The claustrophobic horror-shooting of DOOM 3 sent shivers down the spines of gamers when it launched back in 2004, with the revamped approach to the classic gunplay of the original offering an experience that felt totally different yet somehow familiar at the same time. I was a big fan, and honestly, thinking back to all of its spooks that caught me off-guard when I was younger still gives me the heebie-jeebies now. Of course, the fact that you’re armed with an array of powerful weapons did ease the tension a little, but there were still plenty of reasons to be afraid…
It makes it the perfect game to play in virtual reality then, really… you know… in that sadistic ‘I want to scare the life out of myself’ kind of way. Whilst DOOM 3: VR Edition isn’t the series’ first foray into virtual reality though, it is the first that utilises a pre-existing campaign that feels more akin to a traditional first-person shooter. It makes for an immersive and enjoyable experience too, even if some aspects of the game’s original design could feel a little dated and don’t always fit the virtual reality blueprint perfectly.
I don’t need to go into too much detail about DOOM 3: VR Edition’s narrative, right? We all know how this works: humans set up a colony on Mars, they try out some freaky experiments, things go wrong, and they somehow end up summoning the forces of Hell that go on a destructive (and very bloody) warpath. Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that and DOOM 3: VR Edition does introduce plenty of characters that add personality to the narrative, but it’s all your standard fare really.
It is worth mentioning that DOOM 3: VR Edition includes all previously released expansions, so players can look forward to going through the ‘Resurrection of Evil’ campaign and ‘The Lost Mission’. I’ve always preferred the former, but they’re both worth playing through and extend the experience beyond the roughly ten-hour main campaign.
At its core, DOOM 3: VR Edition is all about exploring the dark and eerie environment whilst shooting away at any enemies that get in your path. Whilst the original titles in the series and the modern iterations are fast-paced shoot-fests though, DOOM 3: VR Edition adopts a slower pace where players are left navigating more confined areas cautiously with jump scares aplenty. What’s around the corner? What’s hidden behind a door? What’s going to creepily make noises in the distance that seem to die away as you get closer? You can expect plenty of that sort of thing during your adventure. It suits the virtual reality setup of the game a lot better really, especially since movement is a bit more limited and won’t see you constantly launching yourself across maps whilst spinning around to pick off enemies… nobody wants that in virtual reality.
One of the best things about DOOM 3: VR Edition is its support of the Aim controller. It has always been the peripheral that compliments PlayStation VR the most, but it’s one that has been underutilised outside of a few stand-out releases here and there. It’s perfect here though and makes it feel all the more immersive to navigate each environment whilst picking off intruding enemies with quick-fire shots. It’s the best way to experience the game.
Don’t have an Aim controller? You’ll have to stick to the DualShock, with Move not supported here. The DualShock could feel a little weird to use at times given that it utilises motion-based actions as opposed to traditional controls, but it’s something you get used to after playing for a bit. There are a few comfort settings in place to help make the experience a bit easier to deal with if you’re not all that experienced with virtual reality yet, though it is one of the more intense titles available if you’re not used to a lot of movement – it’s something that’s worth bearing in mind if you haven’t got your virtual reality bearings yet.
Visually, DOOM 3: VR Edition looks decent, but you can tell it’s a game that came out in 2004 thanks to the occasional sketchy texture and awkward character model. Don’t get me wrong, it was ahead of its time those seventeen-years ago, but it’s easy to see that visuals have come a long way since then. It has its own unique style that’s easy to appreciate, but it’s dated.
You know what, though? This actually works to the game’s benefit in PlayStation VR. The headset isn’t exactly known for being the prettiest when it comes to more realistic visuals due its technical limitations, but DOOM 3: VR Edition stands out well and doesn’t lose a lot of detail when compared to the original. And hey, it even maintains the lighting and ambient effects that made the game so atmospheric to begin with, so there’s no doubting that it still captures the unnerving horrors of the environments perfectly.
Whilst DOOM 3: VR Edition might not necessarily be the prettiest title you’ll play on PlayStation VR, it’s certainly a lot of fun. It’s always satisfying to shoot away at enemies in virtual reality, whilst the varied weapons in your arsenal and different enemy types allow for multiple strategies. A lot has been done to streamline the game for virtual reality too, such as the HUD displaying on your wrist, weapons having torches attached to them (probably my favourite addition of all – those who have played before will understand), and the player being able to move their head around freely to poke around corners and see if any nasties are waiting for them. The horror vibe remains SUPER creepy too, with the immersive nature of virtual reality making each jump scare all the more terrifying. It’s just a fun campaign to play though – sure, some aspects do feel a little dated along the way with the puzzle and level design in areas, but it has definitely stood the test of time.
My only real issue with the gameplay came with the fact that a LOT of enemies will spawn behind you. Now this is something that was easier to deal with when playing with a mouse and keyboard (and to some extent a controller), but in virtual reality it can feel a little more jarring to constantly spin around or get caught off-guard by enemies. Most virtual reality shooters put their enemies in front of the player, so you don’t have to deal with this sort of thing too much – it shows that DOOM 3: VR Edition doesn’t always accommodate the technology perfectly. Fortunately, pushing the L3 button allows you to do a 180-degree turn to shoot away at them more quickly, but it still felt like a bit of a flaw.
The presentation could have some moments that broke the immersion a little too, especially since cutscenes didn’t utilise virtual reality and just played out on a screen in front of you. Whilst it makes sense that some sequences like this would’ve been more difficult to make the transition to virtual reality, it could feel a little jarring and broke up the flow of some of the game’s more action-orientated moments. Oh, and I have to mention the disparity with size between the main protagonist and some of the NPCs and items in the environment too, with the size difference just feeling a little weird in places. It’s a small flaw, but something you’ll DEFINITELY notice when you look a little closer.
DOOM 3: VR Edition holds up really well, and, outside of a few minor annoyances here and there, stands out as a fun (and undoubtedly horrifying) shooter for PlayStation VR gamers to sink their teeth into. It’s more immersive than ever thanks to the implementation of virtual reality, whilst the jump scares and nasty baddies felt creepier than ever before. It might be seventeen-years old now, but it’ll never stop being enjoyable blasting away at the vicious demons of hell.
Of course, there’s no denying that it can also be dated in design in some places, whilst some awkward moments with the presentation and the DualShock controller could break the immersion a little. Enemies appearing from behind you is always a bit of a no-no in virtual reality too, so it shows that some aspects of the game didn’t make the transition quite as well as others.
Whilst not perfect though, DOOM 3: VR Edition offers an enjoyable way to experience the iconic first-person shooter in all of its gory glory. Whether you’re a fan of the series or just virtual reality shooters in general, it’s certainly worth your attention.
Developer: id Software, Archiact
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed)
Click here to visit the official website.