DOOM VFR review: Teaching an old Doom new tricks

DOOM VFR is a hell of a game that, despite its issues, is visually stunning and most importantly very fun to play.

Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda
Platform: Playstation VR (Version reviewed), HTC Vive
Release Date: December 1st, 2017

In the year 1993, games like MYST, Star Fox, and Mortal Kombat 2 pushed our youthful expectations high with the future possibilities of gaming. 3D graphics, lifelike characters, even the concept of VR seemed like it was just over the horizon. That same year on Christmas, a young boy wandered into his older cousin’s room and encountered such a profound vision of gore and violence it blew his little NES-playing mind away. That boy was me and that profound vision was the first shareware level of id Software’s seminal classic DOOM. The original DOOM is in my top ten favorite games of all time. It was the game that ripped off my gaming training wheels as I rode onto a highway to hell. 24 years later and I now get to play DOOM the way I have always wanted to play it–knee deep in blood, dancing with my BFG. DOOM VFR is truly an amazing nightmare come true for me.

Unlike the recent port of Skyrim to VR in which Bethesda took a massive world loved by many and repackaged it as a chance to relive your precious gaming memories, DOOM VFR instead takes some of the most visceral and in-your-face elements of the recent 2016 DOOM reboot and throws it up on you. I like to think of Skyrim VR as a KFC family meal with several sides and DOOM VFR as a Double “FN” down sandwich. Skyrim is a slow burn play that does a good job of easing you in and offers over 100 hours of gameplay. DOOM VFR, on the other hand, is a 3-5 hour action-packed thrill-ride that will make you feel that you are in the movie Aliens.

Standing up and using the Aim Controller as my control option gave me a level of immersion that I feel many VR games have failed to deliver. Though they are fun to use, a PS Move or Vive controller will never make me feel that I am actually using a sword or shooting a laser pistol.
Clutching the excellently designed Aim Controller, on the other hand, gave me the feeling I was using some high tech weaponry splattered with demon blood.

Credit: Bethesda

The world of DOOM VFR is filled with enough high-quality demonic imagery and gore to make up a Clive Barker Holiday greeting card.

Though there are several options to play the game, neither the Dualshock or the Move controls offered the level of immersion of the Aim controller. The Move controllers though it did offer better functionality for my secondary weapons just never felt right with its lack of analog stick. Using the Dualshock just took away much of the charm of playing DOOM in VR. From a review perspective, this is a major strike as many people do not have the Aim controller. I only recently got one after waiting out a several month supply shortage that saw them cost upwards of $180 on the aftermarket. Without the Aim controller, I would not have not nearly as much fun playing this game. It is a major misstep on Sony to have not offered DOOM VFR in an AIM controller bundle.

It is hard to not compare DOOM VFR to Skyrim VR due to them both being Bethesda games and having similar release windows. One of the issues I had with Skyrim VR was the dated visuals–it is hard to be very immersed when the snow and trees lack realism. DOOM VRF, on the other hand, does not have this problem. The fact that the game takes place in such claustrophobic conditions helps as there never really seems to be time to stop and admire the countryside of Mars. The color pallet of DOOM VFR consists of many shades of red, but when bright colors are presented (as in when a Lost Soul shrieks its way to your face) you do pause to appreciate how pretty this blue, flaming, flying skull with two horns, orange eyes, and very sharp teeth are. Then you die.

Credit: PlayStation

When you do get a chance to get up close with some of the bigger enemies, you really appreciate the high level of detail and scale of the enemies right before delivering a shotgun blast. The team has also made sure that all the times when you are not killing demons are still equally disturbing. The world of DOOM VFR is filled with enough high-quality demonic imagery and gore to make up a Clive Barker Holiday greeting card.

One particular uplifting moment for me came when walking through a demonic church after killing a swarm of enemies. I took some time to look at the quality of the pulpits and just take in this hologram of a ritualistic human sacrifice that is there for ambiance. I then went into a pit stacked full of bloody sacrificed chained carcasses to find a cute DOOM man collectible. The range of emotions that came from those five minutes of visual bombardment alone was enough for me to love this game. DOOM VFR truly is a member of the DOOM family. At that moment I wanted to recommend DOOM VFR to everyone I know. The problem with that is that this game does have its fair share of problems.

For one, the limitations of the PlayStation Camera will have you constantly losing the tracking on the Aim controller. This is insane when you are surrounded by enemies and have to literally shoot from the hip. Though the game does have a constantly displayed HUD showing where you are in relation to the PlayStation Camera, that’s not what you are paying attention to when you have 17% of your life left. This is once again a limitation of the PSVR, so I cannot put all that weight on the game itself.

Credit: Bethesda

The biggest annoyance for me was the use of weapon select. The placement of the button on the Aim controller is awkward and the UI to change guns seems to go in relation to where you have the aim controller positioned. Most of the time the super blurry UI was just slightly right of the right eye. You can barely tell the difference between what gun you are choosing with this UI and in the heat of battle, weapon select becomes useless. Most of the time I only switched guns between battles and just went guns blazing till the ammo ran out. This did lead to me using the shotgun as a mid-long range weapon more than a few times.

Both the tracking issue and crappy weapon select of DOOM VFR could really affect the playability for many. For me personally, the issues I had with the game made for some very tense moments that I feel made the game more immersive for me, but I don’t expect that to be a common feeling. Still, even without the control issues, DOOM VFR is a tense ride in the best ways. During some particularly intense battles, I walked away breathing heavy and with a few backaches from tensing up as I fought. The use of teleportation combined with the quick dash buttons as well as physically moving my body around made for one of the most exhilarating gaming experiences I have ever had.

At $29.99, I feel there is more value in DOOM VFR than some higher priced non-VR AAA titles. For me, there was a sense of accomplishment for finishing the game, and its short length means I will replay the game several times in order to train for when games like this are the standard. DOOM VFR is not perfect but it still is one hell of a game. A hell of a game that, despite its issues, is still visually stunning on the PSVR and most importantly very fun to play.

DOOM VFR

Bethesda

8

A high octane visual thrill ride that offers an intense workout, DOOM VFR is on par with some of the best VR first-person shooters out today. It may feel that some aspects are broken, but the game’s few limitations can be chalked up to the hardware for the most part. Especially for those who own a PSVR Aim Controller, DOOM VFR is a must-buy.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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