It is an irrefutable fact that it is impossible to look cool holding plastic instruments. Despite how fun it was to jam out to some of your favorite songs in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band heyday, holding a tiny plastic guitar is kind of silly. It is a testament to how fun those games were, that despite how ridiculous we knew we looked, in the middle of a kickass guitar solo, we felt cool. That is the power of a great game: to immerse oneself so deep into a new world, that reality ceases to exist. Can you imagine that feeling inside virtual reality?
Enter developer Beat Games’ latest, Beat Saber. Thankfully, there are no plastic instruments here, unless you count the two Move controllers you’ll need to play. And you aren’t playing the drums or a guitar, you’re swinging lightsabers. Legally, I’m sure the folks at Beat Games would prefer I call them laser swords, but we’re all friends here. Hell, even Disney’s top lawyer would have to admit this is a pretty great use of a laser sword.
The game is incredibly simple and goes like this: red and blue boxes come at you in rhythm to the music. You swing your red sword at the red boxes and the blue sword at the blue boxes. Each box has an arrow indicating the direction in which you chop. As I said, simple. I know what you’re thinking: the Move controllers are junk and the tracking is going to be terrible. Stop it. With the right setup, the controllers, although outdated and in dire need of a redesign, perform nearly perfectly. I’ve played for hours, and I can promise you, all of the missed cuts have been on me, and not the admittedly flawed tech.
You’re not just slicing boxes here, however. We’re in VR after all, so you’ll also have to dodge some obstacles. There are bombs that you want to avoid and giant neon boxes that you’ll have to duck or dodge left or right. Chopping boxes while ducking and dodging was a fun way to increase the difficulty, and a great way to incorporate the incredible immersion that you can’t get outside of virtual reality.
Like any great rhythm game, you’ll eventually get into a flow state where the boxes practically chop themselves. This only happens when you combine painstaking development and excellent music mapping with the right song. Speaking of the songs, you’ll get the ten that came with PC version plus five PSVR timed exclusives (Only fifteen!? I’ll get to this later). We’re mostly dealing with original tracks from composer and EDM artist Jaroslav Beck and Beat Saber developer Jan Ilavsky. I would not have chosen EDM music as the backbone of a new VR rhythm game. Thankfully, they didn’t ask me, because it works great. With the lightsabers, the neon lights and the excellently mapped mix of EDM songs, the sense of awe and power is awesome.
I started out with the Free Play mode. It allows you to pick the song, one of four different difficulty settings, and a bunch of different modifiers. I didn’t get into the modifiers much at first, instead, choosing to play through the songs in normal and then hard. After hours of playing, the hard difficulty is still more than I can handle on most tracks, and I know the Expert level may always be out of my reach, but it is something to strive for. They are also adding an expert + level for those gamers who are particularly strong with the Force.
With family over for the holidays, we got a chance to try out the Party Mode. It was a huge hit with everyone and made for a great time with friends and family. Along with the five extra songs, the PSVR version also got a new campaign mode. It turns out it’s a great intro to the game, as it forces you to try the myriad of modifiers that the game has to offer. In other words, you’ll have to complete some levels where the arrows disappear before they reach you, or with no arrows at all. It’s a satisfying way to play, and another reason to boot up the game, when it doesn’t really need another reason.
If there is a downside, it’s the number of songs. As I said, I’ve played Beat Saber for hours and already feel that I’ve received my thirty dollars worth, but fifteen songs won’t last forever, even fifteen good songs. The good news, however, is that Beat Games has already confirmed new songs are on the way. Speaking at an official livestream Q&A, members of the Beat Saber team said that thirty plus free songs are coming in addition to three ten packs of songs for $10 each. And with the games continued success on the PC and this great PSVR version, I have no doubt the tracks will keep coming for those who want to keep the party going. But if you’re worried about the game’s value right now, don’t. The value is already there in my opinion.
Swinging lightsabers in this fantastically created world, with this intense music, makes you feel like a badass Jedi. Not a badass Jedi killing bad guys, but one on a long weekend, out on the town, partying with his or her buds. You still don’t look particularly cool doing it, but who cares? You sure won’t.
Beat Saber is an excellent addition to a growing list of great PSVR games. You probably didn’t know that you needed another rhythm game in your life, but you do. The soundtrack, although small, is excellent and the Move tracking is right on track. Whether you prefer to play alone through the campaign, or with friends in the Party mode, there is something for everyone here.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game purchased by the reviewer at retail. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.
When Jeremy isn’t writing books or playing video games, he’s living his life one random movie references at a time.