Pistol Whip Assessment (Quest, Oculus, Steam) – Capturing for the Stream State

Previously identified for its linear, story-driven VR journey sequence The Gallery, Pistol Whip is a stunning shift for Cloudhead Video games into VR’s rhythm and taking pictures genres. Stunning as it might be, the studio makes a powerful case for fusing the 2, with a ‘rhythm shooter’ that engages your physique in a really distinctive and compelling means.

Pistol Whip Particulars:

Official Website

Developer: Cloudhead Video games
Obtainable On: Oculus (Rift, Quest), Steam (Index, Vive, Rift, WMR), Viveport (Vive, Index, Rift, WMR)
Reviewed On: Index, Quest
Launch Date: November seventh, 2019
Value: $25


Pistol Whip is a artistic and customarily profitable fusion of rhythm and taking pictures. The sport has you consistently transferring ahead by means of a ‘stage’ (set to a particular track) the place enemies seem and shoot at you. Your job is to not solely return hearth, however dodge incoming bullets. The sport has heavy auto-aim by default (which you’ll be able to disable for a problem), which lets you focus much less on laser-precise aiming, and extra on discovering the stream state the place dodging and taking pictures turning into one.

Enemy bullets fly at you slowly sufficient to provide you time to dodge your head out of the best way as they strategy. As you get used to the timing, you begin to proactively transfer and dodge reasonably than merely react. In consequence you begin to ‘stream’ your higher physique round as you dodge and shoot your means by means of every stage. The motion feels loads like being an Agent from The Matrix (1999):

Although the sport doesn’t explicitly say this (oddly), you’ll get extra factors for firing on time with the beat. The sport is at its greatest while you begin to discover the right mixture of actions to remain away from bullets whereas taking down baddies to beat of the track.

This ‘flowy’ motion will be actually partaking, particularly contemplating the well being system. You could have armor which might take one bullet, however should you take yet one more hit, then you definately die and fail the extent. That’s to say that you’ve a powerful incentive to concentrate on incoming bullets and make sure that you dodge them. Fortunately, after your armor breaks, you’ll be able to restore it by taking pictures a sure variety of enemies, or by going for a dangerous melee kill. The stress of the sport is critically amped up when your armor is down and also you’re simply desperately hoping to get it again earlier than catching a stray bullet.

All enemies perform successfully the identical, although there’s one-shot, two-shot, and four-shot variants, which you’ll be able to determine based mostly on what their armor seems like. As their armor will increase, so does their risk, and also you’ll end up desirous to prioritize the armored enemies for a swift kill or a melee takedown.

Talking of stray bullets—Pistol Whip’s least apparent however truly fairly important contribution to VR recreation design is its ‘off-screen’ indicator system that alerts you to enemies and bullets outdoors of your subject of view. That is widespread (and extremely helpful) in non-VR video games, and whereas it’s been tried in VR elsewhere, the system in Pistol Whip is extremely efficient at drawing your consideration the place it must be.

That mentioned, the sport nonetheless has moments of frustration the place it feels such as you died in an unfair means, both from a bullet you couldn’t make out towards all of the motion and visible noise, or from enemies spawning inside ft of you and taking pictures earlier than you’ll be able to react.

Sadly, killing enemies will a melee assault—the sport’s very namesake—is its most awkward interplay. Though the sound and movement of smashing an enemy may be very satisfying, the strategy all the time manages to really feel awkward since you’re subjecting your self to point-blank hearth. With out a good feeling for when enemies are about it shoot, you wind up doing a reasonably awkward dance within the hopes of constructing it shut sufficient to hit the enemy together with your gun. Thankfully, melee is elective, and you’ll all the time shoot enemies in entrance of you, even when it received’t get you as many factors or restore your armor instantly.

Whereas Pistol Whip’s fundamentals are actually robust, and the sport typically allows you to enter a really distinctive stream state which mixes dodging and taking pictures to the beat, it feels just like the ‘maps’ (the positions and timing of every enemy) usually are not but honed sufficient for the sport to succeed in its final potential. There are some notably enjoyable moments in some ranges that are akin to ‘patterns’ in different rhythm video games; combos of enemy positions and timing which make for intuitive, enjoyable, and repeatable actions. However usually talking, these moments really feel few and much between.

