DOOM‘s 2016 reboot was a smash hit the second it hit the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. We loved it on its original hardware and the recent Switch port was a fantastic success as well. The announcement of DOOM VFR this past June led to a lot of excitement, but also many questions. While VR would theoretically be perfect for a game that relies so heavily on atmosphere, what would have to be sacrificed for the move to virtual reality? The control method was also something that would have to be modified since movement in tight spaces can be tough in VR. Fortunately, id Software has found some fine workarounds for some issues, while others are going to remain no matter what.
The core content of VFR is a remixed version of the campaign of the reboot. In terms of quantity, the content here is lean, but the key is that every moment that remains in this streamlined adventure is captured in a virtual reality environment, and for a game that relies so heavily on atmosphere to create fear instead of just throwing jump-scares at you, this means a lot. DOOM is all about creating fear with what’s around you — whether that is caused by the sound of demons surrounding you or the combination of demons around you and then said demons throwing fire at you all depends on the situation.
DOOM VFR takes its time to teach you what you need to know about the situation you’re in — and it’s dire. Your original human form has been destroyed by disease, leaving you with a new android body to get used to. As is often the case, this is something that is done quickly and requires minimal adjustment because you’re a space marine dammit! With a grit and determination to get to the bottom of what has happened to the space station, you need to defeat the demons from Hell in as violent and efficient a manner as possible. Being wasteful does you no good here because DOOM may be a modern shooter, but it’s rooted in the beginnings of the first-person shooter.
This means that DOOM in both its default and VFR forms doesn’t take it all that easy on you. Enemies are plentiful and out to kill you and unlike modern-day shooters, your health doesn’t regenerate. Health pickups are not exactly common — but around enough if you play the game in a smart way. Just going in to blast away is a bad idea since you will leave yourself open to attack and eventually take too much damage to survive. Playing defensively isn’t the most exciting way to play — but it can allow you to do better, so finding a happy medium is best. Going out and planning attacks to ensure that you not only blast a few enemies around, but also evade, is the key to success.
Controlling DOOM VFR feels familiar enough for users of the console game using just the DualShock 4 while frequent users of the Move controllers will be in for a treat as well. The DualShock 4 allows you to use the left stick to move while the d-pad dashes and the right stick looks. Head movement also works for looking and is far more natural — beyond just being more organic for being in the role of the space marine, having head tracking for aiming is far more accurate than a stick is. Head movement results in better play and if you’re playing with this on and a bit tepid — don’t be. Playing on medium or above is a must for this to keep a healthy challenge going.
Using the d-pad to dash around isn’t as natural as a left stick to move around, but is better if sensitive to a lot of heavy movement in VR. This style of movement is faster and also allows you to strafe and avoid enemy fire if you have a good amount of room to work with. R2 is your natural trigger button while R1 opens up your weapon wheel; L1 is your grenade launcher and L2 teleports. Teleporting around the area allows you to not only traverse the map in a faster way than you ever could by foot, but allows you to avoid motion-sickness and take out weakened enemies by teleporting into them when they’re nearly dead. It’s a bit strange to see a traversal maneuver turned into an attack, but it works surprisingly well here.
Move controls take a similar approach — but mix things up to make the left-hand wand mainly a grenade launcher that is also easier to teleport with. More buttons will teleport on that control setup while the trigger acts as your grenade-tossing button and feels a bit more organic there than using a bumper on the regular controller. The face buttons by the Move button act as your action commands, and they work, but aren’t quite as intuitive as they could be since the buttons are so rigid. Fortunately, thanks to the design of the control being so comfortable in the hand otherwise, , you at least know which button you’re hitting thanks to where they are spacially. No control method feels completely perfect, but the Move setup is slightly better than the DualShock 4 by itself.
Visually, DOOM VFR on a stock PS4 looks like a mix between the regular version on the hardware and the Switch port. The texture work has taken a hit, but the core experience remains even with a loss in graphical fidelity. The action is still intense and being able to see around the in-game world adds more tension to the action than ever before. Being able to peer around a corner and see enemies coming at you is a completely different experience than just hearing them and knowing they’re there. Now,you can map out a gameplan and with the teleporting ability and gain a slight edge thanks to the VR world you’re inhabiting.
DOOM VFR retains DOOM‘s soundtrack and it’s as kick-ass as ever. Playing it with some higher-end gaming headphones or with a solid home theater setup really brings out the action. You’ll have a horde of demons coming at you and then the soundtrack kicks into high gear and your blood starts pumping as a result. It’s an exciting adrenaline-fueled affair. The weapon effects also shine, with shotgun blasts sounding absolutely vile while your basic pistol gives off an effective — but far less rewarding — blast.
DOOM VFR is an outstanding, but limited, game. The lack of arcade and multiplayer content hurts the overall package, but it does its sole purpose of replicating the campaign in VR incredibly well. The fat has been trimmed from it resulting in an “all killer, no filler” approach that keeps the tension and action levels at a high point that exceeds even the base campaign from the reboot. Anyone who enjoyed that and wants to play it in VR should do so if they have a Vive or a PlayStation VR.