Pavlov VR continues to provide the quintessential FPS experience for players who want frantic, classic game types such as Team Deathmatch and Search & Destroy in a modern-day military setting. While not as hair-raisingly intense or competitive as its distant cousin — Onward, which it is so often compared to — it does constitute a fluid, fun FPS for both friends and competitors alike.
Hearkening back to the mechanically creative attitude of Garry’s Mod, Pavlov VR also stands out for its open support of user-made maps and mods; some of which have introduced features such as day/night cycles and entirely new game modes. Furthermore, if you do decide to check out Pavlov VR for its asking price of $9.99 on Steam, then the following is a list of mods that you absolutely should not miss out on.
A classic map from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dust 2 fits perfectly into Pavlov VR’s gameplay pacing — which is not conceptually different from Counter-Strike’s pacing at all. This isn’t just a fantastic port, it’s also a fantastic first map for new players to learn Pavlov’s mechanics in. As in the original Dust 2 map, this Pavlov VR iteration is set up with the game’s bomb-defusing Search & Destroy mode in mind.
Another instantly recognizable classic from Counter-Strike, the Office HQ is a decently large map that’s versatile and perfect for any of Pavlov’s game modes. Its contrast of open horizontal space cut off by long hallways that are compromised by weaving office boardrooms leave plenty of opportunity for different kinds of play. This makes it a heavily balanced map for competitive players to round off in.
Ported in as a classic map from Rare’s GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64, Facility is a series of tightly woven corridors and shooting galleries that make for intense door-to-door skirmishes. It’s bananas to get a full room of people into this map for a free-for-all Deathmatch, since the bullets don’t really stop flying until the match is over. A word of warning: spend very little time in the central hallway or on the stairs. As other players spawn in small rooms adjacent to those primary thoroughfares, it’s easy to get caught in crossfire from all directions if you’re out in the open for too long.
Ziba Tower is another ported map, this time from Battlefield 3. Unlike many other maps in Pavlov VR, the Ziba Tower penthouse feels exceptionally clean with attention paid to small aesthetic details. It even has multiple swimming pools for you to dip your feet into. In contrast to Facility, Ziba Tower is much more spacious and can feel quite lonely without a full lobby of players or AI bots. Granted, I particularly enjoy Ziba Tower’s use of vertical space — making for really interesting Team Deathmatch sessions rife with tactical firefights between vantage points.
The Practice Range is perfect for new players who want to try out all of Pavlov VR’s weapons without feeling the pressure of enemies firing back. Even as an experienced player, this map offers a slew of versatile physics-based target practice toys that you can play with to improve your aim. I enjoy challenging myself to hit vases across the range down the ironsight of an M1911, but that’s certainly not all there is to do. There are a number of exercises on the Practice Range that are designed to test your accuracy and skill with each of Pavlov VR’s weapons, including breaching rooms and moving targets. All of them are worth doing at least once.
For those who remember spending countless nights in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s high-octane free-for-all matchmaking lobbies, Rust sets itself apart as one of the most beloved close-quarters skirmish maps in recent gaming history. In Pavlov VR, it’s sort of striking to see Rust presented to me as a virtual place that I feel I have now visited, but it doesn’t function any worse than it did in Modern Warfare 2. In fact, VR presence makes Rust come to life in a special way, if not solely because Pavlov VR’s gameplay mechanics fit naturally on top of its meticulously-crafted chutes and sandy rampways. Expect frantic and charged combat from all sides as players chase one another up, down, and around corners.
A perfect re-creation of Dunder Mifflin’s office space, titular The Office (Dunder Mifflin) is another skirmish-focused map that puts players into a tight proximity with one another. Granted, most of your time will be spent ducking behind desks and chairs or inside of Michael Scott’s personal office. Some of the boardroom spaces as well as the staircase offer more breathing room than the primary office space, but shotguns and heavy pistols reign supreme here. While the few main office areas are connected by hallways, those hallways can be difficult to defend and are quickly swallowed in gunfire during Search & Destroy mode. Meanwhile, tight doorways can provide enough cover for yourself or other players to hide in wait, which can still easily backfire either way if you aren’t paying attention.
