I think the best way I can describe Cloudhead Game’s newest title Pistol Whip is to say it’s basically a mix between John Wick, Beat Saber, and Superhot. It’s a virtual reality on-rails shooter where you blast enemies with your pistol all the while listening to some sick beats. It’s been available on Oculus and other PC VR headsets for some time and has been received very well. Is the PlayStation VR version of this game just as good?
To play Pistol Whip on PlayStation VR you’ll need at least one PlayStation Move controller to use as your pistol. If you have two of them you can dual-wield pistols should you choose to. The basic idea behind the game is that you play through one of fifteen different movie set style levels that are on-rails. Shooting enemies in them rewards you with points and if you match up your kills with the beat of the music, you’ll earn more points. There are also obstacles that you’ll have to physically move around to dodge. The game offers three different difficulty settings to play on so that you can go with what works best for you at the start and as you improve you can bump it up. I went with the middle difficulty for most of my time with the game so far and found it provided a pretty good challenge. I tried the hard mode out on a few levels and it is quite the challenge. I plan to keep improving at the game so that I can hopefully beat them all on that setting. With all the movement that difficulty in particular requires you will get quite the workout while playing this game. If you enjoyed that about games like Beat Saber you can expect to enjoy that about Pistol Whip.
Every level has its own visual theme like anime or science fiction. The enemies in them are what reminded me of Superhot as their physical makeup is almost exactly like the enemies in that game. There are three different types of enemies in the game with each one taking a different amount of shots to kill. Enemy placement in these levels is very purposeful as they are all placed in a spot that makes it so that you can take them out according to the beat of the song. You don’t have to match them up but like I said earlier you will get more points for doing so and being able to put up a top score on the online leaderboards can be a driving factor to do better. Along with the walls and other obstacles in each level you also have to dodge the enemy bullets that are flying at you. If you get hit you can gain health back by killing a few enemies in a row. Run out of bullets in your clip while doing that? Just point the gun down to quickly reload and continue blasting fools. It all just controls really well and when you are in rhythm and feeling in the zone there is just nothing else quite like it.
Pistol Whip also offers a lot of different modifiers so that you can go back and play these levels in different ways. Along with the option to Dual-Wield you can turn off obstacles, change how your gun looks and sounds, turn off auto-aim, turn on invincibility and more. Since the levels and enemy placement do stay the same having these options helps to differentiate your runs should you want.
The visuals in Pistol Whip are one of the best things about it hands down. While the actual resolution is likely not as sharp as the other versions, it still looks great in my opinion. All of the different level styles are striking as they pulse and shift about and I liked how enemies would materialize into each of them. Of course, the other key thing about the game is the music which for me, was also very enjoyable. I say for me because all of the 15 tracks are all basically EDM music so if that isn’t your thing you might not enjoy this. It is true that the track list is small and not even every one of them that is here was great to me. I know the developer is planning more for the future and I do hope that maybe we can see some different genres. Besides the music itself the sound design in this game is also really good. The sounds of explosions and the bullets flying by felt really good so props to them on that. As for the trophy list, there are 25 in total including a Platinum which fitting enough is a Keanu Reeve’s reference. That alone makes me want to try to unlock it. It’s a pretty good list that will have you trying different to beat different levels with some modifiers on and some off.
Among all of the PlayStation VR titles available today Pistol Whip would rank near the top of the must-play titles. On-rail shooters don’t usually appeal to me but the way Pistol Whip combines physical movement, vibrant visuals, and a pulse beating soundtrack is masterful. Much like something like Astro Bot, playing this game on a traditional TV screen just wouldn’t be the same. It can’t be denied that it needs more songs, and more are coming in the future. What is here already though is enough for me to say that Pistol Whip is an essential for any PlayStation VR owner’s library.
*Pistol Whip is available now on PlayStation VR, Oculus, and Vive. Reviewed on a PlayStation VR with a PlayStation 4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review. ThisGenGaming is an official partner of vrgamecritic.com where you can find all of our PlayStation VR reviews.