It has been nearly 4 years since we first reviewed Pistol Whip and loads has modified. This is our 2023 assessment of the sport, assessing all the brand new content material and options added since launch.
When Cloudhead Video games launched its modern rhythmic shooter Pistol Whip in 2019, we had been fairly definitive in our assessment. We gave it an ideal score of 5 Stars, however since then, it is solely gone from power to power. There’s been a plethora of latest – and completely free – content material that has cemented its place as the most effective video games out there on nearly each main VR headset.
In the event you’re not aware of Pistol Whip, we suggest going again to our authentic assessment from 2019 for a greater overview of the fundamentals. Nevertheless, here is a snippet that provides you the gist:
Reasonably than slashing cubes or just avoiding bullets in slow-motion, each music (or scene) in Pistol Whip strikes you thru the extent at a gradual tempo. Enemies come out at pre-determined places that you just then should shoot or punch to the beat of the music to get the best rating potential.
Following within the footsteps of the VR rhythm recreation progenitor Beat Saber, Pistol Whip took a profitable components 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 common into a completely authentic 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 exhausting to maintain depend.
New scenes function references to sci-fi and motion classics like Mad Max, Blade Runner, Terminator, Ninja Gaiden and extra. The truth is, 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 change into a core element of the sport’s identification (“A VR rhythm shooter with numerous references to traditional motion films”).
The group’s ardour – for the sport itself and the media it references – is clear in each single considered one of Pistol’s Whips polished nooks and crannies.
Pistol Whip launched with simply 10 tracks out there to play (known as ‘scenes’ in-game) and this comparatively small providing was one of many few hesitations we talked about in our authentic assessment. We additionally hoped that customized music assist is likely to be added down the road as nicely, which maybe may spawn an unlimited 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 out there in-game (with one other arriving quickly and extra confirmed for 2024), in addition to an ever-evolving Contracts system, a number of completely different weapons, a neighborhood pass-the-headset co-op-mode, two themed mini-campaigns, and a completely new ‘Kinds’ system that overhauls and expands the sport’s authentic 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 group.
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 totally 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 lift the value of the bottom recreation, making certain that every one new content material could possibly be offered to gamers as a part of continuous free updates. It is daring however welcome method, bucking the development set by many different related 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 recreation’s most important mode, Arcade, after finishing the tutorial. The one scenes that are not instantly out there are those tied to the sport’s two mini-campaigns – 2089 and Smoke and Thunder.
Whereas listed beneath 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 a substitute, they’re well-crafted collections of 5 scenes, which inform a fundamental story through transient 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 components. 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 pressure 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 sort or themed boss encounter.
Nevertheless, what’s most enjoyable about these campaigns is the additions and alternatives they create 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 out there to make use of elsewhere in Arcade, making certain you’ve gotten large selection in the way you play – and replay – completely different scenes.
Play Your Approach
This brings us to one of many largest post-launch modifications made to Pistol Whip: Kinds. Launched in 2021, Kinds was conceived as an overhaul to the modifier system, letting you choose from a collection of modifiers, weapons and scenes. You may then save your picks 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 enjoying fields. In response to Cloudhead, the top result’s actually tens of millions of distinctive leaderboards that cowl all of the completely different potential mixtures.
Gamers can now play the 30+ scenes with a number of completely different weapons: your normal 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, corresponding to nobeat (rating decided by accuracy), rhythmic (rating solely decided by timing), headhunter (headshots solely), reckless (no armor), bullet hell (numerous bullets) and plenty of many extra.
You may basically create no matter model of the sport you need to play. In the event you’d reasonably 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 aspect, you too can fully customise the look of your most well-liked weapon, with a great deal of colours, sounds and wraps choices to select from. It is a merely staggering quantity of selection.
For these searching for an additional problem, there’s additionally the Contracts mode, which affords distinctive mixtures of scenes and modifiers that rotate every 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 selections in Arcade mode, Contracts affords veteran gamers a brand new problem each time they return to the sport, with out the necessity to set parameters or make any choices your self.
Combine It Up
Earlier this yr, Cloudhead Video games additionally launched Pistol Combine, a modding device for PC that enables gamers to create customized Pistol Whip scenes, which may then be uploaded for the remainder of the group 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 at present accessible on PSVR headsets.
Whereas Pistol Combine is a improbable function (each as a creation device and as a option to play customized ranges), it could have arrived just a little too late. The present providing of customized scenes is mostly 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 fingers. The standard of customized content material over time will hinge on whether or not there’s continued group curiosity in creating and enjoying 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.
Probably the most obtrusive omission is any type of cross-platform development. The group 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 yr.
Pistol Whip gamers who improve headsets and, in doing so, inadvertently swap platforms face two issues: they are going to seemingly have to re-purchase a second copy of Pistol Whip on the brand new platform, and in addition lose all development they made on the platform they’re forsaking.
The previous downside is one thing that Cloudhead cannot management – Meta and Sony are in direct competitors and need to revenue off recreation gross sales, so there’s understandably no option to switch a replica of a recreation on Quest over to PSVR 2. Nevertheless, the latter cross-platform development downside is one which seemingly could possibly be addressed in a method or one other. The VR market shifts quickly and headset upgrades throughout competing platforms aren’t 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 authentic music in all its scenes and new content material. Nevertheless, it feels just like the time is likely to be nigh for Cloudhead to discover barely extra adventurous choices. Video games like Beat Saber, Synth Riders and Walkabout Mini Golf have all leveraged present IP and common high-profile music tracks to broaden their attain and attraction to new audiences. Pistol Whip would possibly profit from exploring related high-profile partnerships, permitting for extra direct musical or thematic tie-ins with the popular culture touchstones it admires.
The Street 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 dwell service video games are capable of frequently serve its gamers this nicely, not to mention accomplish that with out asking for a single cent past the value 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 the event you personal a VR headset and you have not picked up Pistol Whip but, what are you ready for?
You may learn our authentic assessment of Pistol Whip from 2019 beneath or try extra particulars in regards to the recreation’s 2024 roadmap right here.