Doom VFR Review: Virtual Hell Unleashed

Doom VFR Review: Virtual Hell Unleashed
December 1, 2017

Bethesda turn last year’s Doom reboot into a brand new VR experience, but can PlayStation VR do the game justice? Games Inbox: How would you celebrate Final Fantasy’s 30th anniversary? It is killing us not to be able to give this game a more positive review.


Having recently played Skyrim VR we already felt bad for pointing out its various technical deficiencies; many of which were unavoidable consequences of getting a complex open world game, that was never designed with VR in mind, to work on hardware that is not quite powerful enough for the job.


But Doom VFR is a VR-only game and the difference that makes is immediately obvious in its fantastic visuals. Unfortunately though it has a very different set of problems. Bethesda deserves considerable praise for bringing their games to VR.


It’s a thankless task because VR is essentially a new medium, where much of what is taken for granted in traditional video games no longer holds true. Capcom, and to a degree Ubisoft, are the only other ones to make anything like the same effort, as these companies take one for the team in terms of discovering what does and does not work.


And what doesn’t work in Doom VFR is quite simple: the controls. Despite having three different options – for DualShock 4, PlayStation Move, and PlayStation Aim Controller – none of them are satisfying and all of them conspire to make the game feel much less fun than it should. That’s not anyone’s fault, but it is the unfortunate truth of where current VR technology is – or at least the sort that’s affordable to ordinary console users.


In case you’re wondering (we certainly had to have it explained to us) the name stands for ‘virtual f***ing reality’, a reference to Doom’s famous BFG weapon. That gives you an idea of how seriously the game treats its story, which runs in parallel with last year’s reboot but is noticeably more tongue-in-cheek.


You start the game on Mars, where you’re immediately murdered by demons; only to awaken and find your body has been transferred into a robotic suit.


Clearly diplomacy is out of the question when dealing with the powers of Hell, so the rest of the game involves you performing a series of lead-based exorcisms while trying to find a way off the planet. And yet one of the key appeals of the Doom reboot was its fast pace and silky-smooth movement, both of which are an anathema to VR.


If you have the constitution of an ox then the DualShock and Aim Controller do offer the ability to move around freely, but the default for all three controllers is the now familiar teleport system of movement. You point to where you want to move to, which enters the game into a kind of bullet time slowdown, and then instantly teleport when you’ve made your selection.


Combined with a step-based turning system this allows for the quickest and most accurate movement possible without making your head explode from nausea. It’s not exactly what you’d call elegant, but it works; the problem is layering anything else on top of that. 


We started off with the Aim Controller, which was bundled with Farpoint, and which seems like it would be perfect for Doom. But there’s an immediate disconnect with the fact that it’s two-handed and yet in the game you’ve always got a goofy-looking virtual left hand holding a grenade.


The button to change weapons is also almost impossible to find in a hurry, as you fumble for it like a drunk looking for the bathroom light switch, and aiming down sights never seem to work properly. The Move controllers let you use both arms independently but they don’t have any analogue controllers, just a short dash move and a 180° turn – which makes accurate turning impossible.


In the end the best option is simply the standard DualShock. Controlling the game still feels fiddly and awkward, especially as it makes your two virtual hands look like they’re growing out of the side of your head, but it’s the least worst of the three alternatives.

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