Preview: Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot
Machine Games is trying something new with Bethesda’s latest VR endeavour
AAA publishers pushing existing videogame franchises into the new medium of virtual reality (VR) is an effort to expand market opportunities is an approach that has been expected for some time. Capcom cracked that nut with Resident Evil VII biohazard, and Bethesda followed suit late last year with two conversions and the entirely new DOOM VFR. The latter seems to have inspired 2018’s offerings, as Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, Prey – Typhoon Hunter and The Elder Scrolls: Blades are all original experiences built for VR.
VRFocus dived into this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with Bethesda Softworks’ trio of VR titles beginning with Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot: a brand new way to experience a familiar world. As the name suggests, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot puts the player at the helm of a number of different war machines, and in the E3 playable build that consisted of a Panzerhund; a large mechanical dog equipped with a flamethrower.
The demonstration version of Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot was a seated experience, which begins with the player launching into an automated hacking (i.e. a loading screen) of the mechanical beast before finding themselves enclosed within the vehicle. A linear path lies ahead, but movement isn’t on-rails as seen in Skydance Interactive’s Archangel. Instead, locomotion is completely free to be controlled in first-person complete with strafing and quick 180-degree turns. Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is, for all intents and purposes, a slow-paced first-person shooter (FPS) opposed to a mech-battling videogame.
Using the HTC Vive (Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is also confirmed for PlayStation VR) the player will use the left controller’s disc for acceleration and point the right controller in the direction they wish to move. It’s an intuitive system that has been used in VR before and replicates the left- and right-analogue sticks of a control pad, allowing for veteran players to quickly get to grips with the movement and begin performing technical positioning decisions with ease. Despite the fact that the player is riding upon a large war machine, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot doesn’t appear to penalise movement for a large rear-end; instead only forcing the player’s situational awareness to take into account their own person and the robotic beast’s head in front of them.
An additional form of movement which also acts as an attack is a ram move, which allows the player to charge a short distance ahead and knock/destroy specific objects. The environmental damage featured in the playable sequence at E3 2018 was impressive – fire hydrants, lampposts, trees and more were all destructible and/or flammable – and charging into a small vehicle will launch it forwards, potentially taking out a number of Nazi foes.
The second weapon at the player’s disposal is the aforementioned flamethrower, which spits its fire in the direction of the player’s right hand when the trigger on the same controller is pulled. The fire effects have obviously been toned down somewhat from Wolfenstein II, but certainly remain impressive. The player is able to spray and coat numerous enemies in the firing line and watch the fall one-by-one, and even aim the charge skyward to combat flying foes.
The demonstration version of Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot allowed the player to try all of these tactical and aggressive manoeuvres along the aforementioned liner path before opening out into an arena battle, replete with dropships and the threat of a boss fight. The demo build was clearly a no-fail variation, meaning it was extremely hard to gauge difficulty and whether or not the somewhat slow-witted enemies would actually provide much of a challenge, however the rampage through the Nazi insignia adorned city streets proved entertaining nonetheless.
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is expected to launch later this year on both PC (HTC Vive currently confirmed) and PlayStation 4 for PlayStation VR. No pricing details or specific dates have yet been mentioned, but the suggestion is that the demo version VRFocus has experienced at E3 2018 is only one small section of a much larger experience. It could well be that Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot turns-out to be this year’s DOOM VFR, and that alone is reason enough to be excited.