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Doom VFR Review: A Different Kind Of Hell

by Jamie Feltham • December 1st, 2017
Platforms: PSVR (Reviewed), Vive (Reviewed)
Positives

- The foundations of a great shooter are intact
- Full two to four hour campaign
- Awesome moments of VR action

Negatives

- Awkward control schemes on PSVR
- Some glitches and bad UI
- Recycled campaign content

There probably isn’t a better barometer for how far gaming has come in the past two and a half decades than Doom VFR. It’s nearly 24 years ago to the day that the original classic revolutionized gaming with its 3D first-person view that rooted players in the center of the action and now id Software is bringing us closer to the demon-slaying than ever before with one of the first full VR first-person shooters (FPSs) based on an AAA franchise.

For all our fond memories of Doom 1993, though, it’s easy to forget that it didn’t have all the answers; you couldn’t look up and down, for example, and the game technically only provided the illusion of being in 3D with clever graphical trickery. Somewhat fittingly, Doom VFR is much the same story.

Rather than creating an original adventure from scratch, id has remixed the campaign from the excellent 2016 reboot for Doom VFR. It takes about a quarter of the locations and, from what I can remember, all of the enemies and weapons, dresses them up in a fresh but instantly forgettable story and tweaks the controls to make it as immersive and as comfortable as possible inside a VR headset. The result is a handful of levels forming a two to four-hour-long campaign depending on the difficulty you pick (I played on hard). Each of these will see you travel to different locations at the Union Aerospace Corporation on Mars, which is overrun by demons of all shapes and sizes. Without spoiling anything, you’ll later visit another location seen in the 2016 campaign.

It’s a shame not to be getting an all-new game or a full port of last year’s shooter (Bethesda has ported all of Skyrim and Fallout 4 to VR), though it’s certainly better than nothing. On the bright side, it means that this is a VR game already built upon a rock-solid foundation; Doom VFR’s enemy variety is unmatched in VR and every encounter has its own twists and turns, be it through the sheer overwhelming odds or the verticality of an environment that keeps you on the run.

You’ll blast baddies back to hell with one of three control setups. Firstly, the game’s seemingly designed for two handheld motion controllers (either Move on PSVR or the wands on Vive), which allow you to wield one gun with your right hand and a grenade/grenade launcher with your left. You can also play with a DualShock 4 or gamepad, which assigns aiming of both weapons to head-tracking or, on PSVR, you can use the new Aim controller to handle your right gun, while the left hand is still assigned to your head. Movement also comes in three flavors: a primary teleport mechanic (which can be used to teleport into stunned enemies to shower yourself in their blood), a quick dash to avoid incoming fire, and smooth locomotion for those that can stomach it on compatible controllers.

How much you enjoy Doom VFR is largely going to depend on what platform you play it on and with what controller. Though it was seemingly first designed with it in mind, the Move controls on PSVR are easily the worst way to play thanks to some truly woeful implementation. For starters, there’s no option to turn in increments on the controllers, instead only turning 180 degrees at a time. This gives you just enough freedom to navigate the facility with the teleport option (there’s no smooth locomotion for Move), but in circular rooms it’s incredibly awkward to use, especially in the rush of battle. PSVR’s limited tracking means that, if you fight an enemy off to the side you’ll have to deal with jittery weapons that are more difficult to aim. Vive’s 360 degree tracking, meanwhile, makes this much less of a problem.

Dashing on Move is assigned to the face buttons on the left controller, which themselves don’t actually represent a direction. I often needed to dash out of the way of a heavy hitter, only to press the wrong button and jump right into the enemy, leading to a quick death (though another button smartly pushes enemies surrounding you away by a few meters). When it works, the Move controller feels great, especially as you unleash a storm of chaingun fire into a crowd of shambling zombies, but there are just far too many speedbumps getting in the way of the experience. It’s clear the game was designed with the teleporting, dual-wielding setup in mind but, seeing as Doom requires you to be on the move at all times, smooth locomotion is much more preferable than having to constantly jump across a room (though I would use this mechanic to avoid enemy attacks).

