I can declare without a doubt that the 2016 reboot of Doom is one of the best modern Triple-A shooters ever published. In an era of shooters that encourage you to hide from the enemy, Doom completely ditched the rule book and made mechanics that required players to keep moving and killing demons to progress. I’m not exaggerating when I say this game is a damn-near perfect singleplayer shooter, from it’s gameplay to it’s visuals and theme. With all this hype surrounding Doom and my interest in VR entertainment, I was stoked to hear that we were getting a Doom VR campaign respectively named “Doom VFR”. Unfortunately after it’s release two days ago, it turns out that all the controls and mechanics that made the original legendary have been completely butchered.
As many who follow me know, I’ve been extremely exited for VR platforms since the original Oculus Kickstarter. It’s every gamers dream to be fully immersed in their favorite fictional worlds and VR is the best way to do it (when it’s done right at least). I’ve been tinkering with Oculus compatible Steam games for 3 months now and have played a large variety of games and genres. I have a very clear idea of how controls and mechanics should be implemented and optimized for VR. So when I see the controls Doom VFR decided to use, I can’t help but gag and think “who the hell thought this was a good idea?!”.
I’m going to do a quick lesson for those who are unfamiliar with VR or haven’t played many games on the platform. In my experience there are two universal ways of handling movement and rotation in VR. There is analog movement and rotation which is similar to traditional first-person shooters and then there’s teleportation and rotation snapping. The second option is tailored towards people who are susceptible to motion sickness since smooth movement and rotation can completely mess with your body’s senses. Most VR titles have settings which allows players to enable and disable motion-sickness-friendly settings as they please.
So how does this relate to Doom VFR? Well, the only way to have smooth movement in this game is to own it on PSVR and either use the regular Dualshock 4 controller or the pro aim controller. This means if you’re playing on PC or using the PSmove controllers you’re stuck with teleportation. Additionally PSmove does not have snap rotation and can only turn 180 degrees on a button press. At first this doesn’t seem like a big deal since the move controllers don’t have a thumb stick and most gamers are familiar with teleport mechanics by now. However, after playing many games that have tackled movement in many different ways, this PSmove control scheme is downright insulting. Doom is clearly advertised as a movement-focused game yet the developers, id software, did not bother to optimize this for the move controllers. Since they wouldn’t do it, I’ll do it for them in one easy paragraph.
How do we make it better? Let’s first fix the movement. In the PC game Gorn you have an option to set movement relative to your headset or relative to your controller. With the controller option you can push forward on a button then aim the controller left or right to turn and strafe around targets. This kind of movement would be perfect for PSmove! Right now there are 5 buttons binded to teleportation and dashing. The relative controller option would simplify this to 2 buttons, one for aim-based movement and one for glory kills. Then the 3 extra buttons can be used for turning left & right and aim-based dashing/grenade throwing. That was easy! Why hasn’t anyone over at id software thought of this? Your best guess is as good as mine. Here’s what the new layout looks like:
I’m still dumbfounded how they messed up this control scheme. Experimental indie titles have figured this stuff out within the first year of VR being out for consumers, yet a juggernaut like id software fails to simply use this common sense. A rule-of-thumb for VR developers is to provide an abundance of options for their users so the game can appeal to a wider audience with different hardware configurations. Making a triple-A game for a console does not exclude you from this, Doom VFR (*cough* and Skyrim) being the prime example.
For a clearer view of how messed up these controls are, check out this video by Push Square.
You have any thoughts on the control schemes? Let me know in a reply!