This week, Yahtzee reviews The Inpatient and Doom VFR.
So I thought it was about time we had a revisit - or rather, a "ve-risit" - to the world of VR; PS VR, that is, which stands for "PlayStation VR", and not, as one might expect, "Pukey Sickness Vomit Receptacle". I'm told the motion sickness thing is just a matter of getting used to it, though, so you might want to get some time in on VR now so after the machines take over, the Matrix doesn't generate more stomach chutney than power. And of the commercial headsets on the market, I do prefer the PlayStation VR. It's more comfortable to wear with glasses and easier to set up; I only need to balance one motion-capturing device on the piles of empty cider bottles that surround my comfy chair.
A new game came out for it this week called The Inpatient, which, in contrast to the last VR game we did, Wilson's Heart, which was about a dude in a haunted asylum where monster shit's going down, is a game about a dude in a haunted asylum where monster shit's going down. Well, let's be fair: for its faults, Wilson's Heart had puzzles, had some combat, and in brief, stuff happening, whereas in The Inpatient, um... hm. Well, it's got some very lovely corridors you'll have plenty of chances to get acquainted with. The Inpatient is a prequel of sorts to Until Dawn, that branching-paths slasher movie game from a while back, and so it takes a few moments to remind us at length that our choices will have consequences; for example, if we choose to get bored and stop playing, that will have the consequence of a slightly more enriching afternoon.
We're a patient in an asylum who's locked in their cell when the monsters throw a housewarming party and ends up trapped in there for weeks with nothing to snack on but mildew and an increasingly unhinged roommate. We have a couple of nightmares during this sequence that call upon us to walk down a hallway while occasionally, a scary thing suddenly appears and makes a noise like it's screaming while hitting the inside of a trash can with a cricket bat. I mean, come on, guys! Surely, the budget could stretch far enough that you didn't have to steal jump-scares from Newgrounds "Escape the Room" horror games. But then, of course, we get to the part of the game after we get out of the cell, which consists largely of following characters very slowly down dark corridors, and then I was like, "Fucking hell! All is forgiven, jump-scares! Come back and liven this the fuck up!"
I'm just going to spoil a lot of The Inpatient, because, trust me, missing out on this one is not going to haunt you to your dying days. The thrust of this and Until Dawn's premise is that if you eat human flesh, you turn into a wendigo, right, and the main diversion of the plot is whether you turn into a wendigo or your roommate does. Now, in the former, our roommate is absent - presumably 'cos we scoffed down their entire body with French fries and ranch - but I don't get why the roommate becomes a wendigo in the other scenario, because we're self-evidently not eaten; I don't remember looking down at any point and seeing that one of my legs was chewed off. Just a little plot hole, but there's so little plot, one hole turns it into a fucking engagement ring. It all culminates in the fantastic ending, where we get to the cable car to escape the mountain asylum and one character turns to whoever’s turning into a wendigo and goes, "Hey, you're turning into a wendigo! Yes, figured as much; bit of a pisser, isn't it? Well, how about all of us who are not wendigos sit in the cable car, and you can stay here and start it for us?" "All right; fair enough."
That was the fucking final boss, was it?! The explosive climax that I walked slowly down a whole five or six corridors for?! Eat shit, The Inpatient! VR games really need to grow out of making, open-quotes, "experiences" rather than games. They almost make me feel the way I feel after riding one of those simulator rides at the theme park; I can't believe I spent my allowance on that. So with that in mind, let's talk about another VR game I played this week which, controversially, was a game, and not just a walking simulator with no concept of personal space: Doom VFR, which, knowing Doom, probably stands for "Virtual Fucking Reality". I know they were going for badass, but when you say it out loud, it kind of sounds like you're sick of the whole concept. "Virtual fucking reality!"
Anyway, Doom VFR presents itself as a side story to the recent Doom, where we play a random dude who was in the Mars facility when the demons took over, but seemed to have already been partly zombified, because he has a weird habit of holding his hands out in front of him the whole time, like a sleepwalker with a sensitive priapism. Fortunately, the demons swiftly bite it off, along with a large percentage of his body, but our hero was smart enough to back up his personality on the solid state drive that morning, so he ends up in a robot body, somehow. So because VR tends to favor shorter games, so you don't play it for eight hours and get miniature TVs permanently fused to your eyeballs, what follows is a sort of CliffsNotes version of Doom 2016, where we teleport around to some choice locations from the game, pursue some nondescript button-pressing objective, and more importantly, rip off enough demon todgers to at least partially satisfy your mum.
So this is Doom designed for VR; it's presumably possible to play original Doom with VR, but you'd either need a concrete inner ear or a tarpaulin to sit on. In VFR, instead of the usual FPS free movement, we get around by teleporting and quick-dashing from spot to spot, and bite my nipples off and call me Billy No-Tits if it doesn't bloody work pretty well! In fact, I think this is the first VR game I've played that's pulled off the high-octane shooty action and didn't even make me feel sick; it made my head hurt, but, you know, Mum always warned you that would happen if you sat too close to the TV, so what the fuck did you expect would result from strapping the TV to your fucking face?
My expectations were low, 'cos from every description I read, it sounded like they were just going to turn Doom into a pop-up shooting gallery like a ferocious wolf being forced to mate with a ridiculously ambitious Corgi, but rest assured, absolutely none of Doom's trademark frenetic challenge is lost. Teleport across the room, shotgun two Imps in the face, let them all gather 'round for a space marine nipple salad, then teleport back out and rocket the place where you just were. Ha, ha. It's just good, old, plain, unqualified fun.
That said, the fun spikes highest when you are engaged in pitched battle and warping around a big, open arena, but at other times, you have to move down narrow corridors, and in that case, you feel a little bit silly teleporting your way along six feet at a time like a little hoppy murder bunny. And turning around is a bit of an arse; freely rotating yourself is still bad for motion sickness, or perhaps I mean, "extremely good for motion sickness". So we're still having to rotate in something like 30-degree increments, which is all very well when your game consists of walking very slowly down corridors, fretting over whether you should have had all that human flesh for breakfast; not so much when you've just teleported away from a heated debate with several Cacodemons and would like to turn back around and deliver a double-barreled counterargument.
Besides that, some of my criticisms of vanilla Doom still apply: gets a bit too easy towards the end when all the ridiculously powerful guns get introduced and are now just lying around everywhere like there was an earthquake at an American high school locker room. But it doesn't really hurt the game, so that's it! Doom VFR, possibly a leap forward for VR action games; The Inpatient, possibly a leap forward into a ditch full of very uninteresting rocks.
- Virtual calamity: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I had a friend who said he wanted to be cannibalised, but in the end he was only half in Ernest
- Embrace the futuristic world of strapping things to your head