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The first Vr game you likely heard of was Beat Saber. Takes to those beam sabers, Rhythm games are a staple of any VR library. However, many haven’t heard of its most significant contender, Pistol Whip.
A rhythm game is classified as one where gaining points depends on striking targets based on the level’s song, with points are given based on how on the beat you can be. This game genre can almost be considered the next evolution of a media player’s visualizer.
With the addition of VR, that musical immersion is taken to a new extreme. Instead of entering these worlds when spaced out watching stars fly past your computer screen, you are in the visualizer. So how do you know you are starting off with the best the genre offers?
Having a guy obsessed with these types of games since they made a controller in the shape of a guitar test it out, of course!
Bottom Line Up-Front
Pistol Whip is a self stylized John Wick experience given its own wild personality. This Rhythm-based game saw Beat Saber’s lightsabers and, with moxie, decided to prove that lasers don’t always mean their best.
The Miyamoto Musashi to Pistol Whip’s john Wick, Beast Saber gives you a pair of beam sabers to slice apart the music rushing towards you. Beat Saber is the game that brought BR to many people’s attention and has proven itself a staple and a foundation to any list of VR classics.
Main Differences Between Pistol Whip vs Beat Saber
The main differences between Pistol Whip and Beat Saber are as follows:
- Pistol Whip on the Oculus store offers cross-buy for Quest 2 and PCVR/Oculus rift users. Whereas Beat Saber does not, meaning you have to buy Beat Saber twice if you use Air Link and want to play on the PC.
- Pistol Whip lets you make use of one or two pistols, revolvers, shotguns, and melee weapons. Whereas Beat Saber makes use of one or two sabers.
- Pistol Whip will have modding capabilities in the future. Whereas Beat Saber has had it available for a few years.
- Pistol Whip has two short story-driven campaigns complete with bosses. Whereas Beat Saber’s campaign is more of a playlist of levels with added objectives.
- Pistol Whip has a total of 30 songs without mods. Whereas Beat Saber includes 37 base songs, with 97 more available through DLC for a total of 134 songs before modding.
- Pistol Whip‘s levels are built for each individual song. Whereas Beat Saber‘s levels are only different based on the pack they come from or making use of the game options.
Both Pistol Whip and Beat Saber base their gameplay around Rhythm at their core. However, everything from your weapon to how you get more points is drastically different.
Pistol Whip’s classic weapon is the single pistol. However, you can switch between everything from semi-automatic with intelligent 4-round bursts to a freakin’ pencil with the Styles. So far, updates have added the aforementioned smart guns, revolvers, shotguns, and dual-wielding. In their campaign setlist, levels are built around each weapon’s unique mechanics.
Points are earned based on how close to the beat you are when you fire. The aim isn’t entirely crucial, as a forgiving aim-assist is part of the classic gameplay. Should you consider this too easy, though, modifiers exist that not only remove aim assist but can also add more difficulty or fun. There is even a big head mode.
Enemies will be skinned based on the style of map you are playing on. Suited goons are the classic target. The two campaigns added different skins in the Bandits and Cyborgs of their respective campaigns. Relative to their skins, these enemies will show that they take more than one hit through body armor and, in some cases, are beefy 4-hit tanks with full riot gear.
Of course, the pistol whip is what will also net you the top marks. If the enemy is close enough, crack them across the face with your pistol.
As for what eliminates you, unless you adjust it using a style modifier, you have one hit point and one piece of armor. Don’t worry, though, because your armor will be restored after landing enough shots based on your difficulty level. In addition, bullets have longer air time than reality, so it is simply dodging and ducking.
Occasionally, there will be physical objects to dodge and duck under. For example, some cheeky enemies find it necessary to test your ducking and dodging abilities by shooting at you while you duck under a platform.
As the name implies, your primary weapon will be two beam sabers. These sabers come in two colors, indicating which note-block you need to hit. These blocks will come in pairs, with more difficulty found in consecutive notes that may or may not require a precise strike.
The blocks will include either a direction indicating which way to strike it, as failing to hit it properly will count as a miss. As opposed to Pistol Whip, the note block will be in reach when it is on the beat, so the points are scored based on how centered your strikes are.
Sometimes the blocks will be flanked by bombs, which you simply have to avoid hitting when you strike the block near it. Your other ‘enemy’ will be titanic transparent blocks that you will have to dodge or duck until they pass by.