The Aim controller fares just a little better, though it’s still stiff. Its implementation feels very last minute; I couldn’t aim down the sights of a gun without it clipping into my face, and it’s extremely off-putting to see your grenade hand lifelessly attached to the left side of the screen. It’s disappointing id didn’t go back and retool the game to work much more naturally with Aim like Vertigo Games did for Arizona Sunshine; holding a heavy assault rifle in your hands should feel empowering, but it instead comes off as clumsy. The dual analog sticks mean you can use smooth locomotion which makes the game drastically easier (and much more fun) than if you just rely on the teleporting.

In the end, I surprisingly settled on just the standard DualShock 4 controls for the PSVR version. It’s the most solid, dependable way to play the game, with full locomotion and a much better button layout than on either Aim or Move. It allows you to rediscover a bit of that satisfying combat flow that made the original tick, with a few new additions of its own. Teleporting behind a charging enemy, for example, and then quick-turning and firing a rocket into their backs is extremely satisfying. Playing this way gives the game an existential crisis, though, as it essentially means you’re now just playing a shorter, blurrier version of a great shooter from last year. Sadly, that’s about the best the game can muster on PSVR.

There are moments of VR awesomeness to be had, of course; blowing the head off of a Baron of Hell and watching its entire body slam down in front of you had me wanting to high-five the nearest person, while blasting enemies mid-air as you spring off of a launch pad will have you cackling with laughter. But these instances aren’t enough to overlook the far more common moments in which you’re fighting the game’s controls more than you are its demons.

On Vive, it’s a bit of a different story. You can play with a gamepad, just like you can on PS4, but 360 degree tracking means you’ll be able to turn in real life much more freely than you can on PSVR, and the button layout is much easier to get to grips with than it is on Sony’s controllers. It’s an entirely different experience to be able to enter a room with full tracking and freely twist and turn to meet the monsters that surround you. That said, the Vive controller option doesn’t support free locomotion, so you’re stuck with the teleport option only. But it’s a much more valid tactic with the full range of tracking at your disposal and, with the added headset clarity and improved visuals, the experience is markedly better on Vive than it is on PSVR.

Hopping from place-to-place in the Vive version feels much more seamless, and gives the game a bit more of an identity over trying to replicate the classic controls. It’s quite satisfying to be able to teleport into a demon, blow him to pieces, and then jump back out again all with a few button presses. For smooth locomotion purists, it’s not going to be the ideal solution, but this is currently the best way to play the game in my opinion.

Whereas last year’s game expertly paced its action, slowly introducing one new enemy or a different weapon at a time, VFR’s short run time throws you in at the deep end from the start. The bulk of enemy types, which teleport into battles set in arena-style locations, show up within the first hour and you’ll find a new gun to play with every 20 minutes or so. It’s like a whirlwind tour of hell, and I often wished the game would take a little time to slow things down, though there are the same secrets and collectibles from last year’s game to hunt for. I also encountered a handful of glitches — one that forced me to reset and replay a 15 minute section — and the UI is somewhat poorly integrated. Objectives, for example, are suck to the left side of the screen and if you try to turn to look at them, they just move further away.

Final Score (PSVR): 6/10 – Decent

While Skyrim VR made a great case for the VR port, Doom VFR brings us back to the drawing board. On PSVR, the game has its moments, largely thanks to the foundations it was built upon with the 2016 original. In the end, though, the real fight is with its awkward control setups that eventually led me back to play with just a standard gamepad. Though the foundations of a hugely enjoyable shooter are intact, VFR’s struggle with the platform’s limitations makes it feel like the VR support is holding it back more than anything.

Final Score (Vive): 7.5/10 – Good

Thanks to 360 degree tracking and a superior button layout (as well as improved visuals), Doom VFR on Vive is a noticeably better experience on PC than on PSVR. The lack of smooth locomotion with the Vive controllers definitely hurts, but the game sets its own unique pace with the teleportation-based combat that regularly succeeds in making you into a demon-murdering action star. That said, there’s still no getting around the fact this is a short game with recycled content that feels cut down and repackaged rather than fresh and innovative. There’s a fun afternoon of thrills here, but we want VR to take us even deeper into hell.

Doom VFR is available now on the PlayStation Store and Steam for $29.99 with PSVR and Vive support respectively. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrive at our review scores.

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  • Andrew Hally

    I hope this plays better on the vive, although from looking at the issues I would expect most not to be an issue on the vive.

