Something exciting is happening on PlayStation VR right now. A couple of years into its life, we’re starting to see developers really get to grips with the hardware. It’s always the way – early titles are often the most experimental, testing the waters to see what can be achieved. With virtual reality, it’s a whole new way of playing, a whole new way of experiencing games. But that doesn’t mean what’s old doesn’t work, we just need to open our minds a little and get out of the slump.
It turns out that VR is a fine way of revisiting classic ideas and making them new again. Tetsuya Mizuguchi saw to that just recently with his dazzling and emotion-inducing affair with Tetris Effect, revitalising the most classic and worn of titles. Now, we have the abrupt amalgamation of Guitar Hero – yes, we know, the world moved on, right? – and, wait for it, Star Wars. Why we didn’t see this one coming is alarming in hindsight because now that it’s here it just works and it’s one hell of a ride.
It’s probably fair to say that most of us have thrown out our plastic guitars by now – and God forbid if you ever went full Rock Band. Thankfully, no such trifles are required here, just a couple of those old PS Move wands, a sense of rhythm, and a healthy appreciation of ‘70s space opera. In fact, you probably don’t even need to care for Star Wars to dig Beat Saber and there’s certainly no official connection here, but if you’ve ever wanted to swing around a couple of lightsabers to the rhythm of your own awesomeness (is that a little dubstep we hear?), this is it.
A basic premise it may be, but Beat Saber is an exhilarating ride down the neon-infused Tron-like corridors of techno heaven. As the luminous lights shoot by, coloured boxes grow larger as they fly towards you. Ignore the mines, dodge the bollards, and hit the angled boxes from the correct axis with the matched saber to the beat of some badass beats, and when you get good, boy do you feel good. Epic, even. The controllers shake satisfyingly with each successful hit. Crank up the difficulty and master the corridor, and you’re as close to being The Last Samurai as Tom Cruise ever was.
You’ll feel a little damp afterwards and perhaps a little daft, if not because of the sweat – this is a hell of a workout on the higher difficulties – then maybe because you got caught unbeknownst on camera in the middle of a marathon session with noise-cancelling headphones by your supposedly better half. Inside it’s a ninja fest, but on the outside you look like a mug. But no matter, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and time melts away when you hit your stride with Beat Saber. It’s exhilarating at times.
Perhaps if we’re being pedantic we’d point out the potentially limited amount of tracks on offer – there are only ten, although the developer has said more are on the way – and also the lack of variety in style. A custom track creator, perhaps using the system-level integration of Spotify, would undoubtedly take this to the next level. But the assortment on offer is so well catered to the kind of experience on offer we’d be remiss for knocking it too much, especially given the reduced price.
Frankly, any game that gets us to bust-a-move like this is onto a winner – and lest we forget, there may be embarrassing video evidence to support it.
Beat Saber is a thrilling rhythm game that makes ideal use of virtual reality to envelop you in an enthralling tour down the coloured highway, time after time. We suspect it’s the kind of game that will resonate with just about anyone, VR sceptic or not, and it’s an essential addition to any PlayStation VR owner's library.