The announcement by Bethesda that the company was not only working in virtual reality (VR), but was also developing two of its biggest IP’s Fallout 4 and DOOM came as quite a surprise during it’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2016 press conference. DOOM is an iconic title, heralded as the videogame that launched the first-person shooting (FPS) genre back in the 90’s (although it wasn’t the first). Subsequent sequels have seen equal success and failure, with the most recently released being widely seen as a return to form. So riding on this wave of adulation for the title, as well as the growing fervour around VR, Bethesda has created an immersive HTC Vive version.
First off DOOM VR isn’t a full videogame or a demo of an upcoming title due for release. DOOM VR is purely a tech demo at this current stage, showcasing what developer id Software and Bethesda have been experimenting with. Split across four areas, the experience lasted approximately five minutes, giving a brief glimpse into the possibility of fighting the hellish hordes.
Putting on the HTC Vive you’re introduced to a laboratory with several tables placed around you. This first area uses a teleportation mechanic – something of a standard for VR now – to allow users to move between the different tables and inspect their contents. Located on each are items, enemies and guns found in the main videogame. You can spin these around to examine them in further detail but that’s about it.
The demo then moves on to the best, and most interactive part of DOOM VR. Placed in a quintessential, dark and dingy DOOM corridor, you’re given grenades in your left hand, and a choice between either a pistol or plasma rifle in your right to wage destruction down on the incoming enemies. As with all the segments time spent in each is short, and this second area flies by as you throw grenades and blast evil demons to smithereens. It’s this little area that’s a great showcase for a VR version of DOOM, how well it would flesh out into a fully complete title is another matter.
The third area is the most experimental and the weakest, porting a level from DOOM into VR. Stood on top of a pillar making you unreachable, hordes of enemies run around the level attacking each other. You can use your guns and grenades to dispatch them but its doesn’t feel as solid or as engaging as the previous area. The visuals have also taken a turn for the worst, as if you’re playing on an old CRT TV, pixelated and lacking definition.
Finally you’re presented with a gallery style showcase of four demonic monsters at their correct scale. Featuring the hulking Baron of Hell, the bloated Cyber-Mancubus, Revenant and Cyberdemon, this selection gives these creatures even more foreboding presence and would certainly make for an ominous sight if they approached in a fully fledged title. Just to round it all off all four disappear and in walks DOOM’s final boss, the Spider Mastermind. This monstrous demon towers over you, presenting a formidable foe.
DOOM VR doesn’t compare to other tech demos such as Epic Game’s Bullet Train, but in its own way it has a certain charm. Certain parts are far more accomplished than others, and could fair well with further development. But at the moment Bethesda hasn’t detailed any plans for an actual public release, so experiencing a true DOOM VR title might just be a pipe dream.