Review – Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot
When new tech comes along there is always a transitional period where developers are still trying to work out the kinks. Figuring out how to maximize the hardware, and especially in VR’s case, how to properly track and provide immersion. With the launch of PSVR it’s nice to see it getting support from large publishers and developers like Bethesda, and its understandable some early games may be a bit rough. With Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot being a launch game for the PSVR it has some good ideas and promise, but is still just a tech demo. Wait, PSVR launched in 2016 and this is Bethesda’s fourth VR game? That can’t be right.
Set in 1980 Paris, you’re the best hacker in the resistance and you must hack into various Nazi robotics to sabotage from within. The premise is solid and I love the idea of controlling these massive robots that we have been destroying in the other Wolfenstein games. Unfortunately, Cyberpilot just doesn’t do enough with the idea to keep the four missions engaging.
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is an interesting mix of gameplay ideas that never get fleshed out enough. When you aren’t piloting a mech, you’re chair bound within a facility that houses the mechs for repair and modifications. This facility has four levels that you’ll need to swap between before going on actual missions. Level one is the large warehouse and one of the coolest features of the game. This is where you will be able to freely move the mechs around and observe the details and even modify them a bit. Level two is a briefing table with some cool Wolfenstein action figures. Level three is research and development where you’ll make a weapon. Level four is the virtual reality room where you’ll end up piloting the mechs.
I want to focus a bit on the pre-mission gameplay elements with the warehouse and research and development. The spectacle of the warehouse is really cool, being able to move the mechs up, down, forward, and back freely. While doing this you’ll need to find a hatch that you’ll peel off with a crowbar and then insert a hacked motherboard chip. You then go to level four to pilot the mech you just hacked.
The first mech you get to do this with is the massive Panzerhund, this one just needed a simple hack before being able to pilot on the first mission. The second is a drone, but this time you get to use the level three research and development room. You’ll need to construct a vaporizing beam for the drone so you can have an offensive attack. You then take the weapon down to the drone in level one and hook it up before embarking on the second mission.
These two gameplay mechanics I wish were more exciting then they sound. Yes, the warehouse is cool having these large machines in front of you, but it could have been so much more. The great thing with VR is the immersion and providing mechanics, even if small, to help pull the player into the world. A lot of that has to do with making the player believe they’re actually in the world and can interact with everything. Once you find the hatch to open on the mechs, it’s as simple as just grabbing the crowbar and easily peeling it off. There isn’t any resistance to this action so it feels like pulling off a band aid.
For the third and final mech, you get to check out the giant ZItadelle. This one you do get to explore and remove some shrapnel from its joints before peeling off the band aid and hacking it. This what I mean when I say I love the ideas here, but they need to be fleshed out. Let us do more in the warehouse like rewiring, repairing, and using more tools to access things. Your work table has a screwdriver, but you don’t even use it. Make ripping a panel off these mechs a little more involved then just easily peeling it off. With traditional gaming, adding additional small steps to access things like this would be tedious, but in VR it adds to the immersion since you perform the actions physically.
This leads me to the disappointing level three research and development. I mentioned before that you do use this room to attach a weapon to the drone, but this is unfortunately the only time you use this room. This gameplay mechanics have so much promise, coupled with being able to install them in the warehouse. Let us create new or modified weapons for all the mechs, how about additional armor, or mechanical components that will change speed or cool down timers? There is so much that can be done here, coupled with being able to tinker and install them yourself in the warehouse, it’s just a let down that it’s so simplified and only used once.
Of course all this upgrading and tinkering that could have been would be nothing if the missions you go on aren’t fun. Unfortunately, the missions are biggest let down of the entire game. Somehow they found a way to make piloting giant mechs to kill Nazi’s boring. The missions mostly take place on the city streets of Paris, but they are all just very linear street paths. There is nothing to explore or alternate paths, it’s just lumbering in a straight path slaughtering Nazi’s. To make things even more boring is the terrible AI and complete lack of challenge.
The actual mechanics are fine, it includes plenty of movement options to help your VR comfortability. The tracking is also well done with minimal shakiness or drifting and the scale and position of your game body and arms feels natural. You pilot the mechs using two controllers in your hands that sort of resemble the real world wands. Each mech also has a main attack, secondary attack, and a rechargeable special move. Down on your right side you can plug your controller end to initialize a healing process where small repair drones come out to fix you. The position of the charge port is extremely frustrating as you will often accidentally plug the controller in when you’re just trying to shoot towards the right.
The visuals are a bit hit and miss, but overall they are pretty good. As I mentioned before, while in the warehouse observing the mechs up close shows off some nice details. Of course hardware limitation means some shadow work and far back details are a bit blurry due to some heavy anti-aliasing work to minimize aliasing jaggies. My main issue is the lack of variety in mission details. The three missions that are featured in the Paris streets all look extremely similar.
Sound design is serviceable with decent voice acting from your partner helping you through things. General sound effects while in the main hub areas are well done and the sounds of the mechs romping down the streets is a immersion effect. However, the gun sounds themselves lack the punch Wolfenstein usually has. There is also no real presence of a strong soundtrack that would go well with towering over Nazi scum and burning them to death in a Panzerhund.
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is unfortunately a game that would have been better three years ago when VR was more in its infancy. Its under two hour run time, featuring only four missions, the lack of fleshed out ideas, and lack of variety makes this a very disappointing title. What’s more disappointing is seeing what this game could be if it was more fleshed out. It’s definitely a lot polished and involved then say the Spider-Man: Homecoming tech demo, but for $19.99 there just isn’t enough here.
The visuals are mostly good within the hub areas, but the actual mission level design leaves a lot to be desired.
Tracking is well done, but there is a lack of physics for some objects. Pilot controls can be frustrating.
General sound effects are decent, but weapon sound effects lack the punch the regular Wolfenstein games posses.
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is an under two hour tech demo with barely fleshed out ideas and boring mission structure.
Final Verdict: 5.5
Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is available now on PSVR, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro PSVR.
A copy of Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot was provided by the publisher.