Last year’s DOOM, a functional reboot of the seminal first-person shooter was close to perfect. Its multiplayer may have been tacked on, but as a visceral and glib-filled single player throwback, it shone as one of 2016’s very best games. Now, its made the jump to VR.
Unlike Skyrim VR, which is a relatively straight port of the entire game to the new medium, DOOM VFR repurposes many of the 2016 game’s settings, weapons and enemies to deliver a new Virtual Reality DOOM experience. It follows a similar, though parallel story, which is noticeably sillier and more tongue-in-cheek. DOOM VFR (No prizes for guessing what the F stands for here) slots you into the role of a sciencey type of fella who starts out as a pair of wise-cracking disembodied hands, and is almost immediately murdered by some or other hellspawn.
You wake up sometime after whatever catastrophe has befallen the Mars base, with your sentience transferred to some sort of ethereal AI. Moments later you find that AI beamed into a combat chassis. It’s an interesting narrative setup to hand-wave the game’s teleportation locomotion away, and also an excuse to start shooting demons, go to Hell, and make your way back.
Unfortunately, on PlayStation VR at least, it’s a little easier said than done. DOOM VFR is yet another game to highlight the PSVR’s controller shortcomings. The game supports three different control methods, but none of them feels quite right.
Locomotion by teleportation in VR games is divisive. On the one hand, it’s one of the best ways to keep people from filling their expensive head-mounted devices with vomit, but it also diminishes player agency. Here at least, there’s a combination of free movement and teleportation. When you teleport, time dilates and slows down, allowing you a brief moment to catch your bearings and figure out what to shoot next. DOOM 2016’s lovely glory kills are transplanted into DOOM VFR, letting players teleport into stunned demons, and have them satisfyingly explode into bits of demonic viscera.
The primary control, using a pair of PlayStation Move controllers, is arguably the worst way to play. It gives you independent use of your limbs, with a gun in one hand and a grenade (and later a grenade launcher) in the other. Without any sort of analogue movement enabled by the Move wands, you’re left with just teleportation and dashing to get around. When you’re swarmed by Imps, Hell Knights and Revenants, a simple quick-dash isn’t a great way to stay alive.
It’s a little better on the PlayStation Aim controller, which helps with the immersion by giving you something very gun-like to hold in your hand. Thanks to that controller’s pair of analogue sticks, you can easily use teleportation combined with full free motion (with comfort options for snapping or smooth movement) – if you have the gastric fortitude to play like that anyway. I usually succumb to VR motion sickness, but I’m happy to report that I was able to play the game for extended stretches without wanting to reach for a bucket.
That said, there’s still something off about Aim controller support. While your gun is mapped to the aim controller, your grenade hand becomes mapped to your headset. It does allow you to teleport and throw grenades just by looking at your intended target, but it looks and feels a little goofy, breaking the immersion. It may not be the most elegant solution, but it works, and if you can wrap your head around that discord, it’s probably the best way to play the game on PlayStation VR. Unfortunately, the button to pull up the weapon wheel is out of reach for anybody who only has two hands, with a third appendage necessary to switch weapons in heated battles.
Oddly, I spent most of my time just playing the game seated, with a regular DualShock in my hand. It’s the least immersive control option, but the one that just works best (provide you have the previously mentioned iron constitution). It’s also a little on the goofy side though, because both left and right arms become mapped to the headset, moving where you look. While it’s brilliant for accurate aiming, it does feel like they’re the silliest of moose antlers – once again, breaking the intended immersion.
If you can get around the subpar controls, there’s actually some fun to be had. I’ve never quite realised the scale of some of DOOM’s hellish baddies, but VR puts it into perspective. Coming toe-to-hemisphere with a Cacodemon is an unforgettable, bowel-cleansing experience. DOOM VFR is a short game, clocking in at just a handful of hours, but there are upgrades and secrets to hunt for, a few extraneous challenges and some really nostalgic classic maps to unlock.
And yes, there are also little DOOM guys to find.
Last Updated: December 4, 2017