GameCentral for Metro.co.uk just played these Bethesda VR titles.
on DOOM VFR
on Skyrim VR
The first thing you learn about VR is that despite what you might imagine fast action games, including first person shooters, do not work. Despite how some shooters love to talk about realism the movement is too superhumanly fast to be endured by most people, without inducing severe nausea. Resident Evil 7, and Bethesda’s first person role-players, work fine because they’re quite slow-paced, but something like Doom would be a terrible idea. And yet apparently not.
Unlike the role-players, Doom VFR (the ‘F’ stands for the same thing as it does in Doom’s BFG) is an entirely new game. It reuses the same enemies, and many of the same visuals, from last year’s reboot but it is not just the original game with VR support. Bethesda fully understand that you can’t control a game as fast and manic as Doom in VR, and so instead the game relies on the teleport method of movement. Common in many VR titles, you indicate a point on the ground in front of you and then press a button to instantly move there.
The teleport system helps to reduce nausea, but as you can imagine it also reduces the sense of immersion. But it actually works extremely well in Doom VFR. There’s some story nonsense about being uploaded to a computer and being beamed into various robots, but whatever the excuse is the action hold up very well indeed.
It’s particularly good when using the Vive headset because you can turn around 360° just by moving your body, which will have to be handled by an analogue stick or button on PlayStation VR. But teleporting proves to be surprisingly nuanced, as the game enters a sort of bullet time when you’re aiming your teleport cursor, allowing you to zip in and out of danger with an impressive amount of grace.
There’s even an equivalent to the reboot’s Glory Kills, where you get to ‘telefrag’ an enemy by teleporting into a staggered monster and exploding them from the inside out.
Apparently the full game also has some puzzle elements, with the ability to take control of a number of smaller robots, but we didn’t see any of that. Instead what we got was basically the most realistic Arnold Schwarzenegger (circa 1987) simulation ever made, and glorious in its complete lack of subtlety or depth.
With luck, Doom VFR will also severe as inspiration for other big name first person shooters looking to move into VR. So if there is ever a Call Of Duty VR or Battlefield VR it may well look and work something like this. Just with less demons from hell.
on Fallout 4 VR
Skyrim is six years old in a couple of months. Despite that fact there’s still not even a hint of a sequel, and for two very good reasons: the game is being re-released not once but twice this year. The first time is on the Switch, as part of Bethesda’s surprisingly enthusiastic support of Nintendo’s console, and the second is on PlayStation VR. A HTC Vive version is apparently planned for next year, but for now the VR version is a Sony exclusive.
Bethesda’s role-players seem like the perfect fit for VR: they’re first person but slow-paced, and filled with so much to see and do there’s no way they could be accused of being a glorified tech demo. Except this kind of is. The first thing that strikes you when putting on the VR headset is the incredibly low resolution. Neither Skyrim nor Fallout were designed with VR in mind, and so it seems that not only does the headset naturally limit the resolution but it’s been reduced further in order to keep the game running at a decent speed.
As a consequence the frame rate is fine, but the visuals are so blocky that it looks more like Minecraft than a game attempting to be photorealistic (ignore these bullshots, that’s not what the demo we played looked like at all). But none of that is Bethesda’s fault, they’re just working with the hardware they’ve got, and they’ve managed to get Skyrim’s controls working very well with PlayStation Move. There will be DualShock control in the final version, but moving around with the Move’s face buttons, and using teleporting to go forward, felt surprisingly natural to us.
What was a problem though was combat. The motion detection for using a sword was very ropey, and waving it around like an impotent bread knife looked pretty laughable. The magic spells on your hands are great though, especially the Emperor Palpatine lightning bolts. We also liked how the bow worked, as you have to actually hock the arrow and pull the bow back to fire, in a surprisingly realistic manner. This was all a bit twitchy though, with lots of graphical glitches that are a rather worrying considering it’s due out in November.
Whether you’d want to spend 200 hours with a VR helmet on your head for any game is a question in itself, and that’s before taking into consideration the constraints of Skyrim on PlayStation VR. It’ll be full price too, although that does include all the DLC expansions. It is certainly an interesting novelty, and we didn’t get any nausea using teleport movement, but just don’t expect the Star Trek holodeck…
With Skyrim barely running properly on PlayStation VR it seems as if Bethesda’s most recent role-player is just too much for it. Fallout 4 VR is only being released for HTC Vive, and once again it’s a full price release – although this time without any of the DLC. Running on a powerful PC there’s no compromise in terms of the visuals, but suddenly being able to move around the world like a real person turns Fallout into a very different kind of game.
Unlike PlayStation VR, or Oculus Rift, the Vive headset allows you to walk around a fairly large area in front of the TV and still interact with the game world. You don’t need to turn using a button or a controller, you just turn. You also don’t move a cursor to aim, you aim with your arm. And that quickly turns Fallout 4 into something closer to a straight shooter.
The demo area we were exploring was set-up with lots of enemies, and taking them down proved far easier than it would’ve in the original version. And while V.A.T.S. is still part of the game its slow motion effect feels more like something out of Bayonetta than the tactical aid it was originally supposed to be. None of this is necessarily a criticism, but the feel of the game in VR is very different from just playing on a PC or TV.
Bethesda also let us explore outside the demo area, allowing us to get a go on some power armour and explore the post-apocalyptic streets and wilderness. With the improved visuals it was a far more awe-inspiring sight than Skyrim, although it was still obvious that this is a game that was never originally designed for VR. Again, it was the melee weapons that seemed the oddest, as you wave around supposedly deadly weapons like a little toy truncheon.
The Pipboy works better, although it’s a bit weird to see it’s not attached to a virtual arm. You’re able to hold it up and look at it just by flexing your arm though, as if it was a real, physical thing, and the menus are just as easy to use as in the original version.
When Bethesda do create a new role-player, presumably starting with The Elder Scrolls VI, they’ll no doubt do it with VR firmly in mind from the start. And that’s important because the difference between Doom VFR – a game specifically designed for VR – and Skyrim and Fallout 4 is considerable. The role-players are a fudge, and although they seem relatively successful they’re still really only a hint at what a bigger and more complex game would be like in VR.