It’s an outright disgrace that the sport is launching with out a stage editor, and a lesson that ought to had been resoundingly clear after Beat Saber; permitting the inhabitants of a recreation to successfully crowdsource new and enjoyable patterns and maps is a win-win for builders and gamers. Cloudhead says they’ve plans for some type of editor sooner or later, however this could have been a day one function.

That leaves the sport launching with simply 10 songs—although I used to be glad to see a stunning vary of gameplay and feeling between songs (as an illustration, some have you ever taking pictures at a distance in extensive open areas whereas others have you ever in claustrophobic hallways). Extra ranges, each free and paid, are deliberate for the long run, and hopefully we’ll see a post-launch evolution in stage mapping that may make the sport really feel prefer it’s actually reaching its potential.

Picture courtesy Cloudhead Video games

Whereas a stage editor might not be accessible, a beneficiant set of choices lets you tweak components of the sport to style. Along with with the ability to customise the look, sound, and colour of your weapon, a ‘Modifiers’ menu lets you change the sport in some basic methods. The primary one I’d recommend is the ‘Twin Wield’ mode; I’ve discovered that having two weapons higher facilitates the enjoyable ‘stream’ moments of the sport, and brings extra partaking moments of beat matching.

You too can allow Limitless Ammo (no reloading), No Ammo (dodging and melee solely), Deadeye (no auto-aim… good luck!), Hardcore (on-hit demise), and No Fail.

However wait, there’s extra! Pistol Whip additionally lets you alter issues just like the power of various haptic results, the pitch of your gun, and even the set off threshold to outline when, precisely, your gun ought to shoot as you pull the set off.

Pistol Whip on Quest

In our testing of Pistol Whip on Quest, we discovered no important variations in gameplay in comparison with the PC model. The track choice, customization choices, and settings are the identical, and the sport runs easily. Quest’s built-in audio additionally handles the songs effectively sufficient that it doesn’t really feel important to make use of exterior headphones, although should you’re actually trying to get into the zone you may choose them.


Picture courtesy Cloudhead Video games

Whereas Pistol Whip doesn’t have that sensation of a ‘concrete’ world round you (owed to the continual motion), it does create a really compelling feeling of ’embodiment’ due to the specter of bullets consistently encroaching into your private house. Dodging bullets requires understanding their place and trajectory, after which transferring your self accordingly. Mixed with the necessity to additionally coordinate your individual counterattacks with dodging, the sensation of ‘stream’ is at occasions very actual and fascinating.

The pulsating atmosphere and impressionistic look can typically really feel like extra visible noise which might make it more durable to identify bullets. That is additionally annoying while you’re making an attempt to dodge your head round pillars and all of a sudden they broaden/pulsate (the entire of the atmosphere does this at occasions), making it more durable to visualise the hitbox that you simply’re making an attempt to keep away from.

Picture courtesy Cloudhead Video games

Whereas the sport’s track choice and settings menus are completely practical, they aren’t notably intuitive out of the gate. Whereas the trouble to spatialize the interface is appreciated, the hierarchy, group, and design language wants a extra considerate strategy. Fortunately, as soon as you already know what you’re in search of, the menus don’t have any impression on the core gameplay.


Picture courtesy Cloudhead Video games

Though you’re consistently transferring ahead, I’ve discovered Pistol Whip to be completely comfy in relation to digital motion. Even in tight corridors (the place the near-field geometry in your periphery can be extra more likely to set off vection), I’ve by no means felt an oz. of movement illness from within the recreation even after greater than an hour of steady play.

Pistol Whip is a bodily recreation, particularly when performed at greater difficulties. Everybody has their very own model, however my explicit means of taking part in made important use of my thighs and knees extra so than my arms. At occasions when taking part in I’d usually discover myself almost squatting and studying all the best way to the bottom (and no less than a couple of times truly taking place on one knee to dodge). It’s very cool that the sport is compelling sufficient to encourage these motions, although if in case you have particularly dangerous knees or restricted bodily mobility, Pistol Whip won’t be for you.

Although you can also make changes to your playspace positioning within the recreation’s settings, the sport can be troublesome to play seated due to the vary or movement required.

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