Failure is based on a meter on the bottom of your visual hud. Unless given an objective such as in the campaign. Successful strikes raise the bar while misses and failures lower it.
Pistol Whip has a far more cohesive theme. In addition, the variance in gameplay choices gives more chances to shake things up. While the essence of both involves targets moving down an on-rails level, the Pistol Whip method is far more engaging and empowering.
I mean. I beat a level with a pencil. A freakin’ pencil.
A Campaign for a rhythm game like these two contenders showcases the game’s best features. While not necessary to a Rhythm game, its inclusion is a welcome bit of replayability. It can also be seen as a training schedule to hit the top of the leaderboards.
While Pistol Whip didn’t initially launch with a campaign, the game has updated to include two full campaigns at the time of writing this article.
Both include 5 levels based entirely around a genre/movie style with songs that perfectly bring you into the moment. Each campaign completely reskins the game. Each finished off with a final boss battle that tests both your abilities in the classic game and the new mechanics added to each campaign.
2089 throws you into an apocalyptic cyberpunk world with heavenly to heart-pounding electronic music. The world has been overrun and destroyed by machines, and only one hero and their action-swagger voice can take them down. All culminating in a battle through a crumbling city against a massive robotic ship and the last dying gasps of the robot rebellion.
Smoke & Thunder was the second campaign released and only improved on this formula. You are but in the boots of a dual-wielding gunslinger out to collect their morally misguided sister. The levels include all the western staples. From wit-slinging your way out of a Saloon and through a western town to shotgun slinging through the mines.
Even a corridor rush through a speeding train. The boss is the stand-out, as I was a massive fan of Wild Wild West as a kid. Questions about my movie taste as a child aside, that movie included a beautifully visualized giant robotic spider. So guess what we get to fight into the sunset in Smoke & Thunder?
Thanks to the speed, physical dexterity, and timing required to make it through the Expert and Expert+ difficulties, Beat Saber has a surprisingly high skill ceiling. But, again, this is something Beat Saber’s campaign feels built around.
As you progress through the maps, you are given progressively more difficult bonus objectives on top of the gradually increasing difficulty of the songs themselves. In addition, some of the options allow you to choose a more accessible version of the objective if you feel it is too much of a challenge to progress from that stage.
However, the levels themselves are an excellent tread through the game’s pre-existing songs using the general mechanics with some twists. They do not change anything up visually, but they give you plenty of challenges to beef up your Saber Skills.
Pistol Whip let me fight through a western movie, complete with voice acting and comic-panel cutscenes. You take down a giant robotic spider flanked by bandits!
So, of course, I am giving this one to Pistol Whip. My nickname is Boots. It is practically contracted to my nickname. The desert sunset that we took that battle into required me to rest my heart for fear the excitement would wear out its valves.
As VR’s main draw is its ability to immerse you into the game’s reality, the level design is essential.
Pistol Whip embraces the concept of bringing you into the world of the beat. I often listened to music I liked while putting myself or characters cobbled together through power fantasies. This is as if the director of Baby Driver had gotten hold of the fundamental structure of reality.
Enemies spawn in or rush you in tune with the beat while the lines and structure of reality bounce and dance to the song. Not enough to become nauseating or disorienting, however. Only when the beat really sets in.
Each level is also very clearly made with each song in mind. The reloaded setlist, in particular, shows this concept off well. The Song Dark Skies has you rushing through a large plane to take out its captain, fittingly the final scene.
Where the campaign expands this idea across five songs, each song individually acts as a ‘kill-your-own-hooligan’ adventure. Built specifically for the music you throw on each scene.
I have heard the levels of Beat Saber best described as a Vr music visualizer. There will be familiar aspects to any rhythm game-players. The notes coming at you from the horizon while tricks sneak their way in.
There are variations between the song packs, with the most apparent difference coming from the band-centered packs such as Linkin Park’s subway tunnels and Green Day’s mighty fist.
You do not have to play any of the songs using the default colors, as you can switch to even levels from song packs you don’t own in the color override option in the settings to the menu’s immediate left.
Where Beat Saber has levels can that work with any song thrown at it, Pistol Whip’s levels feel built just for the piece it was built for. This makes Pistol Whip the effortless winner. Also, again, a giant robotic spider fight into the sunset. That is just one of the countless set pieces that will make your breath hitch in those moments it allows you to catch it.
A rhythm game is nothing if it doesn’t have a prime music collection. If the person in charge of putting the setlist together lacks taste, so will the game they are working for.
