Over the four years since modern high-end VR systems hit the market we have seen a wide variety of novel and engaging experiences, and it can’t be understated how popular the rhythm-based or audio-visual genre has been for the medium. Banner holders for virtual reality including the likes of Rez Infinite, Tetris Effect and Beat Saber have created an almost entirely new subgenre that can either only be enjoyed in VR or better experienced in VR. It feels tacky to say then, that Cloudhead’s Pistol Whipped feels like a combination of the best that have come before it. At first glance it almost sounds like a lazy cash grab, however after hours of shooting down enemies into pixelated nothingness, I can’t help but set it on the same pedestal as its inspired peers. Pistol Whipped combines the rhythmic on-rails experience of Beat Saber but swaps those measly glow-sticks for a SuperHot pistol, with the goal to rack up your score by shooting to the beat like John Wick crossed with Skrillex.
Pistol Whipped places a pistol in your hand as you call on the vital five D’s of dodgeball – dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge – all while emptying your clip into incoming foes. While some may have their opinions on on-rail experiences, I find it is perfect for a game like this where you can focus on where you’re shooting and what you’re dodging instead of where you’re going. The aim of the game is to increase your score by committing perfect dodges and shooting to the beat. When everything syncs together, you feel like you’re in a rendition of The Matrix: the Musical. The other thing I really liked was the fact that if you didn’t want to stay on-beat and just lay waste on every enemy on sight the game allows you to do that too and it’s just as fun.
‘Seven Nation Army’ by the White Stripes would totally own right about now
There are 15 levels/missions each with various levels of difficulty. I personally found easy and normal to be more my speed as hard can be really challenging. The game does have you dodging a lot and since you cannot deflect bullets, the harder difficulties can really make you look like you’re doing the ‘YMCA’ to onlookers. It was particularly bothersome for me as I like to sit and relax for my VR playthroughs but the lower difficulties were perfect for me. A big part of these rhythmic VR experiences are tough courses and high scores and Pistol Whipped will make you work for it.
The game has a sort of acidic look to it and each level has its own eye-catching distinct look which plays really well into the EDM soundtrack. I would have liked to see more tunes and genres added later but what’s here right now is hard to complain about. The enemies themselves are simple but distinct, helping them stand out for you, which is really handy in fast and hectic situations. Moreover, the game is well designed with very clear visual and audio queues so that you’re not disoriented. You can see the lines of the bullets flying at you allowing you to plan accordingly in real-time. There are different levels of enemies as well, some requiring more shots to take them down than others adding an extra layer of challenge and strategy.
An additional layer to the replayability provided by difficulty settings and scoreboards are modifiers, which change the way levels are played. Some modifiers include running levels dual-wielded or removing the auto-aim assist, which have different effects on the score multiplier. There are a ton of options to play around with and each provide a unique and fun way to enjoy the levels. Pistol Whipped also supports other customisation options such as your gun skin but these are mostly surface-level cosmetics.
It’s hard to argue with what’s on offer here. A polished and well executed rhythmic shooter grabbing elements from VR’s best games on the market and adding a bunch of different settings, modifiers and challenges to keep things going. It’s not the type of game you play through once and put down, but rather one that you pick back up and replay levels with different modifiers to try and up your score. It’s a fantastic experience that all owners of a VR headset should consider adding to their wishlist. While moving around can be a bit too much after a while and I would like to see some more variety in music genres and new levels, it doesn’t outweigh the joy of when everything comes together.
Reviewed on PSVR using a PlayStation 4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher