Pavlov is a solid VR multiplayer shooter that thrives in its tactile interactions and gunplay. Read on for our full Pavlov PSVR 2 review.
Offering a VR first-person shooter (FPS) experience modeled after Counter-Strike, Pavlov began its life on PC VR in 2017 and is now one of the longest-running multiplayer VR games available on headsets. While a modified ‘lite’ version of the game, titled Pavlov Shack, is available for Quest, Pavlov on PSVR 2 brings the full multiplayer FPS experience to PS5 with support for cross-play with PC VR players.
Platforms: PC VR, PSVR 2 (review conducted on PSVR 2)
Release Date: Out Now
Developer: Vankrupt Games
While Pavlov is a PSVR 2 launch title, it doesn’t try to wow you in the way most VR games do. Its goal isn’t to show you shocking sights or frightening sounds, but instead is wholly dedicated to the pure spectacle of FPS gameplay. Luckily, it does so excellently.
It is somewhat let down by smaller lobby sizes and a lack of player progression. Plus, your fun is almost entirely reliant on having others to play with. However, this is one of the few launch titles that I could see myself playing a year from now. It offers an arsenal of guns that feel great to use with solid feedback, and there’s plenty of replayability to be found if you’ve got a squad to play with.
Packing a Punch
Fundamentally, Pavlov brings the tried-and-tested formula of Counter-Strike into VR, with all the thrills and pains of team-based matches. There is no narrative to follow, no guided paths – just whatever fun you can create. Luckily, it’s an excellent sandbox for creating your own fun.
Upon booting up the tutorial, one of the major things that stuck in my mind was how necessary everything feels. Guns can be customized with sights and attachments, for example, which resulted in tangible differences to the way I played by making some guns feel heavier or changing the way I held others.
Even small details, like reaching up to your ear to use the radio or dropping the mag to reload your weapon, are satisfying in the way they straddle a line between being a game and mimicking real life. Movements feel consistent and your actions feel weighty.
Ways to Play
Outside of a handful of small tutorial sections and the gun practice ranges, Pavlov has a generous offering of different modes at launch. There’s no single player campaign and while many of the modes can be played offline with bots, it’s online multiplayer that is the real draw here.
There’s the standard competitive game modes like Team Deathmatch or Search and Destroy, where you’re tasked with eliminating the enemy team or planting bombs respectively. There’s also a zombie mode, which is both spooky and surprisingly engaging, combining fast-moving zombies with creepy settings. It’s playable, if very tough, in single player mode, but can be incredibly rewarding with a couple of friends. Players are granted new guns and gear every round, which are used to move you forward in the round. Starting with just a pistol and working your way up, the mode gives you a chance to explore Pavlov’s entire arsenal.
Across all game modes, the game’s arsenal is extensive. There’s tens of gun types, ranging from snipers to shotguns to rocket launchers, and you’ll have to figure out the little intricacies of reloading them and getting used to how they all work. After some time with the game, you’ll be familiar with the recoil and reload of each weapon, which can make picking up varied weapons and building up kill streaks an absolute thrill. One game mode, ‘Gun Game’, actively incentivizes this way of playing, requiring you to get a kill with each weapon to unlock the next one.
Pavlov uses the headset feedback to really jolt you when you’ve been killed and all of your own kills are met with the satisfying crunch of your controllers. Haptic feedback in the Sense controllers and the headset add weight and a real boom to every action.
The Joy of Play
Pavlov’s greatest strength is found in the ways it encourages you and your friends to invent your own fun. The TTT game mode, for example, involves a handful of players becoming traitors who must covertly mess up and kill others without getting noticed. As it was almost a decade ago, this mode achieves brilliance in its simplicity.
The game modes aren’t the only way Pavlov encourages a certain silliness though. You can throw up and catch your own weapons, you can kill your teammates by accident and everything has a certain weight to it that can be quite alarming. There’s an almost shocking physical feedback to a good headshot, which can be hilarious when you mistakenly hit your own friends.
The sound design, particularly for guns, only adds to this. The old-school rifle comes with that satisfying “ding” when you finish out a clip and each shot of Barrett sniper rifle comes with a thunderous “boom.” It’s one of those games you can’t think of without the cool gun sounds rattling in your head.
Not In Search Of Realism
In terms of visuals, Pavlov looks adequate on PSVR2. It is clearly quite inspired by Counter-Strike and wears that on its sleeve. While there are plenty of better-looking VR games – especially on PSVR 2 – Pavlov’s visuals are stylized just enough to not quite feel outdated.
Though it could opt for slightly more realism at points, the game makes up for it with fantastic gun physics and gameplay that strikes a balance between finicky and arcade-y. It performs near perfectly on PS VR2, with no stuttering or graphical issues during my time playing. As far as a ports are concerned, this does almost everything right.
Pavlov is designed to be played while standing up, as it uses a from-the-hip reloading system. There’s currently no option for alternate control bindings or mag placement, so the game doesn’t function as a seated experience.
It uses stick-based artificial movement, with the option for vignetting. Jumping and crouching are all physical movements as opposed to buttons, with options for snap or smoothing turning. You can physically move and turn within your playspace, but there’s no option for teleport movement.
Unfortunately, there’s no progression systems or ways of customizing your character, which can leave the game feeling a little stale. This will be especially true if you don’t have friends to play with and don’t fancy communicating. It’s a shame, as even some basics like custom skins would add a lot in the way of match-to-match progression.
Likewise, while the PSVR 2 version of Pavlov has some great modes, it also lacks the mod support seen in the PC VR version. That means that the current game modes are the extent of what you’re able to play right now, and makes you wish there were a few extra included, especially the weirder ones like TTT.
Pavlov PSVR 2 Review – Final Verdict
Pavlov isn’t the type of VR game to show your parents when they come over. Instead, it’s the game you and your buddies will play together every Friday night. Its arsenal of guns are satisfying to use and are accompanied by some great sound design, with just enough game modes to keep you busy. On PSVR 2, the adaptive triggers and headset feedback make everything feel just a bit more weighty as well.
No game quite gets my adrenaline going quite like Pavlov. Though a lack of any dedicated single-player mode and no mod support may leave you longing for something a little more guided, Pavlov gives a fantastic Counter-Strike-like multiplayer experience on PSVR 2 that should keep fans of the genre coming back for more.
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