‘Doom’ in VR works really well
Doom VFR really shouldn’t be a thing, but virtual reality early adopters can be glad that it is.
Here’s the issue: Doom is a very fast-moving first-person shooter, but first-person VR experiences tend to fall apart when the pace is too quick. Your brain goes haywire as it tries to reconcile your motionless body IRL with your sprinting virtual self. Motion sickness often follows.
You can see the problem here, right? It’s hard to gun down an army of hellspawned demons when sprinting in to finish off just one of them threatens to leave you hurling all over the floor.
Doom VFR addresses that with a common VR fix for first-person experiences: teleportation. Press and hold a button on the HTC Vive’s hand controller — the platform I sampled the game on at E3 this year — and a target line appears. Position it wherever you want to go and release the button to move there.
You don’t teleport just to move around in Doom VFR, however. The VR game draws heavily from Doom‘s excellent 2016 reinvention, which added the ability to execute weakened foes — indicated by a blue glow — using stylish moves. In VFR, teleportation empowers that ability.
The visual cues are exactly the same: shoot a demon enough times to make it stagger and you’ll see a blue glow flash across it. If you teleport into it at that moment — a little prompt appears when you settle the pointer on the demon — you’ll pull off a super-satisfying bloody execution.
It works surprisingly well, especially since Doom VFR appears to be balanced around the idea that you’re not running around and blasting demons at superhuman speeds. The difficulty also seems less punishing, though that could be a product of this being an unfinished game.
During my 15-minute demo, I faced a variety of familiar foes — basic zombies, Imps, Cacodemons, Revenants, even a couple Mancubi. Instead of running circles around them, I BAMFed my way around each space, Nightcrawler style.
As it turns out, this works really well. After taking a few minutes to get my bearings and learn the controls, I was mowing down (admittedly slower-moving) armies of hellspawned monsters at a pace that felt roughly similar to standard Doom.
With one hand controlling whatever gun I was holding, the other was free to teleport me around while the bulk of my attention focused on combat. It feels great, especially once you realize you can walk backwards by pointing the controller behind you and tapping teleport.
There’s only one thing that feels off: jump pads. Stepping on one of these in the regular game launches you into the sky, usually onto some platform or another. That’s how it works in Doom VFR as well… though the sensation of suddenly flying up into the air is immediately jarring. The first time it happened, I felt instantly queasy and very nearly lost my balance.
Also: I do wonder if the bits that I played can sustain an entire game. Doom VFR‘s E3 demo provides a taste — giving you a bunch of guns and pitting you against a wide assortment of beasties — but it still feels more like a proof-of-concept than a fully baked experience.
That said, Doom‘s initial step into “virtual f*cking reality” (yes, that’s what “VFR” stands for) is promising, if only for making it clear that the game can work in VR.
Doom VFR should be coming to HTC Vive and PlayStation VR sometime before the end of 2017.