With the announcement of Bethesda’s recently revealed commitment to virtual reality – alongside the news that Fallout 4 is coming to VR in 2017 – I was eager to get my head into a game from one of the most successful studios to date. What I found was an unfinished tech demo, but one that portends much about the future of AAA VR titles.
Dematerializing from the Steam VR loading screen, I found myself standing outside the Red Rocket station, a sight ingrained into me after tens of hours using it as my one and only base in the Wasteland. With a Pipboy floating strapped to my invisible forearm, and a pistol on my right hand, I knew I was back in the thick of one of my favorite games, but in the strangest capacity.
I reacquainted myself with Dogmeat, the series trusty canine companion and first true friend in the Wasteland, and continued teleporting short hops around the Red Rocket station. Happening upon a bunch of bottles just waiting to be exploded with my stock 10mm, I opened up a hail of unlimited ammo. Blowing the bottles to bits, I was told that I’d next get a crack at a group of raiders.
The malcontents stormed the Rocket, but were quick fodder for my shotgun (and a few nibbles from Dogmeat). Alone again, I wistfully looked out over the back of the station to the dilapidated roofs of Concord, the nearest town. I again cycled through the Pipboy on my invisible left arm to find my very own Fatman, the series’s shoulder-mounted tactical nuke. Letting out an unlimited hail of mini-nukes over the town, I begin to think of the settlers, the wandering traders that I’ve no doubt atomized into a charred heap. Now I am become death, destroyer of Massholes.
I spent so much time in the Red Rocket station in the PC version, using it as hub to store all my cans, stolen radios and other detritus scrabbled from the Wasteland, that finally being inside of the iconic retro future gas station in VR was kind of a homecoming for me. Seeing Dogmeat in the flesh as he ambled around the station, ears perked in my direction, underscores the reason why I love VR. Now I want to see the Church of the Children of Atom, and explore the Institute in virtual reality, all of it again with the sense of truly being there with my dog-buddy by my side.
With that said, and however incredible it was to step into my favorite flatscreen game of the past 2 years, I still can’t say I was entirely satisfied with the experience. Bethesda’s VR version of Fallout 4 is far from ready for the eyeballs of the paying public, as there still no way to interact with world objects (outside of shooting them), no adaptation of the inventory system, and teleporting across the Wasteland still feels a bit like cheating. Then there’s fighting.
Shooting a few raiders is easy. But how will battling against a giant Death Claw work? Will he anticlimactically clip through my body when he makes a charge for me? What happens when he flings me high into the air with a slash of his giant claw? Will I instinctually teleport to safety, dodging his advances with ease? How else will teleporting break the way I experience the game? There are still too many unanswered questions from my time with Fallout 4.
But after all this, I’m really ok with the fact that the VR version of Fallout 4 has fallen short of my expectations upon first viewing – a strange thing to say, I know. The value for Bethesda in their new Bethesda VR initiative isn’t so much in re-creating Fallout 4 for VR headsets, but rather the act of assembling a team to do so, a team that will hopefully go on to create bigger and better purpose-built VR games at the same scale and polish with which the studio has become synonymous.
And those are the games we’ll remember when we think back on the glory days of ‘the first AAA games for VR’, and not a VR version of Fallout 4.