The road to UploadVR’s Best of 2019 awards starts here! Every weekday for the next fortnight, we’ll be revealing one of the ten nominees for our Overall VR Game/Experience of the Year, counting down to the reveal of our full list of categories and nominees later in December. Put on your suit and tie, because today we’re nominating the incredible rhythm shooter Pistol Whip.
About 10 to 15 minutes into my first play session in Pistol Whip a moment of confusion overtook me as I realized I didn’t have to actually aim my gun perfectly at baddies to take them out. I tried to think about whether practiced shooters would get turned away by this automatic assistance, but that thought fell apart as instinct took over and I moved my body out of the way to avoid more bullets than I could count.
This undeniably addictive hook continued to wind its way deeper and deeper into my brain as my skill at the game increased through multiple phases, first learning to dance my way out of bullets then activating “Deadeye” mode to increase my score and hone my aim like a practiced marksman — repeating a song over and over and over again until I truly felt like the Baba Yaga himself, John Wick.
When Cloudhead Games introduced the world to Pistol Whip during our E3 VR Showcase earlier this year its influences were so obvious — they mentioned Wick’s name multiple times in the video and they are far from the only developer to try something rhythm related after seeing the success of Beat Saber. The bar for success was so high from the very outset, and they set expectations right up there alongside the threshold for success. The pressure was on and Cloudhead needed to deliver on a lot of fronts.
On November 7 they hit a bullseye, releasing 10 tracks from Kannibalen Records with built-in modifiers adding significant depth to the game. I’ve spent dozens of hours with those tracks, hobbling my way to bed with sore legs after multi-hour sessions battling through just one song. Cloudhead strayed so very far their first Myst-like VR games and made something instead so instantly accessible and deeply satisfying that it we absolutely cannot wait for Dec. 19 when the game’s first major software update arrives with a new free track called High Priestess.