Pistol Whip PSVR2 review. Despite being a handful of years old and releasing for the previous iteration of PSVR, there’s still nothing quite like Pistol Whip and it’s a fact that rings especially true with its debut on Sony’s next-generation hardware. Put simply, Pistol Whip makes you feel like John Wick in VR and I guess that would be a good place to both start and end this review. However, despite such an attractive opening gambit, Pistol Whip is so much more than just fantasy fulfilment, it also happens to be a resoundingly well crafted rhythm shooter that places a simultaneous emphasis on muscle-twitch reactionary blasting as much as it does on pin-point accuracy and blasting fools to the beat of the music. Oh and it’s an absolutely murderous physical workout, too.
Pistol Whip PSVR2 Review
Nobody Can Be Told What Pistol Whip Is, You Have To See It For Yourself
For the uninitiated, Pistol Whip is a first-person arcade shooter whereupon the player is essentially stood up and the world rushes towards them, revealing hordes of incoming enemies that snipe at the player from cheeky vantage points and more obvious foes that just headlong rush towards the player with murderous intentions in mind. The goal, as you might expect, is to get from the start of one stage to the end by laying waste to these enemies in the most stylish way possible all the while dodging incoming fire like some sort of crazed Poundland/dollar store Neo.
Where Pistol Whip gets a little more sophisticated though is in how it augments that notion of chasing arcade style high-scores. Certainly, surviving a given stage is a positive result in itself, but the challenge really comes in not only minimising the damage that you receive but also in maximising the score multipliers that you get by pulling off headshots and, of course, pistol whipping fools into the shadowlands – all of which results in a final ranking grade that summarises your performance for the level you have just completed.
Much more than just a straightforward VR shooter, Pistol Whip distances itself further from its competition by encouraging players to carry out their face blasting against the beat of the music, with additional score provided for every successful shot made in time with the soundtrack that plays in the background. By holding this rhythm shooter at its core, Pistol Whip becomes a much more masterful affair that lends itself well to veterans that want to play at the highest level. Sure, newbies can pick up the PSVR2 Sense controllers and start blasting away initially without a care for the beat, but ultimately their score cap will have a very definite ceiling to it as opposed to more tenured players who know to time their bullet ballet to the beat of the music.
Pistol Whip becomes even deeper still when you start taking the various style presets into the equations too. Essentially applying a number of different modifiers to its face-blasting proceedings, each style contains a number of different buffs and debuffs depending on their difficulty such as disabling aim-assist, enabling single-shot kills, disabling dual-wield and so much more besides. With trophies tied to many of these styles, they’re a worthwhile incentive to chase too, not least because of the bragging rights on the online leaderboards that they provide when you successfully perfect a particular style run.
And this is the thing – when I said there’s nothing quite like Pistol Whip at the top of this review, I wasn’t lying. Pistol Whip soars on PSVR2 because of just how badass it makes you feel. Letting all of your John Wick/John Woo/Neo fantasies come to life, there’s nothing quite like unleashing an absolute barrage of bullets towards incoming enemies as the music swells and builds to a crescendo in the background, all the while you’re weaving and dodging around in pursuit of nailing that lofty high score.
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Pistol Whip succeeds because it marries the thrum of its superb soundtrack (which perfectly matches the on-screen action) to supremely stylish visuals and furiously hyperkinetic action in a fashion that just hasn’t been glimpsed before. Certainly then, Pistol Whip is right up there with the likes of Rez Infinite and even Tetris Effect Connected when it comes to wrapping an intoxicating audiovisual veneer around a more traditional arcade high score chasing concept that pushes the player to that ‘one more go’ state, not least because of how it integrates the rhythm shooter aspects of its design into a gameplay model that feels both satisfying and challenging to engage with.
One of Pistol Whip’s greatest qualities is that anybody can pick up and play it regardless of their gaming background, as just about everyone has seen action movie shootouts and by grounding itself in that sort of shared experience, Pistol Whip becomes immediately accessible to anyone who deigns to pick up the PSVR2’s Sense controllers – though the higher scores that can only be earned by fully embracing the rhythm shooter gameplay beats will naturally come later through extended play. Quite simply, folks can ‘get it’ without ever hopping into a tutorial and it’s that sort of accessibility that more games in the VR space should be championing.
That very visceral sensation that Pistol Whip has traditionally provided finds itself enormously augmented for its PSVR2 release, too. Baked in support for PS5’s 3D Tempest audio tech means that the sound of bullets whizzing by your skull feel much more pronounced than ever before, while the upgrade to a full 4K presentation and the OLED lens of the PSVR2 headset also mean that this is the clearest and most detailed version of Pistol Whip that you can currently buy. Equally, given the arcade nature of Pistol Whip’s game design and the need to reset and replay certain scenes quickly, the PS5’s SSD comes into play here, allowing players to retry a scene and hop back into the game at a couple of seconds notice.
Perhaps the biggest improvement that the PSVR2 version of Pistol Whip brings to the table over any other version on the market is the full use of the PSVR2’s Sense controller features. Haptic feedback is employed generously to palpably convey the feeling of an approximate firing experience as the PSVR2’s Sense controllers tremble in your hands with every discharged round. Equally, there’s also a real feeling of sudden impact whenever you decide to pistol whip the skull off of someone’s shoulders, with a satisfying smashing crunch (bolstered by a trio of alternating different melee attack sound effects) make the endeavour feel eternally satisfying as a result.
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Whether you’re dual-wielding two hand cannons or single-firing a single Glock-style handgun, Pistol Whip on PSVR2 absolutely does everything in its power to convince your brain that you are, in fact, discharging a firearm in real-life. It even goes further than simulating the haptics for firing too, as Pistol Whip on PSVR2 also supports a haptic response for a dry fire as well – providing your brain with yet another load of stimulus in direct response to something happening in the VR world.
Developer Cloudhead Games has also been similarly clever in their employ of the adaptive trigger functionality that is embedded into the PSVR2 Sense controllers. Not only is there a keenly felt increase in resistance as players pull the trigger, which drops just before firing and then subsequently terminating completely, but the use of finger sensor tracking also accurately distinguishes between an intended fire and a misfire.
Finally, Pistol Whip on PSVR2 is absolutely stuffed with additional content and features too. From a range of different firearms, sound effects, customisable styles and more, together with all the ‘scenes’ released to date, a narrative driven campaign mode, challenge style contracts and a comprehensive training mode to sharpen the skills of veterans and rookies alike, Pistol Whip on PSVR2 doesn’t just excel viscerally, but it makes sure to keep the player hooked for hours, days, weeks and months on end as well.
Pistol Whip on PSVR2 is nothing less than a masterpiece of sensory excess, exhilaration and expertly paced challenge. An essential PSVR2 launch title that crafts a masterful mixture of visceral excess, classic arcade score chasing, a bountiful content offering and effortless style, there’s only one score that will do for Pistol Whip’s PSVR2 debut and it happens to rhyme with ‘ten’. Oops.
Review code kindly supplied by Cloudhead Games PR.
Pistol Whip for PSVR2 releases alongside the PSVR2 hardware on February 22, 2023. Existing owners of Pistol Whip can get a free upgrade to the PSVR2 version of the game.