For some reason, there aren't many rail shooters for PlayStation VR yet it's a great platform for the genre and Pistol Whip proves that.
The basic premise of Pistol Whip is that you automatically move forward through linear stages while shooting at enemies that emerge. You also have to dodge bullets and certain walls by moving left and right and ducking. That's essentially all you have to do although there is an optional rhythm mechanic if you want to try and achieve higher scores. Shooting and reloading to the beat can be exceptionally tricky stuff, especially because your instinct is to shoot adversaries immediately after they spawn. Once you get into the groove and watch your high score improve for stages that you've tried multiple times, it's supremely rewarding stuff. Keeping in mind to make every bullet count while only firing to the beat is tough, though, so if you only want to complete stages and don't care about scores then you could totally do that and it can be a satisfying experience either way. I wish more games featured scalable challenge like this.
It goes without saying but Pistol Whip features some fantastically stylish visuals that look amazing in VR. The neon colours, polygonal environments, and flashy effects really come together to create a sophisticated futuristic vibe. Plus, each of the many stages presents a cohesive theme with recognizable features that make them stand out. Speaking of which, the levels have their own musical tracks that play from start to finish and they're pretty cool. Although I'm more into underground electronic music and don't care much for the electro-heavy soundtrack and bass music here, they're still solid and easily accessible tunes. That being said, I wish there was more musical variety because, to be frank, it kind of got on my nerves after a while. I'm sure that fans of trendy EDM will love it, though.
Back to the gameplay; Pistol Whip is simply a wonderful rail shooter that features tight and intuitive gameplay. I usually can't stand first-person shooters but the aiming is essentially handled automatically so if you merely point in the general direction of an enemy, you probably won't miss. With that in mind, there are various modifiers that you can toggle in order to make the gameplay easier or more challenging which actually affects the score multiplier. You can alter things such as turn off auto-aim, enable invincibility, and disable wall hazards which made me think that folks who require accessibility options may be able to enjoy Pistol Whip's gameplay which is great.
I loved my time with Pistol Whip but it definitely has its issues. The biggest area for improvement which I constantly thought about is that it could use more gameplay variety. Considering all you do is walk forward at a steady pace while shooting enemies and dodging stuff, I would have liked to see branching paths, segments that added variety like target shooting, special moves, additional modes, and perhaps some mini-games. Even if a couple of those ideas were implemented, it would have elevated the gameplay to remain fresher for much longer. Finally, there are some surprises that simply felt unfair. For example, you may have to dodge incoming walls but then an enemy spawns right when you're leaning thus making being able to shoot them extremely tricky. Enemies will also spawn under floors which might surprise you if you're unprepared and considering you perish after only a couple of shots, it can be irritating stuff.
Pistol Whip is a top-notch VR game and one that's 100% worth getting for fans of rail shooters. Its stylish visuals and clever scoring system make it an immersive and challenging experience that's hard to put down once you get into the groove.
- + Excellent rail shooter gameplay with a challenging rhythm mechanic
- + Stylish eye-popping visuals
- + Nifty modifiers and lots of stages
- - Could use more gameplay variety
- - Some surprise attacks can be annoying
- - The music tracks are too similar