It has been nearly 4 years since we first reviewed Pistol Whip and quite a bit has modified. Here is our 2023 evaluation of the sport, assessing all the brand new content material and options added since launch.
When Cloudhead Video games launched its revolutionary rhythmic shooter Pistol Whip in 2019, we had been fairly definitive in our evaluation. We gave it an ideal ranking of 5 Stars, however since then, it is solely gone from energy to energy. There’s been a plethora of recent – and fully free – content material that has cemented its place as among the finest video games obtainable on nearly each main VR headset.
In case you’re not conversant in Pistol Whip, we advocate going again to our unique evaluation from 2019 for a greater overview of the fundamentals. Nevertheless, this is a snippet that offers you the gist:
Moderately than slashing cubes or just avoiding bullets in slow-motion, each track (or scene) in Pistol Whip strikes you thru the extent at a gradual tempo. Enemies come out at pre-determined places that you simply then should shoot or punch to the beat of the music to get the very best rating attainable.
Following within the footsteps of the VR rhythm sport progenitor Beat Saber, Pistol Whip took a profitable method and gave it a cinematic, action-based twist served with a splash of Superhot and a pinch of John Wick.
The sport proudly wore its influences on a sleeve that Cloudhead has since original into a completely unique garment of its personal. In comparison with launch, Pistol Whip now options extra content material, further performance and so some ways to play that it is arduous to maintain depend.
New scenes characteristic references to sci-fi and motion classics like Mad Max, Blade Runner, Terminator, Ninja Gaiden and extra. Actually, there’s so many loving homages to popular culture that they now transcend being only a level of comparability (“Beat Saber and Superhot meets John Wick and the Matrix”) and as a substitute have develop into a core element of the sport’s id (“A VR rhythm shooter with numerous references to traditional motion motion pictures”).
The crew’s ardour – for the sport itself and the media it references – is obvious in each single one in all Pistol’s Whips polished nooks and crannies.
Pistol Whip launched with simply 10 tracks obtainable to play (known as ‘scenes’ in-game) and this comparatively small providing was one of many few hesitations we talked about in our unique evaluation. We additionally hoped that customized track assist is perhaps added down the road as properly, which maybe might spawn an infinite library of community-made content material akin to the state of affairs with Beat Saber.
As of writing, Pistol Whip now has a complete of 34 official scenes obtainable in-game (with one other arriving quickly and extra confirmed for 2024), in addition to an ever-evolving Contracts system, a number of totally different weapons, an area pass-the-headset co-op-mode, two themed mini-campaigns, and a completely new ‘Types’ system that overhauls and expands the sport’s unique Modifiers. Oh, and there is the latest launch of Pistol Combine, a modding device that lets the gamers construct customized scenes on PC to be performed in-game by the neighborhood.
Cloudhead has demonstrated an exhaustive dedication to including new content material to Pistol Whip. Even higher, all of this new content material – each single bit – has been solely free for house owners of the sport.
There was a degree the place Cloudhead thought of going the route of paid DLC tracks and new content material. Nevertheless, the studio as a substitute determined to boost the worth of the bottom sport, guaranteeing that each one new content material could possibly be offered to gamers as a part of continuous free updates. It is daring however welcome strategy, bucking the development set by many different comparable VR releases and rewarding each new gamers and people who have been round since day one.
New Scenes & Campaigns
The overwhelming majority of the 30+ scenes can be found instantly to gamers within the sport’s fundamental mode, Arcade, after finishing the tutorial. The one scenes that are not instantly obtainable are those tied to the sport’s two mini-campaigns – 2089 and Smoke and Thunder.
Whereas listed underneath a ‘Marketing campaign’ tab on the principle menu, neither of those are fully-fledged campaigns that should go head-to-head with different story-driven VR releases. As an alternative, they’re well-crafted collections of 5 scenes, which inform a primary story through temporary 2D storyboards with narrated voice-overs that play out earlier than every scene.
The scenes themselves introduce new themed environments and thrilling mechanics that blend up the traditional Pistol Whip method. 2089 is a Cyberpunk, Terminator and Blade Runner-inspired neon rush, whereas Smoke and Thunder takes issues to the wild west with mounted cowboys and swinging saloon doorways.
The campaigns are entertaining and always drive you to regulate the way you play – one scene would possibly require you to make use of melee pistol whip assaults solely, for instance, whereas one other introduces a brand new weapon or pits you in opposition to a brand new enemy kind or themed boss encounter.
Nevertheless, what’s most enjoyable about these campaigns is the additions and alternatives they convey to different modes. When you’ve accomplished a scene in every respective marketing campaign, it turns into playable in Arcade mode with any mixture of weapons and modifiers. Likewise, modifiers and weapons from the campaigns themselves are additionally made obtainable to make use of elsewhere in Arcade, guaranteeing you will have enormous selection in the way you play – and replay – totally different scenes.
Play Your Method
This brings us to one of many largest post-launch modifications made to Pistol Whip: Types. Launched in 2021, Types was conceived as an overhaul to the modifier system, letting you choose from a sequence of modifiers, weapons and scenes. You possibly can then save your choices as a favourite fashion, which you’ll be able to come again to and entry simply sooner or later.