  • IstDasDeinBecks

    Ok, let the fight begin. Would love to post this article into several other older forum posts.

    • Maciej Nowy

      I just waiting for the comments of Sony fanboys saying that PSVR is better because it has more sub-pixels xD and the game will suck on the Vive anyway because the “right” way to play VR is sitting on the couch with DualShock controller xD

      • Crunchy005

        VR on the couch? That sounds boring…I love my recroom paintball, laser tag, quests, etc it would be no fun on a couch…

      • Justin Davis

        I used to have that avatar. Now, I have WoW guy with a Vive on his head.

        • Maciej Nowy

          Its good avatar bro 🙂

    • IanTH

      You WANT people to fight? VR is niche enough as it is. I would think we’d all want it to succeed in every incarnation so that we can prove to developers that VR is worth pursuing. It is dumb enough to see people fight about console vs PC or console vs console, but given VR is in its infancy, it feels doubly detrimental for HMD users to break into different warring tribes.

      • IstDasDeinBecks

        I did not say, that i “want to let the fight begin”. It is just, that some people on here are not able to see the Hardware differences. Cheap Hardware = Limitations (Which is not necessarily a bad thing).

  • JesperL

    Maybe fast paced FPS is just not the right genre for VR?
    I do hope that Fallout4Vr as a more open world game will work better.

    • Martin L

      The Serious Sam series in VR works fine, I’d say fast-paced shooter do have their place. Also the VR PvP shooters are also pretty quick (e.g. BAM, Pavlov, AMF, etc)

      • mirak

        Pavlov is fine.
        Not very pretty but fine to play.

    • HomosDeusVR

      On PSVR with Move controllers you’re probably right.

      • Specifically, the controllers are a problem, at least IMO. All of the FPS-styles games I’ve played with DS4 control have all been excellent. It’s when the devs try to get gimmacky with the controls that it all falls down.

        I think they need to stop, think, and remember that first and foremost, these are still games and need to be playable. If the game doesn’t have excellent controls, it’s going to get hammered over that.
        The way that Skyrim VR handles DS4 controls is spot-on excellence; basically, because they didn’t make a single change from the non-VR version (perfect, IMO), so there’s nothing to it to get as hardcore as you would outside of VR –if you can handle it (I do fine, but then I took to VR very quickly, while I have family members that wouldn’t last 30 seconds without getting sick). Honestly, I wish more VR games would come made with a good DS4 control set, even when the game is otherwise optimized for other control types anyway, unless the control schema in-game just wouldn’t make that practical due to play style. But if the game *can* use a gamepad, then it should, and devs need to realize that just because you *can* code a different type of control scheme doesn’t mean its going to be received anywhere near as well as one that works really, really well, even if it does seem a bit archaic. Then again… maybe it’s just me.

    • Crunchy005

      Onward and Pavlov are both great games and work fine. The issues with this I think are mainly PSVR limitations.

    • Iown You

      Play Rigs Mechanized Combat League, and you’ll laugh at yourself for ever saying that.

    • Tony

      Fast paced FPS works fine in VR if you have your legs. I was in Doom VFR on the PSVR for about an hour and a half, using the DS4 with full locomotion and smooth turning and was completely comfortable. I would not recommend trying that if you’re new to VR but if you put time in the headset you ca get there.

  • HomosDeusVR

    I thought this was an excellent, fair review. I think more reviews should highlight the differences between versions as at times they can be significant. For me, the Move controllers are fundamentally not fit for purpose and so any game that relies on them will suffer. I’ll be very interested to hear how the Vive version compares.

  • impurekind

    Why aren’t more fps games in VR using full locomotion but with the option to switch on tunneling when moving (see Google Earth VR* for an example of how this works: It’s totally effective and it eliminates motion sickness basically 100%)?

    • IstDasDeinBecks

      Word. I also like the tunneling technique in some games. maybe also blurring could work.

      • impurekind

        The particular method I’m on about is a much better solution that something like blurring, as blurring still doesn’t give you an actual static point/frame of reference in order to show your brain that you aren’t moving at all even when the player is moving in the main game view. This is why Google’s particular method works so well, and better than any other example I’ve personally seen.

