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Pistol Whip: The VR Rhythm Shooter

Electronic beats and slick action provide a decent workout

Joshua Gad
Aug 6, 2020 · 3 min read

Originally released on Steam and the Oculus store last year, Pistol Whip, created by Cloudhead Games just released on PSVR and makes for an action packed bullet fueled workout. Although it looks similar in gameplay to Superhot or Beat Saber, the game is a unique blend of an on-rails shooter, coupled with a synthwave aesthetic, music, and great gun feel. Shoot and punch your way through an onslaught of bad guys while racking up points to the electronic sound track.

Upon booting up the game the first thing I noticed was how great the guns feel. Sure they are just pistols, but when you fire them the sound and controller vibrations feel satisfying. If the game were only a shooting gallery this first moment would have been worthy of the $25 price tag. I can’t remember the last time that the primary interaction of a VR game felt that good. I spent a couple minutes just firing the guns on the menu screen for their own sake.

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Next, the game has you pick a level by selecting a song and mode of difficulty, both of which are categorized by incredibly stylized movie posters. Then you’re off to kill some bad guys. The game moves you forward while enemies and obstacles spawn to the beat of the song. Firing on the beat increases your score, but before you try to get a high score you are going to want to just enjoy the action sequences first.

The game is designed to make you feel like ‘the ultimate action hero legend’ (think of a John Wick fight scene with electronic music in the background). You expertly take down swarms of bad guys, dodge bullets, and punch some of them to their doom, and you don’t even think twice about it. It’s just a simple point and shoot with an emphasis on the music beat. You can ignore it, and just fire your gun at everything that moves, but the game is more rewarding when you take a second to listen before panic-pulling the trigger.

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The most prominent feature of the game might be the auto aim, which allows for a natural feel even though it is not subtle. In a gun fight outnumbered 8:1, instead of having to line up the shots, you simply fire them and the bullets hit, making this game less about hand-eye coordination and more about beat and timing. When played right, the game is like an elegantly choreographed dance of dodging and bullet fire. In this way, it does an excellent job making the player feel like that glorious action hero.

Surprisingly, the Pistol Whip is also a great workout. I thought it would be more laid back but the game is constantly asking you to move as you dodge bullets or weave through obstacles. While playing this game you are constantly taking a step in one direction, recentering yourself and then narrowly avoiding a bullet that flies over your head.

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Another set of features I very much enjoyed were the additional options you can use to customize your experience. If you want to play with two pistols, no obstacles, infinite ammo, or a bunch of other options, you are free to do so! They do come with score modifiers, usually -10% but the game will rightfully be more enjoyable for a lot of players with them. For me I couldn’t help but want to duel wield.

Overall Pistol Whip is a great game (and exercise) that PlayStation VR owners will definitely have some fun with.

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