It would be unfair to call Pavlov VR a Counter-Strike clone in virtual reality. It also wouldn’t be all that inaccurate. It’d also be selling it short in a way that would do the game a big disservice. In this review we’ll be looking at performance on the PlayStation VR2, as well as the overall experience of Pavlov, with a focus on what sets it apart from its contemporaries on PCVR platforms. Put ’em on safe and let ’em hang, let’s get into this.
I’m new to VR, with the PSVR2 being my first foray into the virtual world, but I’ve spent most of my time in VR so far playing first person shooters. From After the Fall to Zombieland, I’ve had a blast immersing myself into these worlds and working on my virtual shooting skills, and while I’ve immensely enjoyed each title I’ve tackled so far, to say that Pavlov blows them all out of the water in terms of gunplay and realism is an understatement.
Pavlov is what I’ve been looking for in a VR game. It looks great, features incredibly realistic and accurate shooting, has fluid movement, a wide variety of weapons, multiple fantastic game modes, and – most importantly – is just fun. Whether we are working as a team to defeat increasingly difficult hordes of zombies (even if we were cowards and hid in a corner, see our videos for proof) or getting our butts kicked online, we had a great time.
Pavlov is made for those who relish realism. Each weapon handles and reloads differently, and there are no shortcuts for reloading during an intense firefight. Much of the tension of Pavlov stems from this dedication to realism. Hiding in a corner while the opposing team is searching for you, frantically attempting to reload and knowing how incredibly vulnerable you are during that process, creates a sense of excitement that other VR shooting titles just can’t really convey. Being able to crouch, peek around walls, etc. all just lend to that realism and create an experience unlike any other I’ve yet had in VR.
While playing against others online was fun, I personally enjoyed decimating waves of zombies as a team more. This most likely stems from my lack of multiplayer experience, as I’ve never been much of a competitive player and won’t pretend that I even have the skills to keep up when put against others in a game like this. Still, any moment I spent playing Pavlov, despite the mode being played, was thrilling and the most fun I’ve yet had with the PSVR2.
As someone who’s played a good amount of VR, I think I rest firmly in the camp of the average user. I dabble, but not so much as to be called an enthusiast. That may change after getting hands on with the PSVR2, and especially because of Pavlov.
First-person shooters can be a dime a dozen in gaming, and it’s certainly going to be the emphasis of plenty of VR games. I’ve played a bunch of them, Fracked, Pistol Whip, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, and more, but I haven’t engaged in any of the military shooters yet. This is mostly because I’ve been missing friends to play with, but also because the amount of motion required in these can lead to a tremendous skill gap, and if you aren’t playing all the time you’re going to get boned. What matters is that you have fun playing, and Pavlov has that nailed.
One of the things that strikes you most is how clean everything is. Pavlov isn’t native to PSVR2, arriving way back in 2017, but the way it’s been optimized on the PlayStation platform is astounding. Everything from the stellar framerate, to the realistic environments, to the detail of the guns themselves is crafted immaculately. That’s just the visuals too, with phenomenal audio design that makes every encounter immersive. Our editor-in-chief Ron Burke mentioned how good the M16 sounded, and just listening to each weapon fire they sound great. I also appreciate the footstep audio, it’s well leveled and doesn’t give too much of an advantage to the other team.
None of how it looks or sounds matters if it doesn’t feel right, and Vankrupt has built a system that works flawlessly. While there was plenty of user error, whether I accidentally dropped my gun in a panic or forgot the steps to throwing a grenade, all your button presses feel good, and it’s all really responsive and accurate. Requiring you to switch out magazines manually and ready your weapon is awesome, and it’s that level of realism that carries throughout your experience. I mean, you even move faster if you lower your weapon, proving the attention to detail extending everywhere. The sniper rifle scope in particular blew me away, with you needing to get that thing up on your eye to get a clear view through it for the perfect shot. Pavlov is so good because it perfectly mimics what I think playing Call of Duty or CounterStrike should be in VR.
If that’s not enough for you, there seems to be a wealth of weaponry, customization, maps, and modes to play. A lot of it is standard, like Search and Destroy or Team Deathmatch, but experiencing it all in PSVR2 brings you back to the first time you attempted playing an FPS. It’s a refreshing adventure into a world you already know, but this time engaging in first hand. The jump into the “zombie” mode was especially hilarious for me, partially due to albino creatures running around Naruto style trying to bite us, and also because of the crew I ran with.
Everything started seriously, with us trying to figure out tactically how to take on the horde, but devolved into this Call of Duty player finding the glitch spot to keep out of their way while we cowardly shredded their ranks. It wouldn’t be a zombies FPS without it, and we were able to get a lot of laughs out of it. Pavlov is a lot of fun to experience in general, and is a showcase for both visual and performance fidelity, but it is greater than the sum of its parts if you’re gunning enemies with friends. Vankrupt has a real winner in Pavlov, and I’m glad even more people are able to experience it, especially in this definitive package.
One of the areas I spent time in, but unfortunately without the team, is with Pavlov’s Predator mode. This map is a full asynchronous multiplayer mode where one or two players take to the field as zombies who can strike without warning, and are completely invisible unless they move. They can climb walls, and are significantly faster than the rest of the team who fill the role as the soldiers trying to stop these creatures. Throughout the match, they’ll gain access to new weapons, health, and other consumables. The predators, however, have a lunge attack and can make a victim out of you in just a few strikes, skittering off into the darkness before you can train your weapons on them. Those crates? They make the perfect ambush point as you can catch soldiers unawares while they fiddle with new weapons. It’s a fantastic mode that adds a great deal to the overall formula.
Having played Pavlov on the Oculus Quest in the past, I have to admit that I bounced off initially. I tried it again later and found something that made me want to try it again with my friends – a great deal of care and attention from a very dedicated developer. New modes, maps, balancing, and even custom maps. Frankly, that’s my biggest hope for Pavlov VR. I don’t expect them to patch up every single silly exploit spot that David can find with ease. No, my hope is that they figure out a way to bring us the custom map modes that make Pavlov VR such a hit on the PCVR platforms.
I came away from our time in multiplayer having laughed myself to the point of tears more than once, with sore knee joints from holding a familiar real-world tactical stance out of military habit, and a real desire to do it all again. This was an absolute blast, and I can see this being a frequent play for those of us at GT.
It’s definitely better with friends, but Pavlov VR is an absolute showcase for what an FPS should be in VR. It runs tremendously, it has an awesome amount of content to play, and it’s just fun to play. This one should be in your PSVR2 library right now.
- Remarkable performance with smooth FPS
- Tons of fun to play with friends
- A lot of content to play
- Weapon handling is terrific
- Exploitable glitches
- A few bugs