        If you don’t get what I mean you really have to try Google Earth VR with the feature on to understand–it absolutely works, and more fps games in VR really need to try it (specifically the way Google has implemented it in Google Earth VR).

        Type “Nerd³ Plays… Google Earth VR – I’ve Got The Whole World” into YouTube and watch the video from the 4:15 mark, and pay particular attention to how the grid design outside the main view is shown in such a way that the player can perceive it in no other way but as being a static room (even though it obviously follows his head as he looks around, like he was looking around the room)–it’s like you’re standing still in the middle a holodeck, and you never move inside the holodeck even when you are speeding forward in the game–so it’s technically impossible for people to get motion sickness with the specific method (unless they get motion sick standing still in their living room normally), as the room literally isn’t moving. It’s just a small area inside the virtual room that appears as though you were looking at a globe in front of you with a movie of someone moving projected on it. And, it works really well in VR and it, amazingly, is hardly noticeable while you’re actually playing. It kind of all just happen in your peripheral vision (even though it looks blatantly obvious in the example in the video).

    • RFC_VR

      It’s used very effectively (motion driven vignette) in “Eclipse edge of light” on Daydream which is a first person full locomotion title. It’s customisable in game, so you can test to see what is comfortable.

      • impurekind

        It looks different in this game to how it’s down in Google Earth VR, and I have to be clear that it’s the specific way it’s done in Google Earth VR that works much better than any other method I’ve seen to date. Having a black border around the view or some glorified graphical border design, like it appears to be in the game you mentioned, doesn’t really work imo because you still don’t get any visual indication of there being a completely static room beyond your view (which is how the motion sickness is eliminated, as you can literally see you are in fact stationary even when you are moving in-game); you ultimately just get an even smaller field of view, like you are wearing even worse ski goggles, and little else. But, to be fair, even the basic versions of tunneling, which aren’t done quite right, are still a small improvement to doing nothing.

        • RFC_VR

          Good comments. I spent a lot of time using Google Earth on my Vive’s so am familiar with their solution.

          The vignette is easier to implement (whilst maintaining first person full locomotion) and actually works effectively because reducing FOV is well understood to reduce motion sickness in susceptible individuals.

          Yes it’s a cheap fix but works.

    • Muhammad Jihad ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      Nothing 100% eliminates motion sickness when you’re moving and the movements you see don’t match your body – those of us that get sick, get sick, nothing I’ve tested so far eliminates that and certainly not “100%”. I do agree that devs really should offer something for everyone – it would seem easier to me to offer locomotion in FPS than doing teleporting – and while you really do need both, if I was a dev I’d ignore the best practices nonsense and give people what they want – not as a default, but as an option for those who don’t get sick. By the way Buzz Aldrin has an idea on why motion sickness is a big deal with some and not with others – from his years at NASA and seeing tons of testing there he thinks it has to do with one’s sense of direction. People who get motion sick easily tended to have very good senses of direction, you could spin them around, upside down, etc and they’d still have their bearings. Meanwhile people who didn’t get sick tended to be able to get lost incredibly easily. I don’t know if there is any science to this – but it’s a little interesting tidbit that seems to be mostly true with people I know, although not always true. Not sure there is any way to fix motion sickness in VR when it comes to walking and moving – but I know right now a fix doesn’t exist.

      • impurekind

        Trust me, Google’s tunneling system eliminates it 100% because the area outside the view is basically a static room so your brain always thinks you are stationary and you’re just looking at an image that is almost like it’s on a screen. If you don’t get what I mean you really have to try Google Earth VR with the feature on to understand.

  • stickleZ

    When will the Vive version be available?

    • Hone McBone

      In about 5 hours according to the Steam store page.

  • mirak

    If the game is just 2-4h long then it’s not more than Arizona Sunshine and that’s not a real game then.

    What we want is straight ports like croteam did.

  • johnny

    Well guys you need to pay attention this is a PSVR review, the experience will be totally different when playing with the VIVE, I hope they will do a review of the VIVE version also, of course the PSVR version sucks, the PSVR itself is a lame product, viva la vive! 🙂

    • Joel Thrailkill

      Out of your mind. Psvr is flipping great. They have to stop being lazy and make the controls better. Aim

    • Iown You

      Johnny is nuts. PSVR is awesome.

