Doom VFR – Worth the Wait?

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Experienced on the Playstation VR

Doom has always been the ideal partnership between gaming and the high-end concepts that excite so many about Virtual Reality.  In my opinion, I think that VR has finally reached the much-vaunted heights that have always been hinted at since the hyperbole of the 1990’s when it became a buzz word.  With technologies like Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the Daydream view for Android phones, the average gamer can now experience a deeper richer gameplay experience for a reasonable price.

Doom has long been rumoured as the killer app for headsets like Oculus, with one of the fathers of Doom John Carmack having left ID software to pursue his interest in virtual reality, it was inevitable for this premier and long awaited title to appear in this form.  Since the 2013 technical demo which featured a modified version of Doom 3, fans were becoming excited.  The demo showed almost complete immersion, the ability to turn your head, aim the famously powerful double barrel shotgun and blow rapidly appearing demonic imps away, their blood gushing from their wounds before crumpling on the ground.  It felt realistic, it felt right!  Commentators even expressed joy in the rich feeling of perspective, the true appreciation of the dynamic lighting effects that VR gave them and the ability to truly appreciate and be a part of the ensuing chaos around them.

This, unfortunately, is not that game…

The game is set one year after the events of the Doom 2016 reboot and you control a completely different character – a scientist who, after a grisly death, transfers his consciousness into one of the AI suits he’s been working on. This is not a welcome change, he is obnoxiously vocal, attempting to give overwrought narrative to every situation.  You are dropped into a military base on Mars overrun with demons and eventually the gameplay takes you to hell… literally and figuratively.  I really wish that the developers had taken the time to create a new narrative for this game, it’s fantastic to pay homage to a reoccurring storyline if done in a witty way, introducing new elements and keeping repetitive elements of gameplay at bay through interesting dialogue and character design.  It’s quite another to blatantly reuse a storyline of a few years ago in a game so highly anticipated.

 

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With the lacklustre plot placed aside, Doom isn’t about the plot after all! We come to the main problem.  The Control system for the Playstation 4 is dreadful, it encourages you to ‘teleport’ everywhere, and while the teleportation skill is great for completing the gory ‘glory kills’ similar to the 2016 game.  It’s not a preferred method of controlling your character, warping and pivoting can be quite confusing around the new arenas constructed for this title.  Playing with the standard control pad can negate some of these issues, but even using that, the movement in game is not as fluid as it should be.

One of the more pleasing aspects is that the glory kill system makes a return.  When an enemy is weakened, you can now teleport directly into it’s body, causing it to explode into a chunky bloody mess.  Unfortunately, these sequences don’t animate as well as the title’s predecessor and feel a lot less satisfying than the melee to finish moveset which had previously illustrated Doom’s satisfyingly graphic nature. 

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There’s no denying that Doom VFR looks good, it’s an awesome moment to be literally face to face with a cacodemon, blowing the head off a Baron of Hell and watching as his body slams to the ground in front of you, these are the stand out moments in the title for me.  But, more often than not, you find yourself fighting the control system rather than the enemies in game, it quickly turns a potentially exciting experience into a frustrating one.

The game also has issues concerning longevity, it can be beaten in roughly four hours and whilst is there is classic escalating Doom difficulties to choose from, it was doubtful whether I would go so far as to play through the game again.

This is a disappointing title for me, I really wanted to love Doom VFR, it is one of the true, historical pedigrees of gaming – it’s a title which had so much potential for the virtual reality experience, it just falls short.  The control system is the main detractor and although this title shows some potential for the future of VR gaming, it’s not one I could recommend purchasing.

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