It seems like an eternity since I first saw Beat Saber and marveled at how amazing it would be to dual wield lightsabers and chop stuff up all to the beat of a rhythm. Well finally with little to no fanfare Beat Saber has arrived on PSVR and it was very much worth the wait.
I’m guessing by now you’ve all seen the trailers, it’s been doing the rounds on social media and making the non-gaming communities jaws drop. Primarily because lightsabers, but also because of the manic thrashing nature of the trailer. The game itself plays just how the trailer shows. You have two lightsabers (not official of course, but they are lightsabers), in your left hand you have a red saber and in the right a blue saber. You are placed in a surreal level which looks like a cross between the inside of a Star Destroyer and the world of Tron. Flying at you are coloured red and blue blocks each with a directional arrow on them. It’s up to slice and dice these blocks in the direction dictated to you all in time to the thumping background track.
If you have played any rhythm game before such as Guitar Hero then you’ll know that their scoring is based on timing. The more buttons you hit with a perfect the more your multiplayer will go up and so on. In Beat Saber, it’s different. It’s not so much about timing (although you must actually hit the block) it’s more about the angle you swing and how close to the centre you slice. It takes a bit of getting used to but ultimately this is a good change as swiping a couple of sabers about is a lot different to pressing buttons. Once you get this technique nailed, then the game is actually very simple to grasp, That trailer I was talking about earlier, well that looks balls hard but once you actually play the game achieving the level of rhythmic beauty never seems out of reach.
Being a room-sized VR experience there is an opportunity to move. There are some obstacles that are thrown down the path in an attempt to mix things up a bit. To avoid these you must step either left or right or duck. Along with these obstacles, there are bombs which can be avoided in the same way. You can’t destroy these with your sabers however you must also dodge them. Now, having bombs to dodge I can understand, you need something to avoid and an extra peril to ramp up the tension, but the walls I just don’t get. They come along and add nothing to the game other than to make you move just for the sake of it. If you hit one, it’s instant death. I don’t know if it’s meant to be instant death, but a couple of times I hit a wall I died instantly, but a few times I didn’t. There is no energy bar so there is no clear indication if death is close or not. Overall, the walls just seem to be there to fill up space rather than add anything to the gameplay. Nothing worse than getting your groove on, dancing way slashing at the blocks then having to stop just to duck, and have to slash blocks in an awkward crouching position. An odd inclusion for sure, but they aren’t that regular so it’s not too bad.
There are some other cheap moves too. At times you can have two blocks approaching, with an up arrow, you’re prepared to give them an almighty chop, when suddenly they will either change to a down arrow or worse swap over so you’re having to fight your instincts to hit the respective blocks with the right coloured sword which are in the wrong position. It’s confusing to type and even more confusing for the brain when in the heat of the action. I can kind of understand why these switcheroos happen, but they just feel like cheap sucker punches.
Beat Saber has been around a while on PC and has been well received with particular mention given to the lack of latency on the Oculus version. There has been a worry about how the PSVR’s tracking tech will deal with such fast-paced activity. Well, I’ve never played the PC version but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the latency and the accuracy in the PSVR version is near perfect. Developers Beat Games have spent a lot of time making sure the sabers have weight, And with the subtle vibrations, it does feel like you’re swinging a light sword about. You can even touch sabers on screen and the tangible feeling it gives does make you feel like you’re actually holding something. With my time playing Beat Saber on PSVR I didn’t notice any latency or lag or inaccuracy. Every chop slice and swing made meaty contact with the oncoming blocks.
As with any rhythm game, it’s the music that makes it and Beat Saber on PSVR doesn’t disappoint. Not only does the game include the 11 tracks that appear on the PC version but it also features five brand new tracks exclusive to the PSVR version. The music is quality, and regardless of your musical tastes, you will like pretty much like all the tracks. Here is the full tracklist;
- $100 Bills
- Escape Ft. Summer Haze
- Legend Ft. Backchat
- Beat Saber
- Angel Voices
- Country Rounds Sqeepo Remix
- Balearic Pumping
- Commercial Pumping
- Lvl Insane
- Turn Me On Ft. Tiny C
- Rum N’ Bass [PSVR exclusive]
- Unlimited Power Ft. Frank Bentley [PSVR exclusive]
- I Need You [PSVR exclusive]
- Be There For You Ft. Kinnie Lane [PSVR exclusive]
- Elixia [PSVR exclusive]
There are some different modes available from the off. The first mode you should rightly head to is the tutorial which guides you through the basics. You also have a free play mode which means you can choose a track of your choosing, a difficulty setting and go to town with your two sabers and try and beat the high scores. There is also a party mode which creates a local leaderboard for some quick pass and play fun times.
But by far the most significant mode is the campaign mode which is new to the PSVR version. In this mode, the player is tasked with taking on a series of levels each with their own modifier. For example, the arrows will disappear or you have to reach a certain combo or have a minimum distance to swing your swords. It starts off easy enough but as you can imagine it gets a whole lot harder. It’s a great way to get gamers skill level up so they can tackle the harder songs but also is good because if you’re an expert, there is always a modifier that could be a banana skin for you.
While playing Beat Saber I experienced little to no discomfort at all (other than in my knees with bending down but that’s just because I’m old). This is mainly due to the fact you are you are standing still and there is no locomotion despite the onslaught of coloured cubes being flung at you, you never feel dizzy which is good as this game needs to be played standing up. The only downside I guess though is the endless cables that come with the PSVR, there is nothing more infuriating than nearing a 100% on a level only to get your left hand caught up in the headphone cable or one of the million other cables that snake their way around your body when playing on PSVR. That, of course, is no fault of the game.
Beat Saber is one hell of an addictive game. That ‘just one more go’ factor is ever present thanks to the easy pick up and play nature of the game. The new campaign mode and exclusive songs make this the ultimate Beat Saber package. Couple in the fantastic accuracy and how good it feels to wield two lightsabers makes this the go-to version of the game. The songs are quality and the gameplay is tight as you like and with rumoured song packs in the works, will hopefully make this game long lasting as there is a question of longevity. There are a couple of gameplay elements that puzzle me as to why they included them, just seems like they are trying to pad out a game that doesn’t need padding out. Still, one mans trash is another man’s treasure, so it’s all subjective.
Beat Saber is as good as you imagine it to be no doubt there and has joined the ever-growing list of must-play games on PSVR.
Beat Saber is available now on PC and PSVR (review version)
Developer: Beat Games
Publisher: Beat Games, Hyperbolic Magnetism
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. Please see our review policy for more information.