    • LoreII

      U are a disgusting troll

    • kingck

      hate to break it to you the Vive is actually much worse, just got done playing it worst vive experience ive had yet.

    • Mr. M

      Vive version doesn’t have even free movement. This sucks.

  • Sven

    Does it at least offer smooth rotation with DS4 and AIM? I haven’t watched the whole 2 hour stream, yet every part I click on has snap turning.
    After already close to 50 hours of Skyrim, this seems a rather poor offering. I’ll give it a try anyway, are the music and sound effects still good?

    • care package

      it does with a controller, not with motion controls.

      • Sven

        Yep I played it last night with turn sensitivity at 80 as well as smoothing (acceleration) on 80. However you still move in the direction you’re looking in as well which is very off-putting when you use analog turning. I want my head to turn independently of my body, with both options working against each other I’ve felt the onset of motion sickness for the first time in a year. I can’t find a way to turn look turning of so now I look straight ahead while moving, kinda defeating half the point of VR.

        Also the gun has some weird inertia with the AIM which makes it jerk and jitter wildly while strafing making it hard to aim, it even clips through the grenade launcher while strafing right. It has nothing to do with tracking, when you stand still the gun behaves perfectly. (Far point never had this issue)
        The gun is in fixed position with DS4 yet with your head in a level position the aim is off, 15 degrees to high, so you have to aim your head slightly down with your eyes looking up to aim correctly. RE7 never had this issue. Wth have they been doing to the controls :/

        To fix the controls:
        – Add option to disable moving in the direction you are looking. This is only relevant when you play standing.
        – Leave the gun tracking up to your hands alone with the AIM controller, disable the movement inertia.
        – Adjust the aim height with DS4 or make it configurable.

        Also:
        – Add option to disable the grenade launcher visual, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
        – Improve clipping of the gun with AIM controller, the bigger guns look pretty bad half rendered.
        – Make the compass bar behave like the health bar, ie not fixed at the physical top of the screen. (I have to point my eyes all the way up and look out over the edge of my glasses to spot a blurry version of it, it’s too high.

        It’s great to have full fast paced game play and these minor changes would make it a much better experience. Atm I use AIM for exploration and stray enemies, switch to DS4 during wave combat where I strafe a lot.

  • koenshaku

    Yikes Blurstation VR for the lose. Well I will try it out for WMR and Vive this evening.

    • RedPanda87

      The VR system that’s far, far cheaper and requires far less room to use is worse, who’d have thought? The bigger surprise is that it’s actually still pretty damn good with a lot of games. Sounds like Bethesda disappointingly dropped the ball with Doom though.

      • care package

        If you are referring to PSVR vs. Vive, the PSVR (bundle) is only $100 cheaper, so not far, far cheaper, and ‘less room’ has nothing to do with a game not designed for room scale. PSVR typically gets marked down for it’s limited motion control scheme. Very few VR games even need lots of room. Very few.

        • RedPanda87

          You’re right (about the price anyway, I don’t have a Vive but can see room scale benefiting most of the VR games I’ve played if the developers bother to develop for it). Though the price goes up when you consider the PC needed, and in sales PSVR drops way lower. Mostly I just objected to someone who I’m assuming is a grown ass man calling PSVR – or anything – ‘Blurstation’.

        • Muhammad Jihad ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

          Actually they had the PSVR Gran Turismo combo available for $260 on Black Friday – that’s the headset, the camera and the game – you still need the awful move controllers but you can get those at Gamestop for $3 each. I own a PS4 Pro, but not the PSVR since I have a Rift, and there isn’t really a reason I’d want a PSVR – but to just discount it is annoying. A Vive in particular is much more expensive than PSVR since you need to build a very good computer to run it. PSVR is meant to be a “low cost” solution for those that already have a PS4 or need to get everything done for really cheap. A Rift will play everything the Vive does – and much more – and with better controllers, all for a lot less money.

          As for not taking space, even on the Rift with a 3 camera setup, which generally requires slightly less room than the Vive and is more adjustable – I don’t know what you mean when you say very few VR games need lots of room. What is lots of room? I have an area about 7′ x 6′ and it’s really not big enough to properly play most things. Yeah I can get everything done, but there is very little room to move. Most games in VR that are roomscale require a good amount of space to enjoy. That’s not a negative, it’s just a fact – saying otherwise just isn’t true.

