QuakeCon 2017: Hands-On With ‘DOOM VFR’

One of 2016’s best shooters is about to become one of 2017’s most intense VR experiences.

What began as a HTC Vive tech-demo for QuakeCon 2016, virtual-reality DOOM has since been conceived as a proper title scheduled to release late this Fall. DOOM VFR (presumably “Virtual-Fucking-Reality”) made its official debut earlier this year as one of id Software’s and Bethesda’s first official ventures into VR, alongside Fallout 4 and Skyrim.

I had the pleasure of experiencing the evolved vision of DOOM this morning at QuakeCon 2017. The general structure of the VFR demo remains unchanged from the previous tech presentation, but I still had a plethora of new techniques to explore. Apart from the standard practice of teleportation for movement, DOOM VFR now utilizes the HTC Vive’s left D-Pad as a short dash in any direction; this doubles as both a proper evasion mechanic, and an alternate method of movement that ceases to break the pace of the game. Teleportation itself has been given a significant upgrade by integrating one of DOOM‘s crown gameplay features, the “Glory Kill”:

If the player damages an enemy enough to begin flashing, he or she may aim the teleport beacon at said enemy’s feet by pressing the center of the left D-Pad; the player will then warp over to the enemy, causing them to explode. Giving players absolute control the age-old “telefrag” technique is a welcome offensive option, but the demo requested serious accuracy for proper execution; on several occasions, I would place the teleport beacon just shy of the Glory Kill radius, only to stand awkwardly next to a demon as it sheepishly collapsed at my feet.

Plot details were mostly absent from the QuakeCon demo, but id Software has opted for a rather unique- and entertainingly ridiculous- new protagonist for DOOM VFR: Where 2016’s DOOM thrust players into the role of the one-track killing machine that is the “Doomslayer”, DOOM VFR has its virtual-reality recipient enter the helm of the last survivor of the UAC Mars research station, until their untimely death at the hands of the demonic invasion. The protagonist’s subconscious is uploaded into the UAC network, allowing players to project themselves through holograms, and hopscotch between machines, equipment, and robotic security officials in an attempt to restore order to the Martian facility. The opening segment reflected this, having players interact with a a lever, holographic information desk and the initial security outfit, but the core focus of the QuakeCon demo was to showcase the idea that DOOM‘s relentless gameplay could be preserved in VR.

The build presented at QuakeCon does leave a little to be desired in relation to the plot, but story isn’t really the focal point of the Doom franchise; Doom thrives on speed, aggression, violence and empowerment- all of which are perfectly encapsulated in DOOM VFR.

DOOM VFR will release for PC (HTC Vive) and PS4 (PlayStation VR) on 12/1. QuakeCon 2017 is currently underway at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, TX.

Image courtesy of id Software, Bethesda

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