When 2016 started, we didn’t have a single PC-powered consumer-grade VR headset on the market. A few months later, both the Rift and the Vive are released and gamers were introduced to dozens of new games in a brand new medium. And now, just a few months later, one of the biggest franchises in the entire game industry from one of the biggest game studios in the world is making the jump to VR with Fallout 4 from Bethesda.
What a time to be alive.
At E3 2016 in Los Angeles, CA, Bethesda hosted its second annual showcase on Sunday night, which is their way of putting their company front and center into the spotlight of the entire world and industry at large. New content for existing games like DOOM and The Elder Scrolls Online, as well as brand new footage of the latest Quake and Dishonored titles all peppered the presentation. But when Bethesda announced that both DOOM and Fallout 4 were getting VR experiences, the audience in LA was left in pure shock.
Not only was it unexpected, but the experiences were playable as well – a huge surprise to everyone in the audience, myself included.
Stepping into the Wasteland
After the Bethesda Showcase, I made my way down to a small showing of playable games and demo experiences. Naturally, the first and only thing I was interested in trying was the Bethesda VR section.
Here, Bethesda had both DOOM and Fallout 4 running in VR using the HTC Vive. According to the documentation that we were provided and the experiences themselves, DOOM does not seem like it will be an actual fully developed game, but rather is instead more of a tech demo of sorts for the latest iteration of the id engine.
Fallout 4 on the other hand is shaping up to be a completely rebuilt edition of the game with VR support. In the short demo that I tried, the booth attendant explained how to use each of the Vive’s motion controllers and what I can expect in this new world I was about to see.
The demo build loaded up just outside the Red Rocket truck stop, which anyone should immediately recognize from Fallout 4. I could not only walk and move around my physical room environment, reaching down to touch and interact with things as I progressed, but I could also do many of the same things I’d do in the standard game.
During this demo, each Vive controller was relegated to a particular function. The controller in my left hand, for example, was designated as the pipboy and movement hand.
When I raised my left hand up to my face and turned it sideways, as if I were looking at an actual pipboy, I was able to access the menus in real time. While looking at my pipboy, I used the touchpad to navigate and select different options.
Setting the World on Fire
The biggest issue this system presents is that I noticed when I wasn’t looking at my pipboy and my left hand was just hanging down at my side, the touchpad was still registering my clicks.
Additionally, my left hand also let me move around the environment. When I pointed it at the ground, a blue teleportation node appeared with an arced stream through the air designating where I’d appear next. It worked a lot like The Gallery’s “Blink” movement system in practice. When I asked a Bethesda representative if this was the final version of the movement system, they refused to comment, but my gut is telling me no.
Then in my right hand was my trusty ol’ pistol. For this demo, I only had the options of a pistol, shotgun, and Fat Man mini-nuke launcher – the three necessary guns of any basic arsenal. Pointing and firing felt incredibly natural – thanks to my hours of Hover Junkers experience – and being able to move and look at guns up close in a game like Fallout 4 is wonderful. It should surely help players appreciate their modded weapons even more.
I spent a bit of time shooting bottles and mannequins to get my fundamentals down before bandits started attacking my camp. I looked over behind me, pointed, and clicked to teleport to where the destroyed car was located and started ducking down behind the debris. Instinctively, I reached up over the top of the car and gunned down my attackers from a distance. Headshots are even more satisfying in VR.
The biggest concern I have for a real-time first-person shooter in VR with an open world to explore is that, I could easily teleport up to an enemy, blast them with a shotgun in the face, then easily just teleport back away. That sort of jab-and-run system seems like the most effective form of combat, and it feels like a cheap and silly thing to enable. It would also make stealth sections even easier since you could theoretically bypass sections of the game simply by teleporting around or across obstacles.
Building Blocks for Better VR
As it stands, Fallout 4 in VR is clearly in early stages. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that I’m a bit surprised they even showed it at E3 this year, since most companies usually wait until something is near-finished before actually showing anything. Fallout 4 in VR was missing any type of building system, which is hugely popular in the original game, and didn’t include the V.A.T.S. combat mechanics that the series has been known for ever since Bethesda took over.
This demo was incredibly short and limited, but it already feels like a huge step forward. Not only does it show that Bethesda understands adding VR to a game requires more than just giving the camera head-tracking support, but it also shows that they are willing to invest the necessary time and effort into doing it well. As more sprawling, massive, games like Fallout 4 make their way to VR platforms, the complaints about the lack of content become less and less valid.
According to information provided by Bethesda directly, Fallout 4 is coming to the HTC Vive in 2017. However, if the game launches on SteamVR like everyone expects, and the Oculus Touch controllers are already out by then, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why it wouldn’t also work on the Oculus Rift as well. Although, the ongoing lawsuit between Oculus and Zenimax, Bethesda’s parent company, could explain the silence on that front.
UploadVR will be spending more time with this and many other games during the week to keep you updated on all of the latest VR news.