DOOM truly can run on just about anything. We’ve had it on calculators, fridges, toasters, and just about everything else capable of carrying an image on a screen. Naturally, then, it was only a matter of time before DOOM found its way onto VR screens, too. The question, though, is if it’s worthy of its name. Unfortunately this isn’t a yes/no question.
First of all, you’ll need a PSVR headset to play. Yes, I know it seems obvious but I’m still getting emails asking if DriveClub VR needs a VR headset… You’ll also need either a DualShock 4, a PSVR Aim controller, or a couple of PS Move wands. You’ve got choices with DOOM, choices that actually affect the way the game plays.
If you opt for the traditional DualShock 4 as your method of control, you’ll find that you’ll be aiming at the demons of hell by using your head. This is how I originally played the opening act. It worked well, to be fair, but it wasn’t for me. Knowing that there’s support for something that better resembles a gun, I ditched the DualShock 4 and grabbed my trust (and dusty) PSVR Aim controller. This is where the first problem kicks in: it’s not amazing.
With each control method you’ve got the choice as to how you move around the surface of Mars. You can teleport or you can move freely. For me the teleport controls were a bit too much of a hassle and proved totally useless with the PS Move controllers. However, using the DualShock 4 and PSVR Aim’s sticks was simple enough and my trained brain knew what to do with either device.
The problem with the Aim controller is that in the real world you’re holding it like, well, a rifle. In DOOM you’ve pretty much always got a hand free for lobbing grenades and what have you. It’s the kind of disconnect between the real world and the virtual reality that’s the most difficult to get my head around. My hand are holding a rifle, but my in-game hands which I’m supposed to believe are representative of my hands are holding a pistol and a grenade. It’s irksome, sure, and I’m still not 100% comfortable with it, but it does at least work fairly well.
Enough about the controls; they work well enough, providing you are not using the Moves.
To accomodate the fact that players will be teleporting around, the story had to write it in somehow. You play as a machine version of yourself after having been munched on by some demon spawn. Your consciousness has been thrown into a machine that can do things a human cant. Like teleport. Duh. It’s daft, but so is DOOM so I let it slide.
Once you’ve gotten through the tutorial section that teaches you the controls and how best to annihilate the devil’s minions, you’re thrown into the game and given free rein to bring pain to anything that moves. But it’s not quite the DOOM we know and love.
2016’s DOOM was lauded for its fast and satisfying gameplay. Running and jumping over Mars while demon’s try to do you in was truly brilliant. I’m ashamed to say that it’s only recently I’ve played the game in order to better understand the VR spin-off. It’s unfortunate that, for once, I actually did my homework, because when comparing it to the full-fat console DOOM, the DOOM VFR falls a little short.
For one, the frantic firefights aren’t nearly as intense. They’re still intense, mind you, but with the faffle of strange controls (it’s still weird to be turning on the spot in VR), keeping the flow of battle going strong isn’t as easy.
You’ve still got your trusty guns that deliver gut-splattering damage, but something has been lost when it comes to the melee action. I understand that concessions need to be made for VR, and perhaps I’d have looked at it more favourable had I not played DOOM 2016, but the omission of the famous gory kills is a travesty. You’ve still got them to some degree – you need to stun enemies and then teleport to them – but they could have been a really gruesome spectacle in VR.
DOOM VFR does have a story that ties the game together, but much like other DOOM games, it’s not at the forefront. In fact, I’d say DOOM VFR possibly pushes the story a little too much. The stop-starts for exposition were not welcome at all, and I can’t help but think that the tongue-in-cheek approach to the source material wasn’t quite understood by whoever put this tale together. It’s DOOM. We don’t want story. We want to kill things! Which brings me onto my next point…
You’re not always killing things. Of the game’s 4-5 hours runtime, I’d say I spent a good third running/teleporting around the base doing pointless shite. Go and fetch this. Press this button. Pull this lever. Fuck off, son. Like I said, we want to kill things, not fart around doing busy work that just pads the game’s running time. With the excess fat cut off, I reckon you’d be able to run through DOOM VFR in a couple of hours. Heck, I’d prefer that.
It’s not all doom (groan…) and gloom. When you’ve found your preferred play style and you’re actually in the midst of battle, it’s really good, challenging, gruesome fun. Familiar enemies show their ugly faces once more, and the bigger chaps are tough as nails. Again, when you’ve got the hang of it, it’s awesome. Unfortunately, it’s not very consistent in its delivery. Still, come the end of the line I was happy enough. I don’t often re-visit VR games, but I reckon I might actually be able to get a Platinum trophy with this one, so sod it, I’m doing it! [Update: I have since realised DOOM VFR does not have a Plarinum gong…]
Before I wrap up and place my number below, a quick word on how the game actually runs and looks. It’s not a showpiece, that’s for sure, but I appreciate what’s been done. When you’re up to your nuts in guts, it’s fairly easy to look over the graphical shortcomings. Resolution is the prime bad guy here with the game being a blur at times, and the fizzling in of the game world is a bit of a distraction, even more so when you’re just mooching around.
What you’ve got here is a game of compromises. VR is still really young, and as much as I’m a fan of the growing medium, I’m also a harsh critic. The essence of DOOM is here, but VR isn’t the best way to show it. It’s a strong shooter in its own right, don’t get me wrong on that, but it’s a touch shy of being truly DOOM.
DOOM VFR PS4 Review
It's DOOM, sure, but it's not quite there. VR is still showing its limitations, namely locomotion. It's still a fair shooter and DOOM fans will no doubt find it to be a blast - and it is - but it's only one of the top PSVR shooters due to there not being that much competition.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.