          As for the PSVR user, sure, they’re welfare trash who are trying to do VR on a severely underpowered piece of hardware, but it’s a foot in the door – and keep in mind the overwhelming vast majority of console/PC VR users are using the PSVR, so if the system tanks, it will take the entire VR segment with it.

          • care package

            Muhammed Jihad? really? Shit aint right with you

  • Jim P

    When it goes on steam please have it hackable for Rift.

  • ivan

    It is just PS VR

  • Iown You

    These are not limitation issues. That word gets carelessly thrown on anything not connected to a PC. Stop it. These are issues of IMPLEMENTATION.

  • kingck

    The vive version is a million times worse we do not get the option to just grab a controller to play through the rest

  • AndKli

    man, thats a shame, i had high hopes for this.
    The Aim Controller would be the way to go, it was awesome with Farpoint.
    I hope they go back and patch it to work more naturally.
    I´ll hold off buying this till they do.

    • Tony

      Do not go by this review, it is incredibly one-sided; Aim control is just fine; DS4 control is amazing; graphics are excellent. The reviewer says the Vive port is superior even though it has no full locomotion support; he loses all credibility right there.

      • Brian Brown

        With a controller the Vive version has locomotion. Also, every game that’s both on the Vive and PSVR is superior on the Vive. By a wide margin. Just because you own PSVR doesn’t make it better.

        • Tony

          My point is that the PSVR version is MUCH better than what the reviewer says. I don’t have a Vive and can’t comment on that version (I hope people who have it enjoy it) but if all you have is a PSVR then this is an outstanding title that looks and plays great.

  • Mr. M

    Ein??? I played it yesterday with the Aim Controller and both response and confort are very good. I can not talk about the whole experience in-game, since I only completed the tutorial and the first stage. But precisely about controls, I must say that they work very well for me.

  • Bartholomew

    ToyStation VR was a mistake… I’m glad Doom VFR is good on Vive :).

    • Graham

      Ha ha. I see what you did there. You swapped “play” for “toy”. That’s so clever. Man, you should be on tv….

  • Mr. M

    With no smooth locomotion, the Vive version for me is a crap. I hate teleporting, it kills any immersion and even more in this kind of game.

  • Tony

    Doom VFR is amazing on the PS4 Pro. The visuals look just fine, comparable to Farpoint and maybe even a tick sharper and DS4 control is outstanding and in no way compromises the immersion factor. The gameplay can get so fast and frantic you often don’t even have time to stop and inspect your hands. The look based aiming is very accurate and the simultaneous support for full locomotion, dashing and teleporting (which the Vive port currently lacks) lets you chain some pretty sick moves. Giving this a 6/10 on PSVR is absolutely ridiculous especially as it is the only version to support full locomotion right now.

  • Раф

    Again a lot of negativity on the game and PS VR, just because it’s PS VR! ((
    Sorry guys, but I’m playing Oculus and PS VR, and I really like both of these gadgets. Unfortunately, I don’t want any more and I will possibly not come on UploadVR… I don’t love when begin to snub any platform.
    Although before UploadVR I really liked ((
    Сорян за кривой английский.

    • Brian Brown

      So they give their opinion, and you don’t like it so you bolt. SMH

      • Cory Carvalho

        Wrong! Their opinion is based on prejudice and bias, and therefore not worth reading. I think this game is way better on the PSVR than on the Vive, simply because Vive lacks joysticks and so there’s no full locomotion. I played through this twice on PSVR already.

        • Brian Brown

          The Vive does wonderful locomotion in many VR games and there is a mod already for Doom FVR. Also, every VR game I’ve played that are both on the Vive and PSVR are inferior on PSVR. Just because you’ve played something twice on a platform doesn’t make it as good or better than another platform….. I haven’t used a Rift since the DK2, so not so familiar with how it stacks up.

  • Graham

    No smooth locomotion on the Vive is a huge drawback (well for me anyway). Would have thought that should be in the negatives at the top of the review.

  • Mr. M

    Better on Vive than PSVR? All the community is saying just the contrary. There is no free movement on Vive.

  • Octavio Cardozo-Willigs

    The game is much better because of aim, smooth loco and a real gun, i’m disappointed in this review