Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on PC)
One of the greatest sensations you can get from a video game is exhilaration. The best action games have a way of drawing you into the experience on a subconscious level and pumping your blood with adrenaline. It’s that white knuckle feeling you get when you’re controlling a character on screen through a harrowing escape, a frenetic battle, or a high speed chase. It’s something that I’ve experienced many times in my many years as a player. But I’ve discovered an entirely new level of exhilaration, and it’s called Pistol Whip.
Pistol Whip is a VR shooter and rhythm game hybrid, where you play as an action hero blasting your way through a series of movie themed set pieces. As the player you are on a moving track much like in the VR favorite, Beat Saber. Or if you’re unfamiliar with VR in general think of it as the highway in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The track acts as a conveyor belt moving you through the levels as a thumping techno beat pounds in your ears, and as your body begins to feel the rhythm of the song, the game begins to send enemies out in tempo with the beat.
Enemies will come from the sides, above you on bridges and even below you at the bottom of stairs, all while shooting at you and acting as sponges for bullets of your own. You must stay alert with your finger on the trigger and your body ready to spin, bend and juke to avoid oncoming fire from all directions. You see you need to not only dispatch these oncoming enemies, but dodge their fire as their slow-motion bullets whiz by your head in glorious 3D sound. After a while you will begin to sense where the game might send it’s next wave of enemies from as the level design seems to have a language of its own.
There is a synchronicity of the action with the music as enemies drop in and fire their weapons in concert with the soundtrack and it is just as elegant as it is awesome. The first few rounds of Pistol Whip start quite simple enough to acclimate you to what the game wants you to do and soon enough you will be squeezing the trigger to the drop of the bass. Once you’re comfortable the premise the game ramps up quickly and soon you’ll be dodging bullets like Neo at a dance club as the music gets faster and the enemies become more relentless. The entire experience is like playing out the best scenes of a John Wick film and I cannot understate how you will feel like an unstoppable action hero by the end.
Beyond the game mechanics themselves there are a few other standout things worth mentioning with Pistol Whip. First, the graphics are a very stylized approach which works very well for PSVR as the system is not known for high resolution graphics. By presenting the game with the aesthetics of a James Bond opening credit sequence, the developers are able to score points for style without ever making you think about how little geometry is actually being rendered on-screen.
The other thing worth noting is the host of cheats, or player modifications you can apply to the game. Every little aspect of Pistol Whip can be curated to the player. Want to change the finish on your weapon and the gun shot sound effect? You can do that. No fail mode? Check. You can even modify enemies so they go down in one hit or take away their ammunition so they cannot fire at you. And in case you’re a John Woo Super fan, Pistol Whip will allow you to dual wield for the ultimate Gun-Foo action.
Pistol Whip is a game I’ve had my eye on for a while and the second it hit the Playstation Store I picked it up. I’m very glad I did as this has secured it’s spot as my 2nd favorite VR game on the PSVR platform. If you are a fan of action films you absolutely owe it to yourself to put Pistol Whip in your sights and give it a shot.