as you pick up a com­bat chas­sis and quickly learn how to use it.

You can use reg­u­lar ana­logue con­trols for move­ment, but un­less you’re keen to be re­minded of what you had for break­fast, we’d rec­om­mend the de­fault, which gives you the abil­ity to tele­port a short dis­tance, with a short-range dash mapped to each D-pad di­rec­tion. If you need to turn rather than strafe, you can do so in small in­cre­ments with the right stick (we’d rec­om­mend re­duc­ing the step size slightly if you can han­dle it). While it’s not per­fect, get­ting around doesn’t feel nearly as awk­ward as it could have.

De­mon daze

And then the Cy­berdemons, Man­cubi, and Ca­codemons ar­rive to hurt you, and while it doesn’t fall apart en­tirely, what fol­lows cer­tainly feels like a messy com­pro­mise. En­coun­ters are still fast-paced and in­tense, but dis­ori­en­tat­ing as you jerk this way and that, at­tempt­ing to dodge pro­jec­tiles lobbed your way. The shoot­ing isn’t the is­sue, since look­ing to aim works well enough. But Doom was also a game about out­ma­noeu­vring your op­po­nents, whizzing smoothly around as if on rocket-pow­ered skates. Here, it feels a bit like stream­ing video over wonky wi-fi, the ac­tion con­stantly stut­ter­ing and lurch­ing. The frame rate is smooth; your move­ment not so much.

It just doesn’t feel right, and it doesn’t look quite right, ei­ther: the UI floats in front of your arms, po­si­tioned in such a way as to be dis­tract­ingly no­tice­able yet hard to prop­erly keep track of when all hell (quite lit­er­ally) breaks loose. And if you’re play­ing with a DualShock 4, it looks like your arms are at­tached to the sides of your neck. We’d still rec­om­mend it over PS Move con­trollers, mind, since you’re given fewer turn­ing op­tions and some in­puts are awk­wardly mapped.

Pity, as there are some neat ideas here. Weak­ened en­e­mies glow, prompt­ing you to tele­port into them for a grisly ex­plo­sion: a smart ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the orig­i­nal’s rip-and-tear me­chanic. There are op­tional asides, fig­urines, and minigames to lo­cate, and a clutch of sim­ple puz­zles to mix things up – not to men­tion a sat­is­fy­ing bit of busi­ness with a fire ex­tin­guisher. It’s well-paced, too: for all its clunky mo­ments, its brisk four-hour cam­paign never gets bor­ing. It might be a valiant but ul­ti­mately mis­guided ef­fort to fit a square peg into a round hole, but as long as you don’t ex­pect it to hit the heights of the main game, Doom VFR is PFG – Pretty Flip­ping Good.

Pickups con­fer tem­po­rary buffs: quad dam­age in a room full of hellspawn comes in ex­tremely handy.

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