When I finished Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, Bethesda’s latest attempt to bring its franchises to VR, I set the bulky headset next to me, and said out loud to myself “was that it?”
There are some good ideas in Cyberpilot, and potential for it to be something much greater than it is – but it unceremoniously grinds to a halt before it really begins, feeling more like a tech demo, a concept for a game than it does a retail product. I’m not one of those people who equates game length to value. Some of the best games I’ve played have been shorter experiences, but they’re either tickled my brain or touched my heart enough for their cost to be inconsequential. It’d be hard to justify Cyberpilot’s price tag here (R329 at launch on the SA PlayStation Network, for reference). Not just because it’s criminally short, but also because it just doesn’t do enough to be worthy of the Wolfenstein name.
Instead of being one of the members of the Blazkowicz family, Cyberpilot puts you in the seat of a faceless, voiceless and unnamed hacker. You awaken, to find yourself somehow part of the resistance, ready to use your hacking skills against the Nazis in an alternate universe France in 1980. Rather, it’s the same alternate universe that serves as home to this generations rebooted Wolfenstein, using assets and the same setting you’ll find in co-op adventure Wolfenstein: Youngblood.
Instead of the sort of visceral, boots-on-the-ground action you’d expect, you’re instead controller a series hacked Nazi war machines remotely, turning their technology against them. While there’s free-form movement, you’re bound to a chair for a seated experience, and given that you’re operating these machines from the relative comfort of a secret underground bunker, there’s a strange disconnect to the action. There’s no real sense of immediacy or agency to anything, which is a problem compounded by the aimless, doll-like AI and the lack of challenge.
As a remote pilot, you’re given the opportunity to take control of three of the Nazi’s greatest war machine. After tinkering around in the bunker’s repair lab, doing the sort of mindless stuff like “picking up an item and placing it somewhere else but in now in VR” we saw in the medium’s infancy, you’re given control of a Panzerhund. While there’s an initial thrill of controlling the fire-breathing dog tank, that excitement quickly peters off when you realise you’re being funnelled through linear corridors, with your flame breath instantly setting enemies aflame. It’s not quite on-rails, but it’s not far off.
I had a fair bit of fun with the game’s second mission, which has you sneaking about a power facility as a drone, armed with a stun gun and a temporary invisibility cloak. Zooming along, using the cloak at opportune moments and hacking into computers was a genuine delight, that like the game itself, was over far too soon. The last machine you get to control is the hulking Zitadelle, a great big mech with rockets and a chaingun. How piloting something that cool could be boring is beyond my comprehension, but somehow they’ve managed it. And then, a mission later and it’s all over.
Worse is that there’s really no reason to return. There are no collectibles, no branching paths and no additional modes; just four short missions and an anticlimactic ending that sets itself up for more. It’s a disappointment because there’s potential for this to be turned into something worthwhile, but for now, it’s little more than a tech demo, reminiscent of the sorts of experiences we got when VR was new.
Juxtaposed against the brilliant VR games available now? It’s just miserable. It looks good, and there are great comfort options making it easy on the stomach, with optional snap rotation and vignetting for those sensitive to motion sickness.
Last Updated: July 29, 2019