Pavlov VR is officially available for HTC Vive but also works with Oculus Rift through Steam VR.
Seeing some of the most popular standard PC games get the VR treatment is a thrill. We have Onward, a VR mil-sim that takes a page from ARMA's pacing and teamwork book, we have Breach It, which borrows Rainbow Six: Siege's destructible environments, and now we have Pavlov VR, which looks a whole lot like the insanely popular Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).
Let's take a close look at Pavlov VR to help you decide whether or not it's worth adding to your library.
Pavlov VR has multiple game modes
The first game I joined featured the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map known as "Rust" that many of you might remember as being compact and deadly. It's the same here, except this time you're placed in the game through VR. How did this map end up here? Pavlov VR has Steam Workshop compatibility, so anyone with the means can make maps for everyone to play. That's a big deal, and we're already seeing popular maps, including a remake of Dust 2 from CS:GO.
There are two game modes available, both with up to 10 players. Team Deathmatch is a casual run and gun with instant respawns, while Search and Destroy has one team defending bomb sites while the other attempts to plant a bomb. Once you die, you have to wait until the next round to respawn.
Anyone can create a lobby and choose which map and game mode they want to play, and everything is hosted on dedicated servers. That means you won't drop out of a game if the host decides they've had enough.
The player-base seems to be growing steadily, and there are at least a few populated servers running even during the middle of a weekday. If you can't find a server or if you just want some practice, feel free to jump into an offline mode with bots who will give you a run for your money. A lot of first-person shooters seem to attract a pretty salty crowd, but so far there's been copious amounts of laughter, a lot of compliments on nice shots, and plenty of good-natured ribbing. That's a good sign and lends itself to the game's overall appeal.
Gun mechanics in Pavlov VR aren't anything new
What's a first-person shooter without satisfying weapon mechanics? Not much. The developer of Pavlov VR, known as davevillz, has implemented mechanics that are nothing new but go well with the quick pace of games. You must manually replace magazines, you must manually rack the action, and rifles must be gripped with two hands. There isn't quite as much to worry about as in Onward, yet there's more to do than in Breach It.
When not using weapons, they're kept in virtual holsters on your person. Grenades hang from your vest — you must pull the pin before tossing it — and you have a knife for close encounters. The sniper rifle, modeled after CS:GO's AWP, has a working scope and bolt that must be cycled after every shot. Getting a kill with it isn't easy, but it is extremely satisfying when you do connect.
Again, similar to CS:GO, there's a Buy menu that's available at the start of each Search and Destroy round (Team Deathmatch weapons can be picked freely from the same menu), and you can only purchase what you can afford. Money is gained by getting kills and planting bombs, so if your team is underperforming, you'll have a hard time affording the body armor and rifles required for a win. This adds a whole other layer of strategy, and you must work with your four teammates to decide when you'll all buy and when you'll save money.
Pavlov VR has crisp graphics and runs smoothly
For an Early Access game, the graphics in Pavlov VR have a surprising amount of polish. Guns are realistically scuffed up, and the player models have a high level of detail. When you connect with a bullet, you'll see blood spray and, if hit in the head, the player's helmet will fly off and you might see some grisly chunks go with it. If you hit them in the body, limbs react accordingly. It all makes for a satisfying fight.
Movement is handled with standard locomotion, meaning there isn't any teleportation, at least until you die in Search and Destroy and are free to jump around the map in spectator mode. While in your VR space, you can move around within the borders, but otherwise, you use the touchpads on your controller to simulate walking or running.
If you're prone to motion sickness, you'll no doubt have some problems here despite the game running smoothly. To help with the motion sickness, however, there is a snap-turn option you can use rather than physically turning your body. I found this also helps when playing the game on Oculus Rift with a two- or three-sensor setup.
Wrapping things up
There seems to be an ever-increasing amount of shooters for VR, and the market is becoming tougher to swim in. Modeling a game after something that already has a huge fanbase with regular PC gamers is a smart way to make it stand out, but it must be done properly. While you might be saying, "Oh, great, another shooter for VR," it seems that Pavlov VR has a spot among some other high-profile titles on the market now.
Despite the Early Access designation, it has a decent level of polish and is being regularly updated by the developer. As long as the updates continue to roll out with more weapons, more official maps, and some weapon attachments, the $10 price tag will only become more attractive. If you're a fan of the Counter-Strike series and you have a Vive or Rift, this is the VR experience you've been waiting for.