What Fallout 4 and Doom are Like in VR
How Bethesda’s VR ports are shaping up.
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After Bethesda unveiled that Fallout 4 and Doom would be ported over to VR (to work with the HTC Vive), I was delighted, but also really curious to see how the ports would hold up. While I love VR, the medium does face a lot of unique design challenges. For instance, using a joystick to move around in VR can induce motion sickness for many people. Many people are calling the issue “locomotion” and it’s caused when our eyes perceive that we’re moving, but our bodies do not. Thankfully, Bethesda seems to have a good understanding of this problem and are trying to tackle it in interesting ways.
The Fallout 4 VR demo started me off at the Red Rocket truck stop, which is an early area in the game. Because the developers programmed the demo to have raiders come and attack me, the rep who gave me the demo told me not to venture too far away from the station. Considering it doesn’t use a joystick for movement, you might be wondering how I would even venture off to begin with. Like VR games like Budget Cuts and The Gallery before it, the VR version of Fallout 4 uses a teleport mechanic. With my left hand, I could hold down the Vive’s left trigger button to see a green, glowing arc shoot out of my PIP Boy, which is appropriately attached to my wrist. The arc has a limited range, however. This is most likely to prevent you from teleporting vast distances in the heat of battle with a single click. I want to say the teleportation limit is roughly 40-50 feet or so. Considering the original game didn’t feature teleportation, it will be interesting to see if Bethesda tweaks the narrative to take the new mechanic into account.
While the standard version of the game features of ton of in-game menus for you to sift through, the only menus I came across in the demo were actually contained within the PIP Boy on my left wrist. All the leveling, inventory, and map menus are appropriately located here and you navigate the menus with the controller’s touchpad. It’s a pretty cool VR implementation that worked well, at least with the relatively short time I played with it.
Once the raiders showed up, I proceeded to teleport around the truck stop to use the environment to dodge gunfire and fire back with my pistol. Interestingly enough, there is no VATS system in the current demo, but the Bethesda rep told me the company wasn’t ruling it out. While the gunplay felt good and accurate, surprisingly, I didn’t have to reload my gun in the demo. Conversely, this also meant that I had infinite ammo.
While the demo was fun, one big gripe that I had with it was that it was hard to discern what objects you could physically pick up in the game. The rep told me that you could physically pick up everything you could normally pick up in the regular game, but this conversely means you can’t pick up most virtual objects. Having gotten used to games like Job Simulator, a title that’s built from the ground up for VR, where you can pick up nearly everything, it was a bit jarring to see my hand simply clip through a tire as I futilely try to pick it up. The rep also told me that the items that I could pick up would be highlighted in green as I got close to them, but I didn’t come across any of these objects in my limited playthrough.
Another aspect of the game that I didn’t get to see was the dialogue wheel. Since most of the UI seems to be contained within the PIP Boy, it will be interesting to see how Bethesda handles this mechanic. It might also be a weird out-of-body experience to hear someone speaking out of your own body. Hopefully we’ll learn more about how Bethesda aims to tackle these issues soon.
The VR version of Doom that Bethesda was showing off seemed much more like a tech demo than a full-on game. The demo took place with me standing atop a tall, thin pillar and had me blasting hordes of monsters in a canyon-like arena. I was expecting the monsters to attack me, but to my surprise, they all fought each other instead. With the Vive’s right controller, I switched to the pulse rifle, which allowed me to spam purple laser balls at the horde below. With my left hand, I could hold down the trigger button to bring out grenades and chuck it at incoming baddies.
After this section ended, the demo tossed me into a large room with a bunch of Doom’s various boss monsters. They were all just standing there, and they were ginormous up close in VR. I’m talking like 10-foot tall here. The point of this demo was to show the scale of these beasts. They all proceeded to scream and fought each other to the death.
Again, because the game featured no traversal mechanic, it felt more like a shooting-gallery tech demo. When I asked Bethesda if the company had any plans on expanding the experience, the reps simply said they had nothing else to show at this time. Hopefully Bethesda will continue to push the boundaries of what it can do in VR moving forward.