Brendan Frye
Published in
6 min readApr 9, 2023


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The Dark Pictures: Switchback knows just what to say in a love letter to a haunted house shooting gallery. Supermassive Games (Until Dawn, The Dark Pictures, The Quarry) mince words, screams and plenty of giblets across a seemingly authentic on-rails shooter.

For the uninitiated, Supermassive Games’ latest VR outing will feel like a fun — if not disarming — trip across their stories. Switchback feels like a brief “greatest hits” album of The Dark Pictures games. The anthologies including Man of Medan, Little Hope, House of Ashes and The Devil in Me are all turned into haunted houses for a tiny, one-person coaster to creep through.

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Gameplay is surprisingly accessible for new VR players joining the platform, as Switchback lets its victims sit comfortably throughout. While weapons and other interactives are always in arm’s reach, players are armed with dual pistols that are incredibly fun to blast with. Ammo is also never an issue and allows players to be as annoying as they want. Combat takes nods to House of the Dead and appropriately sticks to blasting waves of enemies inspired by The Dark Pictures. More memorable monsters are reserved for boss fights.

Supermassive stumbles in creating anything past a shoot-em-up challenge. Every enemy goes down the same. Save for a clever reverse tug-o-war boss fight where players have to repel zombies and acid rain. Another rare sequence involved getting away from a crawling ghoul and using a UV light to help shoot down walls. Switchback is in short supply of these tense and vulnerable sequences when players are empowered with guns.

“Gameplay is surprisingly accessible for new VR players joining the platform, as Switchback lets its victims sit comfortably throughout.”

Somehow, Switchback impressed me by taking advantage of the PSVR 2’s eye-tracking tech. My most favourite parts of the ride involved enemies that only moved when I blinked. While there were terrifying moments to be had as I blinked and was inches away from being strangled by H&M’s ugliest sentries, others involved keeping my eyes on one enemy to freeze them while another moved in for the kill. These tense moments should have been a core mechanic that shows off the eye-tracking. But the novelty quickly died off, and I rapidly blinked to draw out these enemies for blasting.

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Firepower alone won’t be enough to ease those inevitable jump scares. The Dark Pictures: Switchback masterfully takes Supermassive’s apprehension of isolation and tension to extremes. Players will never feel a moment of peace or relief as their car moves through haunted mansions, derelict ship cabins and ancient temples.

Switchback ironically tells one of the worst original stories following a creative streak with The Dark Pictures. In fact, there’s barely any story to be had as Supermassive stays focused on delivering a nonsensical haunted ride. Players are actually passengers on a train that quickly crashes. Switchback shows off some pointless glimpses of the wreckage before throwing players back on track. It’s weak ending only shows just how focused Switchback is on gameplay alone, while a few cameos by The Dark Pictures’ curator did nothing to serve the plot. Players also have opportunities to save their passenger friends along the ride. But none of them are memorable or relevant until the final boss.

The Dark Pictures: Switchback masterfully takes Supermassive’s apprehension of isolation and tension to extremes.”

Supermassive — in true horror fashion — combines loud noises with violently moving objects and a few grisly murders for effect. It works enough during the first hour until players grow a thick skin against cheap thrills, but some real fights come from Switchback’s inhuman characters. Some of my worst scares came from zombies vaulting over my car’s hood before puking on my face. Others included taking my guns away, leaving me helpless in pitch black as demons closed in.

Switchback comes short at just four hours but somehow feels longer as players are trapped in the moment. Better yet, players can even change up their track for a fresh experience each time. At these forks, players can aim and fire at switches. Left or right, Supermassive does a wonderful job at making each choice the scarier one either way.

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Luckily, players can respond to plenty of the game’s enemies with lead. Combat becomes engaging once those jump scares are out of the way. I found myself basking in the fun of one unrelenting surprise after another. Limited weapons, including double-barrel shotguns, machine pistols and a grenade launcher, come in handy for crowd control. But come as sparing sights for sore eyes when dozens of vampires come rushing to bite your face off.

In VR, hands are reserved for pointing, shooting and hiding when being mauled to death. Though I highly recommend fresh faces don’t start with Switchback for its special interactive brand of frights, motion sickness will also be a test as players are moving on the spot. Thankfully, high frame rates sustained by the PS5 make the frenetic experience easier to digest, steep roller coaster drops and all.

Switchback comes short at just four hours but somehow feels longer as players are trapped in the moment.”

Players get the benefit of variety by tunnelling through one set piece to another. Supermassive Games creatively stitches together a much superior VR game over 2016’s Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Supermassive’s first attempt at the haunted rail shooter ran out of road fast as it ran out of source material from Until Dawn. But each horrific element from The Dark Pictures fits neatly as self-contained horror coasters. So much that players will wish their car didn’t stop in the face of some grotesquely designed creatures.

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The PSVR 2 exclusive game surprisingly struggles to impress on graphics. Ironically, The Dark Pictures’ sharp photorealism is less apparent over the higher-res PSVR 2. It’s a given, as Supermassive was left with the task of converting their levels and characters into a 1:1 scale. This resulted in plenty of flat architecture around players. While the House of Ashes level showcased some of the worst graphics with texture pop-ins, missing details on vampires and some leeches that looked more like blurry sashimi.

That’s not to say Supermassive hasn’t created convincing depictions of classic horror universes. I was still in awe at large Mesopotamia pillars, killer diners and a demonic opera hall. Players are just passing through hell, but it doesn’t come without a sense of immersion and scale in VR. On the flip side, Switchback’s motion sickness and VR horror were a kick I never knew I needed. By the end, I felt like I took a first step into a genre I’ve avoided in VR since 2016.

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But the authenticity of blasting guns through a haunted house feels even more realized in PSVR 2. The platform not only makes nightmare fuel feel life-sized and believable but The Dark Pictures: Switchback effectively takes away personal space and puts demons, vampires and killer mannequins up close to sleep-paralysis proportions. With guns in hand and plenty of silent, pitch-black moments, The Dark Pictures: Switchback reminds players they’re never alone in the dark. If that’s a level of horror PSVR 2 players are willing to face, The Dark Pictures: Switchback more than puts that tolerance to the test.

This content was originally published here.



Brendan Frye

EIC at CGMagazine (@CGMagonline), Veteran of the field with more then 10 years experience. Also Publisher at Nuada Press.