There’s a particular appeal to the Wolfenstein series, a brazen “one man versus the fascist world” hero fantasy as BJ Blazkowicz takes on Nazis in a brutal and visceral fashion. Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot adds mechs to the mix, allowing you to take control of the Nazi death machines, and then puts the whole thing in VR. “Sounds cool,” I hear you saying as you nod slowly, a smile creeping over your face. I thought the same thing too. But even for someone who loves VR experiences big and small, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot is a weak experience that serves neither VR nor the Wolfenstein name.
Virtual reality has had an incredibly interesting few years on the public market. Early on we saw major properties tune into the technology with quick experiences. Games that we may have criticized were given passes by many (myself included) because they were an effective showcase of the VR tech. As time goes on, with more and more full-featured games to fill out VR’s roster, those virtual reality tech demos feel less and less important to the mix, especially when attached to major franchises. Players are expecting a lot more.
Cyberpilot gives players the opportunity to commandeer three different Nazi tools of death that you’ve probably fought in previous Wolfenstein games: A Panzerhund, a drone, and the towering Zitadelle. Each one has a brief tutorial, followed by a 15-20 minute mission, and then a fourth and final mission spent moving among all three. This is all interspersed with segments that return the player to the Nazi facility where you, the wheelchair-bound cyberpilot, are being held. Altogether, you can probably rush through the game in under an hour and a half. It might be possible to squeeze two hours out of it if you’re taking things at a super leisurely pace, but when there’s Nazi killing to do, who wants to take it slow?
Nazi Clearance Sale, Every Nazi Must Go!
The three mechanical tools of destruction have different functions and methods of Nazi liquidation. The Panzerhund lights them on fire while charging through their ranks, the drone acts as a more stealth-oriented machine capable of disintegrating Nazis with a touch, and the Zitadelle towers over the terrified fascists, raining explosive hell down on their ranks. As different as they each are, there’s not a lot of what I would term “gameplay” going on in Cyberpilot. As the Panzerhund, you’ll simply be aiming your flamethrower and torching Nazis. When a bigger enemy comes out, you simply torch it for a little bit longer. The drone is perhaps the stage with the most inherent gameplay, but let’s be honest, stealth gameplay isn’t the reason we’re playing Wolfenstein. None of the levels feature much in the way of an actual challenge, even on the higher difficulties. There’s not a lot here in the way of replayability either except for a few trophies to chase, some of which are just needlessly obnoxious tasks.
And then there’s just the feather-light overall feeling of Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot. Burning enemies simply knocks them over as their bodies vanish. Charging into them isn’t all that satisfying. Blowing them up with a barrage of missiles is anticlimactic. It lacks that Wolfenstein weight and brutality, that satisfying feeling of eviscerating the next Nazi in your path. The game is rated M, but I’m not sure what really warranted the Mature rating in a game that feels like a Mickey Mouse version of Wolfenstein. There’s very little in the way of blood, at least nowhere near the caliber of the main console Wolfenstein entries. I guess there are some curse words in the dialogue that I guess might warrant an M on the box, but be warned that this is a very tame version of Wolfenstein.
I can’t speak to how it looks on the PC, but the PS4 version is incredibly bland. Without iconic locations or environments to play around in, everything consists of the stark red Nazi symobology set against a world that is a drab gray and tan. The enemies too simply blend into the environments, with even massive war machines like the Zitadelle not doing much to stand out (instead just standing around while they let me burn them to death. Seriously). It’s as boring to look at as it is to play.
When you have the ability to do a direct comparison to DOOM’s VR entry, there’s a stark contrast. DOOM VFR takes what people love so much about the series and boils it down into a great, if flawed, virtual reality experience. It was still absolutely DOOM. Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot takes the name alone without giving players what they love most about Wolfenstein. There’s very little real gameplay that requires any kind of skill, and I didn’t know it was possible to make killing virtual Nazis dull, but somehow they managed. That brutal and up-close intensity is all but gone. It’s as close to an on-rails experience as you can get without actually being on rails, and yet there are still some of those guided kinds of experiences that came out years ago and are leagues better than Cyberpilot.
In theory, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot sounds like the ultimate culmination of ideas and technology. What’s not to love about smashing together virtual reality, mechs, and killing some Nazis? Unfortunately, the execution isn’t just lacking, it fundamentally removes many of the best elements of those things, undercutting the strength it could have were it a deeper experience. Cyberpilot lacks the same kind of hands-on brutality that the Wolfenstein series is known and lauded for, and I feel just as distant from the action as the game’s main character. Were this an early VR experience, it might make for an interesting showcase of the technology, but we’ve gotten far better and more fully fleshed out games, leaving this machine to feel like a dud.
Wolfenstein Cyberpilot review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PS4 and PSVR. For more information, please read our Review Policy.