This got here hand-in-hand with a brand new leaderboard system – as a substitute of all modifier and weapon combos competing on the identical leaderboard for every scene, each single mixture of scene, modifier and weapon now has its personal particular person leaderboard. This prevents leaderboards from being dominated by gamers who go for the higher-scoring, more durable modifiers, and as a substitute lets everybody compete in their very own means, on the identical taking part in fields. In accordance with Cloudhead, the top result’s actually hundreds of thousands of distinctive leaderboards that cowl all of the totally different attainable combos.
Gamers can now play the 30+ scenes with a number of totally different weapons: your commonplace pistol, twin wield, a rapid-fire blaster, a western revolver, a crossboy, knuckle dusters, a double-barrelled ‘Boomstick’ shotgun and extra. As soon as you have chosen a weapon, there’s countless mixture of modifiers to use, reminiscent of nobeat (rating decided by accuracy), rhythmic (rating solely decided by timing), headhunter (headshots solely), reckless (no armor), bullet hell (a lot of bullets) and plenty of many extra.
You possibly can basically create no matter model of the sport you need to play. In case you’d somewhat not select, Cloudhead has additionally included an enormous record of pre-made kinds so that you can discover and apply to any scene in Arcade mode.
On the aesthetics facet, you may as well fully customise the look of your most popular weapon, with a great deal of colours, sounds and wraps choices to select from. It is a merely staggering quantity of alternative.
For these in search of an additional problem, there’s additionally the Contracts mode, which provides distinctive combos of scenes and modifiers that rotate each day, weekly and month-to-month. Each day contracts include only one scene with added modifiers, whereas weekly and month-to-month contracts compile three and 5 scenes respectively, to be accomplished in succession. In distinction to the limitless decisions in Arcade mode, Contracts provides veteran gamers a brand new problem each time they return to the sport, with out the necessity to set parameters or make any selections your self.
Combine It Up
Earlier this 12 months, Cloudhead Video games additionally launched Pistol Combine, a modding device for PC that enables gamers to create customized Pistol Whip scenes, which might then be uploaded for the remainder of the neighborhood to play in-game. Gamers on Quest, Pico and PC VR headsets can simply browse, obtain and play customized scenes straight from the principle menu in-game. Sadly, customized scenes aren’t presently accessible on PSVR headsets.
Whereas Pistol Combine is a unbelievable characteristic (each as a creation device and as a strategy to play customized ranges), it might have arrived a little bit too late. The present providing of customized scenes is usually far decrease in high quality than any of the sport’s official content material. Some are entertaining, however in additional of a gimmicky means than something substantial. In any case, by nature it is now out of Cloudhead’s palms. The standard of customized content material over time will hinge on whether or not there’s continued neighborhood curiosity in creating and taking part in new ranges. We’ll have to attend and see.
So What’s Lacking?
Whereas Pistol Whip has had a staggering line-up of post-launch content material, there’s nonetheless a number of issues lacking and a few areas for enchancment.
Essentially the most evident omission is any type of cross-platform development. The crew at Cloudhead is clearly dedicated to bringing Pistol Whip to new platforms as they emerge – the sport has been launched on nearly each new main headset since 2019. Nevertheless, gamers who upgraded headsets within the 4 years since launch might need discovered themselves additionally switching platforms – a PC VR participant in 2019 might need gone to Quest in 2020, for instance, solely to improve to PSVR 2 earlier this 12 months.
Pistol Whip gamers who improve headsets and, in doing so, inadvertently change platforms face two issues: they are going to probably must re-purchase a second copy of Pistol Whip on the brand new platform, and likewise lose all development they made on the platform they’re forsaking.
The previous drawback is one thing that Cloudhead cannot management – Meta and Sony are in direct competitors and need to revenue off sport gross sales, so there’s understandably no strategy to switch a replica of a sport on Quest over to PSVR 2. Nevertheless, the latter cross-platform development drawback is one which probably could possibly be addressed in a technique or one other. The VR market shifts quickly and headset upgrades throughout competing platforms will not be unusual – if Pistol Whip desires to make sure longevity, implementing cross-platform development is a should.
Pistol Whip has additionally remained dedicated to creating wholly new tales and utilizing unique music in all its scenes and new content material. Nevertheless, it feels just like the time is perhaps nigh for Cloudhead to discover barely extra adventurous choices. Video games like Beat Saber, Synth Riders and Walkabout Mini Golf have all leveraged current IP and well-liked high-profile music tracks to develop their attain and enchantment to new audiences. Pistol Whip would possibly profit from exploring comparable high-profile partnerships, permitting for extra direct musical or thematic tie-ins with the popular culture touchstones it admires.
The Highway Forward
Finally, Pistol Whip is in a greater place than ever. Cloudhead Video games has gone above and past in its post-launch assist of Pistol Whip, cementing its place within the VR corridor of fame. It is uncommon that reside service video games are capable of frequently serve its gamers this properly, not to mention achieve this with out asking for a single cent past the worth of admission.
With two new collections of scenes already confirmed for 2024, that appears like a development that is set to proceed. Finally, Pistol Whip is in a greater place than ever. In case you personal a VR headset and you have not picked up Pistol Whip but, what are you ready for?
You possibly can learn our unique evaluation of Pistol Whip from 2019 beneath or take a look at extra particulars in regards to the sport’s 2024 roadmap right here.