Fallout 4 VR is great, but its exclusive release is bad for anyone who cares about VR gaming

Fallout 4 VR "groundbreaking"

Update August 24, 2017: After HTC tweeted the release date claiming exclusivity on their VR platform, Bethesda corrected them, which has led HTC to issue a retraction. But that’s not necessarily proof we’ll ever see the official version on the Rift.

Read more: the best VR games available today.

Bethesda’s tweet claims that, while Fallout 4 VR arrives first on the HTC Vive platform, they want to see it on as many platforms as possible.

HTC Vive’s Twitter account then quietly followed their own announcement retracting the ‘exclusive’ tag. That makes it sound like we’re just talking about a timed exclusive for the Vive and Fallout 4 VR will come to all the lovely virtual reality platforms available.

Except, does it? The only platforms Bethesda have announced any of its VR titles for – be they Doom VFR, Skyrim VR, or Fallout 4 VR – are the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. The likelihood of them releasing any of them on any other PC platform is surely so remote it’s practically living somewhere people in Outer Mongolia would call ‘a bit of a trek’.

I’m still not convinced we’ll see an official release on the Oculus Rift, leaving the Vive as the ‘exclusive’ PC platform for Fallout 4 VR.

Cheers for pointing that out, Mr. Kirk!

Original story August 23, 2017: Fallout 4 VR got under my skin at Gamescom. It made me want more, didn’t make me vomit, and now I’m going to have to buy it all over again and start the massive post-apocalyptic romp afresh. But, because of its Vive exclusivity, it’s not going to be able to fulfil its touted destiny as the gaming saviour of virtual reality.

My first taste of Fallout 4 VR wasn’t enough. I had to blag my way past the queue into a HTC Vive gamepod twice at Gamescom just to partially sate my growing wasteland thirst.

I’ve already sunk 72 hours into the flatpanel version of Fallout 4. Now, I know there will be a whole lot of you reading that and scoffing at my nebbish tendencies, having only spent a mere three days in total travelling the Commonwealth, but that’s a lot of time for me. All games take second place to my Football Manager addiction (923 hours in the latest iteration so far), so 72 hours is me actually giving another title a real good go.

But despite that, all my time in Fallout 4 has been for naught, because when December 12 rolls around I’m going to have start all over again. That’s when Fallout 4 VR gets released and, having played it here at Gamescom, I’ve no other option than to buy it all over again and suffer the end of the world once more.

It’s by no means perfect – lifting the Pip Boy into view by raising your left wrist may be intuitive, though navigating it via the Vive’s radial pad certainly is not, and dear god, the settlement building in VR fills me with dread – but the sense of presence in the nuclear wasteland of the Commonwealth is palpable. I found the original flatland version of the game immersive, but this really is another level.

Fallout 4 VR Pip Boy

Walking into the first town, with the shattered buildings looming high above me, felt tense and oppressive. So much so it’s not going to be general headset discomfort which will curtail my Fallout 4 VR play sessions, but the creeping malaise born of submerging myself so fully in the end of the world. Though, it has to be said, my initial tension melted away as soon as I started turning raiders into jam with my minigun. Mmmm, satisfying lead-based jam making…

I was expecting ‘walking into the first town’ to actually be ‘teleporting into the first town’ but thankfully that’s just an option you can select in the gameplay settings. The more immersive direct motion method was on by default in my first playthrough of the ten-minute demo, and was surprisingly slick. I did briefly try the teleport method, which I’d argue is as jarring as it is immersion-breaking.

Fallout 4 VR VATS

I was expecting to leave my first experience of the VR wasteland chucking up chunks of bockwurst over the massed Gamescom public, but I didn’t even feel the slightest twinge of nausea. Each visit was a fairly short ten-minute demo, but normally my protesting inner ear will let me know if I’m going to find myself at home to Mr. Vom pretty much immediately.

I told Graham Breen, Vive’s program manager, as much after my second sneaky go.

“We’ve had a lot of people tell us this today,” he says. “We’ve had a full programme of journalists going through today, and a lot of people have said exactly that.”

(They obviously hadn’t said exactlythat – I’d explained my lack of motion sickness using less colourful language.)

“I think it’s a combination of very fluid movement,” Breen continues, “that’s what it is, very fluid, keeping the frame rate high – some of the basics that we’ve known for a long time. Other than that, no, there’s no magic, it’s just a really well put together piece of programming.”

I’m not sure how the main character interactions are going to feel in VR – I didn’t get the chance to engage with anyone in ways other than introducing them to my leetle friend (as Scarface would say) – and the melee handling was fun, but occasionally clippy as onrushing ghouls swiped through me and appeared at my back.

I’ve still got to agree with Graham Breen, however, that it is well put together. Though, by making Fallout 4 VR a Vive exclusive, Bethesda and HTC might think they’re pulling off some sort of coup, but in reality that could end up hurting the VR market as a whole.

Fallout 4 VR Workshop

Both AMD and HTC have hailed Fallout 4’s virtual reality edition as one of the most important upcoming titles for VR, and with the recent price drops, HTC and Oculus are trying to get as many people as possible buying headsets and getting into VR. Those things don’t really chime together if Fallout 4 VR is just going to be available on one device.

Virtual reality gaming needs people playing it, and it doesn’t really matter what platform they’re using. There are enough gamers in the world for two headsets to co-exist without trying to impose more platform exclusives. Of course, Oculus have had their fair share of Rift exclusives, so they’re definitely not as pure as the driven snow in all this.

And I understand there’s a certain amount of enmity between Oculus and Bethesda’s Zenimax overlords but, if virtual reality is going to be a gaming success on PC, ring-fencing what’s supposed to be a landmark VR title is not the way to go about it. There will likely be modders fiddling with files to get the game functional on the Rift, but it’s not the same as official support.

Which is a shame, because otherwise Fallout 4 VR is frickin’ awesome.