Home / iOSGame / Pistol Whip review: The year’s freshest VR game—and oh-so close to greatness

Pistol Whip review: The year’s freshest VR game—and oh-so close to greatness

Pistol Whip review: The year’s freshest VR game—and oh-so close to greatness
Cloudhead Video games

A overview of the 2018 digital actuality sensation Beat Saber might be boiled down to 1 or two sentences: wave lightsabers to the rhythm of intense, catchy music. It is a skinny elevator pitch, but all of its items add as much as one thing addictive, creative, and—based mostly on what I’ve seen from different latest VR apps—laborious to duplicate.

That adjustments this week with Pistol Whip, which each evokes the easy genius of Beat Saber but really delivers on that uncommon mixture of acquainted and contemporary. Its single-sentence pitch is simply as enjoyable: faux you are John Wick and get into gun-fu battles towards hypercolor hitmen to the rhythm of thudding techno. (No, this is not a licensed John Wick recreation, however moderately an apparent homage to the home that Reeves constructed.)

In its present state, on PC-VR methods and the standalone Oculus Quest, Pistol Whip is already a formidable journey of a “rhythm shooter,” and it blends a few of VR gaming’s greatest qualities—tracked arms, physique presence, and fast reactions—to ship a body-filling sensation of badassery. But in its present state, it additionally sits on the boundary of an “early entry” recreation, despite not being marketed as one. The problems are a bit annoying, however I am having too good of a time to not in any other case suggest this gem of a 2019 VR recreation.

Guess the tragic acronym between kills

In Pistol Whip, you stand on what is actually a digital motorized sidewalk—the type you would possibly discover at an airport terminal—and slowly glide by means of trippy, distorted environments. An underground bunker. A metropolis celebrating Dia De Los Muertos. A seemingly random explosion of geometric shapes. We by no means fairly be taught why we’re in these locations, nor why they’re stuffed with pistol-wielding males in fits. LSD? PTSD? Some intense acronym might be at play.

Irrespective of: your job is to outlive a given degree’s motorized sidewalk by taking pictures each baddie down, all whereas bobbing and weaving to dodge their slow-moving bullets. The catch is, randomly taking pictures the dangerous guys offers out fewer factors. To maximise your rating, you should shoot your gun to the beat of the insane music being piped into your ears. (Once more, what is going on on right here?)

Geared up with a single pistol, limitless ammo, and a point-down-to-reload mechanic, your main objective is to remain on the track’s rhythm whereas noticing and taking pictures each enemy in your discipline of view, notably those who come out of canopy or run by means of random hallways. Ought to an enemy stand immediately in entrance of you at any level (they sometimes discover themselves in your computerized path), you will get extra factors by whacking them together with your gun as a blunt instrument. (Proper, Pistol Whip, I get it.) All of the whereas, you must keep watch over enemies’ weapons, which flash crimson once they’re about to shoot a bullet. That is a great trace, for instance, of whether or not it is best to wait to melee-strike a close-by foe or shoot him down a couple of paces away.

Pistol Whip‘s secret sauce is its intelligent degree design, since enemies continually come out from left to proper and from prime to backside when you robotically glide ahead. Cloudhead Video games proves its VR improvement chops with Pistol Whip‘s ranges. For one, they’re grounded with what I prefer to name “anchoring” geometry always, with a way of a central horizon level and a high-contrast shade palette that favors bold-yet-cool colours. You will not get sick auto-moving by means of these worlds, and it is a exceptional feat.

Moreover, that forced-movement perspective lets the designers telegraph every upcoming menace. It rapidly turns into second nature to learn sure block and canopy formations from a distance. A floating block subsequent to nothing else? An enemy will most likely spawn on that and begin taking pictures. A pointy break in geometry close to the ground? That is a great trace of an uncovered basement part under to return, which is able to virtually definitely cover a couple of simple kills. There is a neat choreography to how a great Pistol Whip degree works. Its geometry organically forces your gaze to scan quickly but easily, versus in all places in a dreadful hurry.

The end result feels extra like a top-notch ’90s arcade shooter than just about any VR fare that has launched up to now. When an attention-grabbing Pistol Whip degree component unveils itself, usually with a shock reveal of gun-wielding goons, I get the identical rush I bear in mind from turning a loopy nook in a basic Home of the Lifeless taking pictures sequence.

