Hands On: The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR Is Massively Underwhelming So Far 1
Image: Push Square

At what point do we consider Until Dawn a curse? UK developer Supermassive has been trying to better the PS4 narrative horror for the best part of a decade, with both its ongoing The Dark Pictures anthology and standalone The Quarry coming up short. Now, based on the first half of our playthrough, we’re sad to report that the spiritual successor to PSVR’s Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, rails shooter The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR, is also shaping up to be a bit of a PSVR2 dud.

It’s important to remember that when it first released, Rush of Blood was widely considered one of the best virtual reality games you could buy. A literal rollercoaster ride, the interactive house of horrors took you on a tour of several creepy locales, and armed you with a weapon in each hand. The premise remains very much the same here, although this time the environments repurpose assets from the likes of Man of Medan and Little Hope.

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First up, the good stuff: the guns handle great, owing to pin-point tracking of the PSVR2 Sense Controllers and outstanding implementation of haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers. The team has incorporated just enough tension into the triggers to make it feel like you’re wielding a real weapon, without dialling up the resistance to a ridiculous degree like so many other third-party developers do. You can hit pretty much any target with immense precision, which is important, as shooting down marked objects will maximise your score.

The game also puts the PSVR2’s HDR panel to good use, resulting in some extremely dark environments that will leave you squinting into the distance. This obviously helps add to the atmosphere, although you’ll see the jump scares coming a mile away – perhaps we’re just too familiar with Supermassive’s tricks at this stage.

The problems, then? Well, there are a lot more enemy encounters in Switchback VR than Rush of Blood, and they’re not very good. Most foes will soak up your bullets without even flinching, including some unintentionally comical undead dogs which have some of the worst leaping attack animations we’ve seen in quite some time. For a game that’s relying so heavily on immersing you into its world, stuff like this really pulls you out.

It’s the lack of feedback that’s the killer, though. House of the Dead, a game that’s decades old these days, feels so great because each bullet inflicts obvious damage: body parts rip off, corpses stumble, and heads pop. You do get some satisfying splurges of blood as craniums collapse here, but only after you’ve unloaded an entire clip into an otherwise unaffected enemy. It gets worse during boss fights, where you’re firing what feels like hundreds of bullets without the game ever really communicating that you’re doing any damage at all.

It also doesn’t look particularly good. As we mentioned previously, the game definitely gets dark which heightens the sense of tension, but generally it all appears a bit muddy – and not in a good way either. There’s a real lack of colour across the board, and some of the special effects – like fire – just don’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s not appalling visually, but it also doesn’t come close to Horizon Call of the Mountain or Resident Evil Village – in fact, it’s a million miles off.

We should stress, however, that we’re yet to experience the “good bits”. Last minute access has left us with less than 24 hours to bring you a review, and given there are multiple routes you can take through the levels, we still need a lot more time to test the title properly. As such, we’re yet to actually see the vaunted “eye tracking” encounters, which purport to change each time you blink; we’re hoping these segments deliver, because the title could really do with a win.

For now, though, we’re feeling massively underwhelmed. We’d expected Switchback VR to kickstart the second wave of PSVR2 software in style, but we’re looking at a pretty bog-standard rails shooter at absolute best – and, if anything, the low budget nature of some of these encounters is making us think it may even fall short of that. At this point, we’ve come to accept that Supermassive will never topple Until Dawn – but based on this evidence, even Rush of Blood is looking out of reach as well.

We’ll bring you our full review of The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR later this week. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions about the game in the comments section, and be sure to check out our growing collection of All PSVR2 Games Reviews through the link.