Compound Review – Doom Without Gloom
A love letter to Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, Compound feels like walking straight into a ’90s shooter, colorful pixel art and all. Following a full PC VR release in July, this retro-style roguelite now arrives on Quest 2, offering a fresh take on VR shooters that holds its own. Read on for our full review.
Compound doesn’t need much of a story, but what’s here is that classic tale of one man taking down an evil corporation. Starting off in your rundown apartment, you’ll ascend through their headquarters to stop them from manufacturing a virus. Starting in the sewers before reaching the rooftop, each level is procedurally generated, and there’s three difficulty options to pick from. Successful playthroughs can be cleared in 30-40 mins, giving you a different ending depending on your difficulty choice.
Each level presents the same goal; kill every enemy. Color coordinated uniforms on the guards reveal their weapons, so common blue soldiers fire slow bullets while red guards spray a barrage of bullets in one go. That’s without accounting for the drones, mechs, and mutated zombies on higher floors. There’s a good variety of foes with HP and health items sparsely dropped, even on easier difficulties. Finding cover and quick reflexes are essential, you can’t bullet-sponge your way to victory.
Completing a run doesn’t take long but Compound’s biggest strength lies in its replayability. While levels didn’t feel like they varied tremendously, Compound comes alive with its gunplay, which caters nicely to different playstyles. You’ll gradually unlock new weapons as you progress, starting with basic plasma pistols before obtaining rocket launchers, laser rifles, revolvers, shotguns, and more. By providing new and creative ways to destroy foes, combat remains satisfying.
Better still, anyone looking for something more drastic can inject a modifier syringe before starting a new run, which holds various pros and cons. For example, ‘Old Schooler’ lets you carry 16 weapons, move faster, hold more ammo, and automatically pick up dropped resources. The downside? More enemies and faster bullets. Meanwhile, ‘People Population’ gives you faster bullets and foes but less HP against increased enemies. Modifiers can significantly alter your run, and I enjoyed experimenting with different combinations.
Reloading & Extra Arms
Compound does much right, but the reloading system isn’t particularly intuitive. If you’re going about dual wielding, you need a free hand, so reloading requires you drop one weapon, press your free hand’s trigger to retrieve ammo, unload with A/X on your gun hand, place the ammo into the assigned slot, then press it again. Easy enough with practice but in the heat of battle, fumbling around to reload weaponry can be the difference between life and death. If you’d rather focus on the action than gun management, however, the ‘Extra Arms’ modifier will automatically reload your weapon.
Compound lets you carry multiple weapons, cycling through them with B/Y, but you can’t quickly place them on your body to free your hand. I’d feel aware of ammo in these moments, looking over each weapon before proceeding into the next room, and there’s strategic implications to this approach.
I appreciated the immersive cleverness of Compound’s control scheme for VR. Turning around either hand brings up the menu, showing your map and ammo reserves. Once a map’s segment has been cleared, circles appear to signal this, and selecting one lets you teleport there instantly, saving time when backtracking.
Compound Review – Final Verdict
Compound made me nostalgic for a generation before my time. While we’ve seen many attempts at Doom and Wolfenstein in VR, developer Bevan Mckechnie never uses those inspirations as a crutch. Building something that’s fresh yet familiar, it captures the essence of those ’90s shooters expertly in VR, thanks to the stylish visuals and satisfying gunplay. Between its gameplay modifiers and unlockable weaponry, Compound’s a highly replayable experience that comes recommended.
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