TTT is a game mode that was already popular in Garry’s Mod, but has taken on new life inside of Pavlov VR. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a play on the classic murder mystery whodunnit, where up to three players are traitors and up to seven players are civilians — including one sheriff. Either the civilians outlive the timer (or eradicate the traitors), or the traitors murder the civilians before the timer runs out. While regular civilians can’t tell who’s a traitor and who’s a fellow civilian, the sheriff is immediately visible to every player at the start of the game. Traitors are visible to other traitors, but are outmatched from the very beginning — rewarding a sleuthier approach to picking off civilians rather than take them on full-stop. Unless the sheriff gathers the bulk of the civilian players into one spot early, they are usually the first player to be picked off, making sheriff the most gruelling position to play as.
Pavlov VR’s iteration of TTT comes in a few different flavored maps, including Manor and Asylum, but many players agree that it has been done best with Village. Based on Kakariko Village from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, this version of TTT comes with plenty of nooks and crannies for traitors to hide out in, as well as a testing machine that allows players to determine who’s a civilian and who’s a traitor.
While not introducing any new gameplay, Hyrule Market is where I’ve had the absolute most fun playing Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch modes in Pavlov VR thus far. It’s a complete reimagining of the Hyrule Market from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, including a perfectly simulated day/night cycle that adds a level of dynamic ambiance unseen in other maps. The vast majority of the combat takes place across the town centre, but there are surprises around every nook and cranny. For example, as you enter different shops and buildings, their correct OST plays, which is uniquely delightful and sure to evoke nostalgia on its own. But the cherry on top is the fully-explorable Temple of Time, which you can enter at your own peril.
Jailbreak’s slower-paced cops and robbers affair stacks (up to) three guards against up to seven prisoners. The job of the prisoners is to pool resources together so they can craft the tools necessary to escape from the prison. Meanwhile, the guards are meant to stop them from doing precisely that. But when a prisoner dies, they respawn inside of their prison cell with none of their items, meaning that it’s in a prisoner’s best interest to avoid incurring the wrath of the guards at all.
There are very few mechanical rules in place to hold Jailbreak up — a double edged sword, allowing guards to abuse their power and randomly shoot prisoners for looking at them the wrong way. Instead, the modders opted to leave Jailbreak’s abstract rules listed on the walls of the prison. To follow those rules and decide when/how to enact them, any given guard requires a combination of reading comprehension, snap problem-solving and empathy. As such, Jailbreak is best seen as a game mode where the player engages real humans behaving in eerily appropriate ways when put into certain positions. Guards act flippantly with their power while prisoners scurry around trying to avoid dying and therefore losing their items.
Violence isn’t always a winning strategy as a prisoner, but killing a guard and taking their key makes the process of moving between locked doors far easier. And the moment at the turning point when you finally kill a guard who’s been excessively aggressive to you and the other prisoners is a satisfying moment indeed. As is the moment when you lead your fellow prisoners to an escape route only to realize that one or two prisoners are left stranded, so then the five of you shoot your way back into the prison to execute a final stand.
The thrill of playing as a prisoner in Jailbreak comes from each risk assessment you have to make before taking the next necessary step forward, each step getting more important than the last, driving a feeling of tension that leads to the cathartic moment of escape. As a guard, however, Jailbreak can be more or less boring depending on what kind of person you’re willing to act as.
This is why ultimately, Jailbreak exceeds at creatively using Pavlov VR both to place human behavior under a microlens and provide a compelling gameplay reason for true multiplayer role playing in VR. It’s also where I’ve had the most fun playing Pavlov. Well done!
Note: Jailbreak Mod also has a sequel, Jailbreak Mod 2, which takes place on a different map and contains slightly advanced rules. Some players believe this second iteration is a big step backwards from the original, citing unintuitive map layout and issues with a new crafting menu interfering with the Oculus Rift control scheme.
It’s a massive joy to play Pavlov VR; not only for its punchy VR gunplay, but also because of the modding community that continues to add new maps and content for repeat players to consume and explore. That said, if there are any maps or mods you feel deserved to be on this list, then let us know!