Pistol Whip breaks genres with a mix of shooting and rhythm-based gameplay that never fails to make you feel totally badass.
The Oculus Quest isn’t short of its shooting games. There is nothing better than wielding a pistol in your hand and shooting some bad guys. Shooting games are all well and good and it’s great to play in different scenarios, yet every now and again we see a developer mix up the tried and testing shooting mechanic and serve us up something a little different. Pistol Whip is one such title that’s breaking genres with a mix of shooting and rhythm-based gameplay.
Each level in Pistol Whip plays out like being in a Hollywood movie action sequence, such as The Matrix, John Wick or Equilibrium. Each of the game’s 10 levels (called ‘scenes’) have been designed around a different EDM soundtrack, with enemies, walls, platforms, objects and colours all moving and shifting in time with the beat of the music.
From beginning to end you float along at a consistent speed through your chosen level. As the soundtrack plays out, enemies are spawned at predefined locations in the level, be it on top of platforms, inside recessed holes in the walls and floors, sometimes spawning nearby or directly in front of you. As each of the three difficulty modes that are available for each scene increases, so does the number of enemies spawned.
There are three enemy types that can get spawned. Each require a different number of shots before they are destroyed. The easier ones look like men in suits, wearing white ties, I like to think they are the agents from The Matrix. These bad guys just require a single hit to destroy them, and they are like the ‘filler’ enemies that you’ll encounter most often. The slightly bigger enemies, who wear white waistcoats take two hits to destroy them, they also feel like they get their shots off sooner than the single shot agents.
Finally there are the hard level enemies. These white helmet and armour wearing enemies take four bullets to destroy them. If one spawns close by, you have to rely on your ducking skills to avoid their shots and pistol whip them with your gun, all before you run into them. This is a more close combat alternative method of taking enemies down. Using your weapon you simply swing at them to hit them. This is usually your last resort and because you can’t control the speed through the level it becomes almost a knee jerk reaction to knock them out with your pistol.
As each enemy spawns into the world they will shoot back at you. Some enemies will fire off a bullet early on whilst running into the scene, some settle and aim, resulting in red laser like dots in your vision. This helps alert you on their whereabouts within the level. This is super handy when the level fills up with many agents, because you not only know where they are, you also know that they have not yet fired, so you can deal with them a little later than the ones that have already fired at you.
Once an enemy bullet has been fired in your direction, there is a visible trail that follows behind it. As bullets fly at a slower pace, you are able to dodge them, resulting in quite an intense leg workout after a few lengthy sessions. If dodging and ducking the world’s objects weren’t enough, you also have a couple of flying bullets to avoid, like Neo in The Matrix. As bullets wiz by you, they leave an audible buzz that work in harmony with the level’s electronic soundtrack that is also playing out.
Unlike more traditional rhythm games, Pistol Whip doesn’t force you to play the game like one. It’s a shooter first and foremost, so you can’t really compare it to games like Beat Saber, Synth Riders or Audica, it plays very differently, and that’s a good thing. You have complete freedom to play how you like, and it is only when you begin to time your shots to the beat of the music will you increase your score and rank up on the game’s online global leaderboards.
To help customise the overall comfort and enjoyment of the game, there are a number of modifiers that you can toggle on and off, each affecting how points are earned in the level. Modifiers that make the game harder, such as No Ammo (dodge and melee combat), Deadeye (disables autoaim) and Hardcore (one-hit death) will increase your score by a certain percentage. Modifiers that make the game easier, such as Infinite Ammo (no need to reload), Dual Wield (gun in both hands) and No Fail (you can’t be killed) will reduce how much you earn with each kill. All these modifiers help to alter how you want to play the game and the developers have promised there are more modifiers planned for release in post-launch updates.
The game’s visuals has a Superhot, almost a REZ, vibe to its overall aesthetic. Each level, although simple, looks great and the rough, sketch-like nature to the world’s objects and in its enemies tie the whole game together, making the game feel fresh, albeit familiar. You can also customise your weapon too, with up to eight different pistols to choose from. Different skin wraps can be applied to the pistol, for that personal touch, using different colours, sound effects and finishes.
It is difficult to think how well custom music tracks will work with this game, but its developers have a solution in mind that they say they may pursue for a future update. If you are a fan of EDM then you’ll likely love most of the tracks in the launch release, yet once you increase the difficulty, playing a level to the beat of the music goes out the window pretty fast.
You can pick up Pistol Whip for $24.99 on the Oculus Store, with cross-buy available for the Rift. This may seem a little steep with just the 10 levels that are available at launch. However, there will be additional free and premium levels releasing in future updates, and with three difficulty levels for each scene, along with the number of modifiers that also help to adjust the gameplay in each scene, there is still so much fun to be had in the game.
If you like the frantic gameplay of Superhot, powered by a pumping EDM soundtrack, all whilst feeling like a total badass and giving your thighs and arms a damn good thorough work out, then I recommend you pick up your pistol and whip some enemies into a bullet-laden frenzy in Pistol Whip.