Doom VFR review: Everything should be this good
No death is certain when you work for the Union Aerospace Corporation.
Guess what? You’re dead. Yep, Pinky demon came rushing right at you as soon as it locked eyes and you know how that goes. I mean, we’ve all read the briefing reports on those things. They’ll keep running at you until one of you is dead and, well, you weren’t exactly ready for that fight. Not to worry though, your consciousness was uploaded into a shiny new Union drone so you can fulfill your contractual obligations to the corporation!
You’d better get to work, and make sure you have a gun or seven nearby this time. It looks like things are not going well around here.
About this review
We’re writing this review after completing the campaign on the middle difficulty level (that’s “Hurt Me Plenty” for those playing along at home) on both the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. All forms of locomotion were tested during this review. One copy of Doom VFR for HTC Vive was provided by Bethesda for this review.
Just familiar enough
Doom VFR Gameplay
Instead of pretending like you’re a whole person, this version of Doom makes it clear from the beginning you are a pair of floating arms with a matching floating head. Which is cool, because those are the parts that can be tracked in by your VR system. Where Bethesda’s efforts to bring Skyrim into VR maintained the core ideas and designs of that world, Doom VFR is a re-imagining of Doom build specifically for VR. And it shows, especially when it comes to how great the world looks and how you interact with the world around you.
On a flat screen with the lights off and the sound up, Doom will cause just about anyone to jump at least once or twice. In VR, jump scares are cheap and frequently off-putting. As a result, you get one good jump scare at the beginning of the game and that’s it. Despite my constant preparations, crouching in a corner of the elevator with my weapon drawn because I just knew something was going to hurl a fireball at me as soon as those doors opened, no such attacks existed in this game. The rest of the experience is focused on the one thing Doom has always done better than anything else — kicking your adrenaline into overdrive and giving you all of the most absurd weapons for destroying the forces of hell.
Where some games really need smooth locomotion to feel less clumsy, Doom VFR would feel incomplete without teleportation.
If you’ve played the 2016 release of Doom, you’re already familiar with the weapons in this game and how they work. Each weapon has a standard firing mechanism and an advanced mode you unlock throughout the game, and many of the weapons share an ammo pool. The idea here is simple and timeless — know where the supply drops are, keep moving, and cycle between weapons as frequently as possible. Standing still means you get overwhelmed and crushed easily. Failing to switch weapons frequently means you can easily find yourself relying on the starter pistol with its unlimited ammo to keep from using your most powerful weapons on basic demons, which usually also means you’re about to die.
Since movement is such a hugely important part of any Doom experience, and the character you are playing is actually a floating set of mechanical body parts, movement is largely a combination of teleportation and dashing. You can dash in any direction to either get out of the way of something or fling yourself into a portal, or you can teleport by pointing your controller and flinging yourself to the green circle you created on the floor. Teleporting in VR isn’t new by any means, but in Doom there are consequences for not thinking about where you are going to go next and acting quickly. Timed correctly, teleportation is super effective for dodging attacks from the bruisers in this game. Timed poorly, teleportation can fail and you find yourself sandwiched between the angry fists of a Hell Knight and the nearest wall.
The best part of this teleporting system? It’s actually part of the combat mechanics. Hit an opponent hard enough and they become “staggered” and easier to kill. You can deliver the finishing blow from a distance with one of your many guns, or you can teleport inside of them and send bits of their insides tearing across the map. It’s a satisfying way to kill, but it’s also a fantastic way to restore health during combat. Each telefrag kill earns you quite a bit a health, so making it a part of yoru combat strategy greatly increases your chances of survival in the middle of a big mob fight. Where some games really need smooth locomotion to feel less clumsy, Doom VFR would feel incomplete without teleportation.
