Pistol Whip

Review: Pistol Whip

Despite the PlayStation VR2’s library being solid at launch, one game has stood out to me more than most. I’m talking about Pistol Whip VR, from Cloudhead Games that’s left its mark on me and many others by this point. You might ask why I’m so enamoured with Pistol Whip and it may have something to do with my current rewatch of the John Wick films.

Even as Pistol Whip has been around for several years now after appearing on other VR platforms, the PSVR2 port is a perfect jumping point into the series, given that it is one of the best experiences you can have on the platform. Sure, it might not be for everyone because of how frantic and chaotic things can quickly turn, but it also is a great way to get your heart pumping while at home.

Pistol Whip-it Good

Pistol Whip is an on-rails shooter that mixes gunplay with musical elements to incredible success. Think Time Crisis and add some fantastical environments with equally groovy music and you have an idea of what to expect. Everything on display in Pistol Whip is firing on all cylinders quite literally and while there aren’t any story elements to be had, you don’t need any to get the most out of this experience.

Point and shoot is the basic gameplay loop before you look to duck, dive, and dodge incoming enemy attacks. There isn’t a ton of variation, but the gameplay is refined enough to be consistently engaging and rewarding for those able to take down the enemies who dare to challenge you. To get the best experience, you need to make sure you’re avoiding the bullets coming your way. See, the music is tied to how well you’re doing so if you’re constantly being riddled with bullets then the level ends and the music stops.

There is just enough leeway to end up off-rhythm and simply shoot at all the enemies in front of you so if you aren’t the most rhythmically inclined there is some wiggle room to get by. Enemies will come at you from all corners and angles and it can lead to some chaotic encounters.

As this is a PSVR2 port, Cloudhead Games has retooled its incredible title to take full advantage of the Sense controllers. The finger touch detection and sis-axis motion sensing tech hidden in the Sense controller make for a more realistic experience and paired with the haptics, shooting your gun and reloading it feels incredible. If you fire wildly and empty your clip, Pistol Whip’s smart enough to tighten up the resistance on the adaptive triggers to show you that you’re out of ammo.

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The headset itself includes haptics and these are fully taken advantage of in Pistol Whip. If you take a bullet, the headset shakes. If you come close to a bullet and dodge it in time then the headset will vibrate and with the 3D audio, you can feel and hear the bullets whizz past you in a way the original PSVR could never offer.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching a couple of non-gamers in my life enjoy the likes of Tetris Effect: Connected and Pistol Whip thanks to how welcoming these games are to newcomers. While each game can certainly become challenging over time, it is adept enough to welcome those who don’t play video games regularly. Sure, the two titles I mentioned might not have a lot in common mechanically, but both elevate what video games can be by melding audio and visuals into an elevated experience.

I know Gun-fu

As much fun as it is completing each level and reaching the end. One aspect of Pistol Whip is being stylish and actively moving about to get the highest score. The other aspect is doing all the above while dodging incoming attacks and ensuring you’re killing enemies to the rhythm of the music to maximize your score.

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This is all happening before I’ve even mentioned modifiers and how well these are implemented. Being able to equip upwards of five modifications to your weapon to shake things up. Some modifiers may prove advantageous like slower enemy bullets or an extra shield while others make the levels hard like only headshots, faster enemy bullets, or no shield. Moreover, there are several weapons to utilize including dual pistols and shotguns that play differently but add an excellent way to keep playing.

Verdict

Pistol Whip VR is an exceptional port of an already great video game. If you’ve played it before, then you know what to expect but for newcomers like myself, I was left impressed by the experience that elevates how I play and leaves me wanting to grab my headset when I get home to get a few levels finished. It is that loop of actively thinking about Pistol Whip that makes this an easy recommendation for anyone on the fence or wishing for more games to add to their growing PlayStation VR2 library.

[A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PSVR2

Pistol Whip
Summary
Liked
Brilliant visuals and gameplay mechanics
Tons of great music tracks to enjoy and blast through
Exceptional replay value
Didn't Like
Dodging can be finicky