Part-time Mechanical Pilot
Several major publishers have abandoned VR, but Bethesda is moving forward.
In addition to VR adaptations of Skyrim, Fallout, Preyand LossBethesda also greenlit Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, which goes a little further than its predecessors, linking it directly to the general myth; allowing the game to take place after the main entrances but before young blood.
Too bad that despite this assumption, he is not really trying to make a name for himself.
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (PC, PS4 [reviewed with PSVR])
Developer: Machine Games
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Released: July 26, 2019
Like many mainstream VR projects, Cyberpilot is a seated experience with a semi-interesting twist. As a random hacker for the resistance, you are tasked with taking control of the Wolfenstein the universe’s future Nazi technology and… of course, kill them with it. It’s more of a side story, but gives us a brief look at the state of the world 20 years after the events of New Colossus, although briefly and tangentially. At first, you’ll start out controlling a Panzerhund (read: robot dogs with flamethrowers), before moving on to a drone, then a good old-fashioned giant mech.
Sorry Peter Molyneux, this game is Actually not on rails (I’ll never let that go), as movement is free-form, but mostly through corridors and planned linear paths. Your aiming reticle is controlled via remote motion control and you press L2 or R2 to fire your primary weapons (like dash attacks, miniguns, drone zapper, or what have you), or slam a “panic button” to use an ultimate. Keeping things motion-oriented and relegating inputs to triggers makes things simpler, even for non-VR users. I dig the approach.
I’m also digging that you can disable those pesky VR training wheels. The instant spin (teleport tower) is a pain, so I was glad to see a full toggle for it. You can also remove VR evil precautions like obstructed view and just get on with it. You don’t really need to exercise that much nuance, as strafing crushes most dead AIs in their tracks. a – and that is if they are responsive. They also don’t go far enough with levers and doohickeys in the cockpit. My dreams of pulling all sorts of steampunk cranks or clicking buttons are dashed, and the DualShock 4, which connects your two hands together, limits that input and so, Cyberpilothis creativity.
It looks quite impressive visually, though, with highly detailed environments (all Parisian or in bunkers) and physical concessions for individual objects, even in places that are primarily for show (like the hub area). It really could have leaned a bit more towards an arcade style. It already works with silly dialogue (like that extremely Aldo Raine line I had to capture and share), so why not? the Metal Gear VR Missions training patterns that tell you about each mech could have been the whole game if they ran with it.
It’s really the main thing Cyberpilot‘s problems, because it only lasts a few hours. There are four main missions, with the last being by far the most promising, allowing the player to swap (at the right time) between the three machines. By the time the credits roll, I was ready to do this mission again, but there’s not much else to do. Small diversions like minigames where you have to fix mechs before missions seem cool at first almost like the game is heading towards epic puzzles but never go anywhere and end up feeling like one busy job.
It has a lot of potential, but Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot ends before he can reach most of it. Still, I hope Bethesda won’t abandon virtual reality. Some games like Doom VFR have been nice optional add-ons, and I think they could take this concept further, because the fundamentals are there.
[These impressions are based on a retail build of the PS4 version provided by the publisher.]