PlayStation Aim — the best way to play Doom VFR
If you plan to play Doom VFR on a PlayStation VR, get an Aim Controller. You can’t really turn in a 360-degree circle on PlayStation VR like you can a Vive, so movement and action becomes a little more complicated. Move controllers are clunky and complicated and the DualShock 4 controller feels slow and pedestrian. The Aim controller combines the two to make something far more fun. The biggest plus for using the aim controller is the thumb sticks. How they weren’t added to the Move controller in the first i’ll never know but they make all the difference when playing Doom VFR.
Because the AIM controller is essentially a sixasis you can set the smooth movement for the front Thumbstick and change the Degrees of Arc for the rear one. This means you can still use the teleport and the telefrag system while also being to able to see where you are going. I have it set to 90 degrees as I find that moving the 4 movements is plenty to give full field of motion. If you wanted though you could set it to 1 degree but it would take you forever to turn around.
The only downside to the AIM controller that i found was the grenades. When using the Move controller you throw using the left trigger and a throwing motion, but with the AIM you just press the left trigger on the front and it throws the grenade where your gun is pointing. It takes a little time to get used to this as you expect grendes to need an arcing throw so they go a little wild. All that being said the grenade throw is such a slight issue that it’s not really worth complaining about.
Search the bodies
Doom VFR Experience
It took my about five hours to play through the Doom VFR campaign, which I admittedly rushed through. In a typical Doom game, you are the Doom Slayer and your job is to kill all of the everything and just sort of muscle through to the end. There’s a fair bit of that in Doom VFR, in fact it’s still the main thing you do in the game, but after you’ve cleared an area of demons it pays to explore the area.
Each level has its own set of secrets to unlock, including little DoomGuy figures hidden around the maps. Some of this directly benefits you in the game, like finding Argent Spheres to improve your ammo carry ability or your health capacity or how much time slows down when you teleport. These are hugely important to your survival, and they aren’t always obviously or centrally located. It’s a little unusual to want to slow down and explore an area after some thorough kills, but it’s so worth it to take the time.
By far the best part of my Doom VFR experience is how eager I am to get back in and play.
A big part of what enabled me to beat the game in a single day is the soundtrack. Everyone knows Doom has a super metal soundtrack, but Doom VFR really kicks it up a notch in its delivery. I’m used to playing a good VR game for an hour or two before wanting to take a break, but every time that soundtrack kicked it up a notch I found myself ready to keep pushing further. I was physically sore by the end of the day from all the time I spent crouching and dodging, but it felt incredible.
My biggest criticisms of Doom VFR are fairly small things, but each undeniably detracted from an otherwise amazing immersive experience. For starters, you can’t hit anything with your guns. An Imp drops down from above and tries to land a hit, and your only real option is to activate this force push-like attack that uses this energy wave to knock it back a bit. This is a cool mechanic for crowd control, but I’ve got two good arms and two big guns that could easily be used to pistol whip someone to death.
There are also a couple of points in the game where the ground was able to do me harm. This made sense back when I was a character with arms and legs, but in Doom VFR the whole deal is I’m a floating head and arms. It doesn’t really make sense that the acid pit I am hovering over is able to do damage to me.
By far the best part of my Doom VFR experience is how eager I am to get back in and play, which is something I didn’t feel after beating Doom on my Xbox last year. Not only are there more secrets for me to find, but I’ve unlocked all of the original Doom levels to explore in VR which is bizarre and amazing all by itself. There’s also some incredible opportunities to share this with friends, which will undoubtedly have more people eager to pick up their own VR headset this year.
That ending though
Should you buy it? Hell yes.
Bethesda managed to simultaneously pull off a love letter to Doom fans and VR fans at the same time with this game. It’s everything you love about Doom, and at the same time a separate VR experience that feels like a complete thought. And best of all, it’s ridiculously fun.
If you dig the Doom universe, if you like VR shooters, and if you’re looking for a perfect example of what a damn good soundtrack can do to improve a game, you need to add Doom VFR to your library immediately. It’s easily the best $30 you’ll spend today.
- Great visuals
- Teleportation made fun
- Intuitive controls
- No multiplayer support
- Legacy mechanics break immersion