Doom VFR — fast-paced FPS action works surprisingly well in VR [Reality Bytes]

Doom VFR bloody alien

To get first-person shooters running in VR, there are usually some major concessions that have to be made. More often than not, combat is relegated to a shooting a gallery, with your character remaining still as he shoots various moving targets.

However, Doom VFR impressively manages to avoid these shortcomings, offering the fast-paced first-person shooter experience that id Software’s iconic franchise is known for. (For what it’s worth, the ‘F’ in VFR means the same thing as it does in Doom‘s infamous BFG weapon.)

To start, as with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, Doom VFR does a commendable job of offering multiple control schemes to maximize player comfort. In fact, the options in Doom VR are even more varied.

There’s the standard controller gameplay — with analog sticks handling movement and shooting and the VR headset used to aim the reticle — that works fairly well.

Doom VFR big alien

You’ll also be able to use the PlayStation Move and HTC Vive motion controllers, but this is an uneven method at best. On PS VR, the right Move controller is sufficiently used for aiming, but handling full movement with the left motion controller is somewhat cumbersome and lacks accuracy.

There is a third option, however, and it’s also by far the best way to play Doom VFR: the excellent PlayStation VR Aim Controller introduced with May’s space shooter Farpoint

With its gun-shaped design and intuitive placement of the DualShock 4 buttons, the Aim Controller allows for more precise and punchy shooting — essential in a game where hordes of aliens can come rushing towards you at all times.

PlayStation VR

In addition to the varied aiming controls, Doom VFR also wisely features a few different sets of movement options for players to choose from. Across all control schemes, using the D-pad lets your character do a short dash in one of four directions, while a single button press lets you instantly turn around 180 degrees.

Movement in VR often works best when done slowly or in small increments, such as in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, which makes this a particularly good option for players to have. Brief dashes and head-turns alongside longer warps will surely make VR movement more palatable for most.

As well, for those who are less prone to motion sickness, you can also turn on smooth walking movement, giving you full control of your character like in any regular 3D game. This, combined with the PS VR Aim controller, made moving around and shooting feel fast and responsive, successfully capturing the breakneck pace of the traditional Doom experience.

Thankfully, warping around becomes second nature fairly early on in the game’s roughly six-hour campaign. It’s also the game’s answer to the over-the-top melee takedowns found in 2016’s Doom. Once you’ve shot an enemy enough times, it’ll become dazed and start to glow a bright blue. Warping at an enemy in this state will cause it to explode in a pool of blood and gore. While it’s not anywhere near as stylish as the finishers in last year’s reboot, it still gets the job done.

The campaign also wisely uses original levels designed specifically with VR in mind, ensuring that teleporting always feels smooth instead of clunky. This was one of the pitfalls of Skyrim VR — taking a large setting that was never intended to be experienced through VR often made it challenging to navigate sizeable areas with that kind of control set.

Where Doom VFR falters, though, is in its story, which doesn’t live up to the surprisingly interesting plot found in last year’s reboot. In VFR, you play as scientist who manages to cheat death with a cybernetic chassis, but that’s the extent of his characterization — disappointing given the central Doom marine’s brutal charm. It also somewhat takes away from the immersion of VR to have the player character constantly talking to himself.

Doom VFR ghoul

Still, having a campaign length that’s on par with regular first-person shooters is a welcome addition, especially since VR games typically feature much shorter experiences. VFR also features select classic maps from older Doom games, which are fantastically fun and nostalgic romps in their own right.

In the end, in spite of its imperfections, Doom VFR is a great example of how to create quality FPS games in virtual reality. The story and lead character aren’t great, but smart control sets and thoughtful level design means that this isn’t some watered down Doom experience.

It’s the real deal, and it’s one hell of a good time.

Doom VFR is now available on PlayStation VR and HTC Vive for $39.99 CAD.