Rhythm enjoyable, but additionally rhythm questions

But in contrast to ’90s on-rails arcade classics, which copied one another advert nauseam, Pistol Whip carves out a novel identification by combining the open, broad taking pictures potentialities of VR with a rhythm-matching tweak. The sport tracks any track’s rhythm in double time, so you may even get away with some rapid-fire ammunition percussion in a pinch and nonetheless get most factors per shot.

Sadly, in my week of pre-release testing, I’ve struggled to match my taking pictures rhythm with any of the ten included songs on each a Valve Index and an Oculus Quest. I can not put my finger on what’s incorrect with my timing. Possibly I am simply trash on the slim gaming area of interest that’s rhythmic-hitman simulations. The difficulty is, neither the sport’s tutorial nor any of its on-screen messaging makes clear precisely what it takes to match the music’s rhythm. Heck, the tutorial does not even point out this shoot-to-the-rhythm system; in case you’re fortunate, the proper loading display screen tip will inform you of its existence.

I would like to see a patch with some kind of calibration or testing room, the place you may hear a loud, clear beat and see how nicely your pictures line up with the music’s timing. As an alternative, all we get up to now is a “vibrating metronome” choice, which makes your controllers vibrate to the music’s beat. To this point, on each Index and Quest, I’ve seen an itsy-bitsy delay between that rumble and its matching percussive beat.

That appears fixable, whether or not by including a vibration tweak, a brand new tutorial, or clearer visible info. Heck, why not add the choice of quickly closing circles over enemies’ our bodies, a la Virtua Cop?

Pistol Whip‘s menu system additionally screams “early entry” by way of font sizes and different parts being weirdly sized, and the presentation, or basic lack thereof, does not assist issues. You come to life in what appears to be like like an deserted B-movie studio. You goal a gun to choose some random film poster, then fight begins. The outcomes really feel surprisingly slapdash from a crew who made such ornate, fantastically detailed worlds within the VR-puzzle sequence The Gallery.

Worst of all, at the least as of the sport’s launch, is the unoptimized state of the Oculus Quest model. Will this recreation stand up to a easy 72fps refresh within the close to future? The sport’s three-tone palette and easy geometry appear to favor Quest’s weaker {hardware}, however Cloudhead apparently nonetheless has its Quest work minimize out for it.

Please patch in a narrator

Pistol Whip launch trailer (which features a trace of how the soundtrack sounds, if you’d like a touch.)

I maintain out hope that my above nitpicks are addressed quickly, as a result of the core expertise of gliding by means of Pistol Whip‘s model of VR fight is already a extremely putting one. I am even cool with how the sport considerably auto-aims your pictures, so you may level your weapon within the basic path of a foe and rating a clear shot—and thus give attention to the bigger-picture problem of so many enemies swarming your place (to not point out syncing your pictures with the track’s rhythm). Give attention to pace and tempo, not exact goal. You may nonetheless get punished for extraordinarily aimed pictures, so one thing within the aiming system is attempting to evoke a way of effort and deserved hits.

It feels very, very John Wick in motion, and the extent design, enemy patterns, and aesthetic depth add as much as double that Wick-ian feeling. I would like to see a plot added to this recreation to match, since we’re coping with an arcade recreation whose foes are all anthropomorphized guys in fits. Cannot we get some hard-boiled narration befitting the tone, at the least?

Pistol Whip could possibly be nice. Till then, it is mighty good and arguably the yr’s greatest new VR motion recreation. In any case, 2019 has largely been the yr the place folks lastly purchased headsets and found 2018’s killer video games. For the VR trustworthy ravenous for one thing contemporary, that is it.

The great:

  • We have seen different latest VR video games attempt to ignite a Beat Saber-like spark. This one really does so.
  • Colour-soaked fight arenas evoke Superhot whereas additionally feeling totally new and distinctive.
  • Degree design rivals probably the most thrilling moments of basic ’90s arcade shooters—whereas additionally protecting VR consolation in thoughts.
  • Auto-aim system does simply sufficient legwork to let gamers give attention to pace with out fully dumbing the sport down.

The dangerous:

  • Cloudhead guarantees extra ranges to return, and we hope they arrive quickly. There’s solely 10 for now.
  • If aggressive, decay-effects techno with sick drops is not your bag, Pistol Whip‘s stellar gunplay may not be sufficient.

The ugly:

  • Till the sport implements a testing or calibration sequence, I don’t know why my pictures usually do not match songs’ rhythms (which is required for greater scores).

Verdict: PC-VR headset house owners should purchase. Quest house owners would possibly need to await a efficiency patch.

About Sam Machkovech

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