Machine Games and Arkane Studios’ Wolfenstein collaboration spans two titles, but much of the emphasis during marketing was on the cooperative shooting of Wolfenstein: Youngblood. The PlayStation VR title, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, has hardly gotten any attention. It was shown – briefly – at this year’s E3, and apart from the odd tidbit here and there, that was it. Despite Youngblood getting the brunt of attention, the end results were at best, underwhelming. So despite getting far less attention, it is with a great amount of surprise that Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is actually the better half of this double dose of Nazi killing action.
With a budget price – $19.99 – and relatively little fanfare, we had relatively low expectations for this VR game set in alternate timeline France. But our expectations were exceeded almost instantly. From the first loading screen, you are treated to a downright cool retro aesthetic akin to synthwave, complete with neon reds and CRT monitors amid the gothic Nazism. Then those expectations came quickly crashing back down again as we realised we were trapped in a seat that moved from floor-to-floor by using a lever. Oh, brother, is this just going to be a glorified clip show? Mercifully, this served as more of an exposition dump. Turns out, you play as a Nazi robot who is conscripted by the French Resistance. They need an inside “man” to tamper with their weapons of war, and you’re the one for the job. Once you help the French take control of these beasts – you just unplug a data chip, and put a new one in – you now get to turn the weapons on their makers. And this is where the piloting comes in.
Spread across four missions – the game is not terribly long – you get to take control of some iconic machinery from the Wolfenstein series, most notably the Nazi’s robot dog, the Panzerhund. After a brief tutorial, you are given a small environment with which to wreak havoc. This is the formula used for each of the machines you control, too. The drone offers up more of a recon/stealth mission, and fculminates with the Zitadelle, which serves as a more traditional mech rail-shooter level. The fourth and final level just sees you bounce from robot to robot on the fly, until one final stand-off as the game ends with a relative whimper. After you lose the uplink to the machines, you just pick some guns off the table and fight off a wave of uninspired Nazi foot soldiers. It's jarring how uninspired the final moments of the game are.
This sequence leads directly into the credits despite seemingly like set-up for a cut-scene, too, so there’s no extra hook to latch onto. All told, the title takes about 80 minutes, so an argument could be made that this is more of a tech demo than anything. But it’s a very good one.
This is especially true of the visuals. The streets of France decked out In Nazi regalia are represented impressively well here. The textures and graphics offer up one of, if not the, best looking game on PSVR to date. The action looks fantastic, too, with the explosions and gunfire adding a little variety to the cobbled streets. The graphics are even more impressive when adding in the fact that the game runs incredibly smoothly. We didn’t get so much as get a whiff of motion sickness at any point in our entire playthrough.
Given Bethesda’s track record with VR, one thing that surprised us was just how well the controls worked. The PS Moves are surprisingly accurate and responsive, and the degree of separation offered by the in-game character also using controllers made the wands seem practical in-world. Pair that with the holographic display –a sort of mixed reality world that made it appear as if you were piloting the robots in person rather than from the safety of a cubicle – and the results are fantastic.
As we mentioned earlier, the visual flair on display is one of the strongest assets of the title. CRT displays bathe environments in deep reds and scan lines abound across many of the monitors you cross paths with. Couple this with the character models looking as though they were ripped straight out of the main series and the graphics impress on every end. The title seems able to do a little more with the lighting than we’re used to seeing in VR as well. There’s more nuance here, with intricate shadows, and interplay with fog in many instances that we just haven’t seen executed to this level of quality in VR yet. All the while, the game is backdropped by a score comprising of remixes of tracks from the main series, adding another layer of 80s nostalgia to the affair, as synths creep their way into the music more than we’ve seen in the past.
A brief, but memorable experience is at the core of Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot. Downright stunning environments serve as a backdrop to exploring the streets of 80s infused France. Between the solid performance level and the fluid controls, this is Bethesda’s best excursion into virtual reality. Given how well the title succeeds at pretty much everything it sets out to do, we hope that this is step one to a fully fledged Wolfenstein VR title down the road.