DOOM VFR review: Just a series of Imp-ositions
Move over Farpoint, DOOM VFR is the new gold standard for first-person shooters on PSVR.
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In the opening of DOOM VFR, your human consciousness is transferred to a robot chassis that's gone and scooped up your mangled old body. It's half a corpse, at best, and is barely recognisable. Turns out that meatbag is a pretty good metaphor for what you'll be getting in this VR spin-off of Doom (2016). Some demonic bastard has bitten the runtime and available weapon upgrades clean in half, and if you suffer from motion-sickness, what's left to digest may well be your "hell on earth".
However, I'm speculating. Being an early adopter of PSVR, I've managed to "find my sea legs" over the past few months; I have a pretty high tolerance and was in heaven playing this. But I sure didn't expect that because on paper, DOOM VFR sounds like it wants to turn every living room out there into a vomitorium. The 2016 original was one of the zippiest first-person shooters out there, to the point where stopping or even slowing down would buy you a ticket to the reload checkpoint screen. Not only does VFR maintain that pace but the nutcases at Bethesda have made the frenetic gunplay even faster.
Fitting in with the "consciousness living in a chassis" idea (which makes sense in the established canon), you have the ability to teleport your non-body about the world. If you're using a DualShock 4 or the Aim Controller bundled with Farpoint – which is what I went with – teleportation works in tandem with your traditional two-stick FPS movement controls, plus you get a four-way dash function on the D-pad. If you're planing on using motion controllers, teleportation and dashing are pretty much the only ways to get about – and the latter is awkward because the face buttons on a Move don't align with a compass point arrangement. In my humble opinion, using Sony's Lollipop is the most frustrating option out there.
For the record, I'm a 1:1 fan who despises teleportation movement in other PSVR games, but I fell in love with it here. Holding the front R2 trigger on the Aim Controller slows down time, paints a parabolic line to a spot on the floor, and upon release you'll whip on over. If your painted destination was atop a bunch of stacked shipping containers, you effectively mantle right up there. If your target is a wounded enemy in their stunned state, you'll telefrag them into chunky kibbles and earn a small health boost for getting red on you. It's an elegant solution that retains the risk-reward glory kill system of the original game; paradoxically, wading into mobs of hellspawn can be safer than trying to snipe from afar like a sissy.
Not that you're ever given the option of a scoped weapon, unlike what we saw in Doom 2016. In last year's model you could studiously improve all of your guns with two major upgrades per weapon. In VFR, you're only offered one alternate-fire mode for your pistol, shotgun, super shottie, heavy assault rifle, gauss cannon, chain gun and rocket launcher. You also have a limitless supply of grenades that are on a lengthy cooldown, and by the halfway point that function morphs into a grenade launcher. From then on, you constantly dual-wield this head-aimed weapon, and it can be imbued with BFG capabilities. No chainsaw, though. In a Doom game. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a sin greater than opening a portal to Satan himself.
Speaking of odd diversions from the formula, VFR has a voiced protagonist this time around. He's a step down from the mute, perpetually surly Doomguy, because he's a weeny-sounding scientician who mutters himself into doing increasingly more complex fetch-quests. Worse, aside from the mission hub area, the errands you'll teleport into are riddled with deja vu. The enemy placement is different and the architecture may have moved around a bit, but VFR is more or less a greatest hits tour of the craziest arena fights from Doom 2016. Experiencing them again with the “there-ness” of virtual reality makes them feel fresh, and this is a pretty game as far as VR goes, but it's still a shame that the old stuff hasn't been stitched together with a story that extrapolates on past events. The narrative on offer is paper thin; the ending is about as satisfying as that time a NES game told me “a winner is you”.
You're staring down the barrel of eight missions, total. Each of them is about 30 minutes long, and that's if you play it on Nightmare with an obsessive need to poke around for all of the Marine guy collectables and secrets. (Note: if you want added longevity, there's an Ultra-Nightmare mode that deletes your save if you die – so best of luck with that.)
You should also know that scooping up collectibles will unlock a bunch of Classic Levels that will stretch the runtime by an hour or so. It's a real novelty to be dropped into some of the pixeltastic levels from Doom and Doom II, but it wears thin when you realise your unlocked solo weapon upgrades haven't come across and the pool of enemy types is shallow. Sounds like a meaty idea on paper, but in execution it's an experience that's as gutless as your protagonist.
We reviewed DOOM VFR on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher.
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