Developer / Publisher – Cloudhead Games
Price – US $24.99 / CAN $32.99 / EU €24.99 / UK £29.99 / AU $42.95
Release Date – July 30, 2020 (PSVR)
Input – Moves
Play Area – Standing, Roomscale
Store – PlayStation
Reviewed on – PS4 Pro
Pistol Whip has finally landed on the PS4 after releasing late last year for the PC and Quest headsets (original review here) and has seen multiple updates that added a host of content as well new songs to further test your skills in. For those that aren’t aware, Pistol Whip is a merging of the rhythm and shooter genres that has you navigating through stages on the rails while you shoot or smash the baddies in your way with bonus points being rewarded for taking them out to the beat.
Armed with a pistol, or pistols if you decided you want to dual-wield, it’s up to you to shoot everything in your path as you navigate through 1 of 15 musical tracks. It’s a Moves only affair with the default mode in here only arming with one pistol, though should you being feeling spicy, you can visit the gameplay modifiers to make things easier or harder for yourself with one of the options being to dual wield. Other modifiers turn off the auto-aim which dramatically ups the difficulty or reduces the amount of hits you can take to one with those detrimental effects increasing your score modifier while the ones that make the game easier reduce it. Each of the tracks can be played on 3 difficulty settings with easy, for myself, being exactly that and medium offering some decent challenge but if you want to test the limits of your skills (and the PSVR tracking) then Hard is where this game shines. Regardless of the skill level you play on, not only will you be shooting the bad guys that appear all around in front of you, but you’ll have to dodge their incoming bullets and occasionally Pistol Whip any fools that get to close. Additionally, their also obstacles to avoid by dodging left, right or by crouching that make this one of the more physical games I have ever played in VR. Seriously, on hard mode I was moving around my play space like a character from the Matrix while bullets whizzed all around me, taking out seeming endless amounts of enemies all while trying to do so to the beat and it was exhausting and exhilarating.
There is no story here, nor any real reason to shoot the enemies before you save for the thrill of feeling like an action hero and climbing the online leaderboards. As such, each song is its own themed stage as identified by the movie poster selection screen which highlights the song and artist as well as stage specific details like beats per minute, enemy count and length of song. The enemies you face are little more then broken glass, connected together to form humanoid shapes and upon seeing them, I was instantly reminded of SUPERHOT, though unlike that title, you’ll face 3 different enemy types, each with more body armor than the last, that require 1, 2 or 5 shots to take out. The stages are all on the rails and take you through some very abstract and crazy settings that pulse to the beat of music. You may start off in the city streets during a ‘day of the dead’ celebrations or start in a church type area or just play in something completely bizarre and no matter which stage you play, the visuals are striking. Bullets fly past you in slow motion, enemies will often appear far away or right in front you, demanding your immediate attention. Some run around giving you a chance to take them out before they fire, and others will spawn and shoot almost instantly. Level design is key as enemies always spawn in the same places during a track so they may appear in odd formations all around you but this is by design as every single villain in this game is designed to be killed to the beat.
It’s a rhythm game, so naturally audio is the most important aspect to making this a succes and it’s wonderful but a tad disappointing. The soundtrack is heavy EDM beats and dubstep which fits the action nicely, but still starts to grate, especially when you might not like every song, I know I didn’t. That’s not to say I hated any particular song but there were a few that really didn’t do much for me and considering there is only 15 tracks, that’s a little concerning. I appreciate the efforts that went into mapping each stage but given just how limited the scope is of the music present, I would not have minded a little more variety. Otherwise, everything else is on point with guns sounding fantastic (you can actually select from a variety of gun sounds) and every time a bullet cruised past me, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the audio design.
As this is a review for the PSVR version of the game, I have to mention The Move controllers, which can be troublesome at times. I have my camera in a fairly decent setup and for the most part, my tracking was flawless but on a few rare occasions, my gun would go wonky as I pushed the limits of the camera. This typically only happened while on the hard difficulty with obstacles in place (yet another option) and I was frantically dodging just about everything the game could throw my way while shooting from odd angles. It didn’t happen a lot but for those with more restrictive spaces, it will definitely be an issue to consider. Whining’s aside, while the 15 song pack might seem a little small, their is a ton of options to customize the game to your liking including changing the haptics in the Move controller, the angle of your guns in relation to your hand position, audio options to amplify or mute aspects of the soundtrack as well as score modifiers like ‘no fail’, ‘unlimited ammo’, ‘unarmed foes’ and a host more ensuring that what this game lacks in content, it makes up for in replayability.
Pistol Whip is one of those VR titles that just could not work outside of the headset. Its reliance on reflexes while wielding a gun just couldn’t translate to the flat screen. That alone doesn’t make it a great VR title, but the addictive and intense combat along with the plethora of modifiers and the drive to shoot bad guys to the beat has me hooked. It’s a rhythm game like no other and an shooter like no other and a VR gem that I think just about any fan of either of those 2 genres will enjoy.
What would I pay? I had a ton of fun playing this so while the content may seem light, I think it’s worth the $25 asking price. It’s fun, challenging and is also going to make you sweat a little and that’s never a bad thing…plus you feel like bad ass!