Beat Saber doesn’t skimp out on its song list. Being the game that set the stage for VR Rhythm, it came to the battle swinging.
The base game comes with a massive 37 songs. In addition, DLC is constantly being added, with 97 songs available across 13 packs centered around bands such as Billie Eilish, Linkin Park, Lady Gaga, and Fall Out Boy. This makes the entire official Beat Saber setlist a staggering 134 tracks.
If that isn’t a large enough selection for you, the modding community has made it so the game’s PC version will never get stale. The headset version is theoretically capable of this, but Oculus/Meta’s terms and agreements dislike modded copies of Beat Saber.
Pistol Whip initially launched with only ten songs. Still, that number has rapidly increased to 30 over multiple updates. The two most recently added are an added level inspired by the two campaigns.
Numbers don’t lie, and Beat Saber is the clear winner in song selection, even without the support for custom songs. It has a vast array of genres to choose from and the ability to quadruple the number of songs through DLC. Infintesimalize it when you add the customs mods into the equation.
Vr rhythm games have a general air of fitness about them. It might be the sweat, but there is a near-unanimous opinion that a VR rhythm game is a fun way to get fit. Is that true, though?
How fit you get with Pistol Whip depends entirely on how you play. Your arms will get moderately tired from aiming rapidly, but it is the bullet-dodging that will make you need to rest after a few songs.
For a better workout and your health & safety, I suggest you train your muscle memory to duck rather than lean to avoid a bullet. It is much easier to duck into a proper horse stance or kneel than to yank your spine around like a sapling in the wind. Doing so will also be a fantastic workout for your glutes and core.
Pistol Whip’s fitness is all about dodging bullets. Beat Saber’s fitness is all about keeping up. Easy and Normal might not be giving you sweat, and if that is the case, ramp the difficulty up.
If you really want a workout, find the songs that include 90 or 360-degree modes. Then, switch your style from Miyamoto Musashi to Kenodo or Fencing with the single saber mode to get that arm aching.
Like Pistol Whip, there is more fat to be burned based on how you play the game. If you keep your body still and slice about, you will only get half of the worth out of your new exercise program. Become one with the beat; move to the moment. Let the arrows on the blocks guide you. Bend the knees, dodge the blocks with flair, and be a maniac on that floor.
After extensive testing using hour-long workouts, each day focused on one game, I can personally attest that Pistol Whip is the more intense workout. A bullet coming at you is not a suggestion to duck. Instead, it is a commandment your entire body will be forced to follow as your instinct to live makes you avoid it.
This is why I implore you to try and train your muscle memory to duck. Let my pain prevent yours, and my damaged disk is the last wounded vertebrae. I am fine; it healed, no flowers.
What’s Worth a Continental Gold Coin?
So you’re looking to hire yourself a top-lister to add to your workout. Before I give you my top pick, let’s look at our contenders through fresh eyes. Let me tell you what’s worth those precious gold coins of yours in both of them.
Pistol Whip is like if someone took the act of making a mental music video, distilled it, and made a video game based on it. The level designs, music choices, and enemy placement feel built around one true and final goal: Making you feel as badass as the Baba Yaga. In every category, Pistol Whip succeeded in that.
- Beautiful Level Design
- Engrossing Campaign setlists.
- Heart-pounding final boss battles.
- Masterfully selected songlist.
- Style-customization allows for endless replayability.
- You can customize both your weapon’s look and the colors for that look.
- While confirmed for an official release, the game currently does not include modding.
- Compared to Beat saber, the game’s setlist is lacking.
- The vibrating surroundings might be bad for epileptics and those sensitive to strobing lights.
- Poor form when dodging bullets can pull your back.
Beast Saber practically invented the gameplay loop the Vr Rhythm game is based on. While there are notes of the guitar heroes and rock bands of the past. Beat Saber took that beast and made the genre its own. Its status as a titan in this class can easily be seen in the song choices and the care taken to ensure that the gameplay loop was as addictively amazing as possible.
Once you discover your grip style and get moving, you’ll find yourself mixing flourishing dance moves with epic dual-wielding poses as you dance and murder like no one is watching. There are no judgmental eyes in the metaverse, only pixels.
- Largest official song list of currently available rhythm games.
- Long-lasting DLC and update support.
- Has that toss-on and play gameplay loop perfected.
- Easy to play, but mastering the expert difficulties takes a large amount of skill compared to Pistol Whip’s hard mode.
- Single Saber and Degree modes both add replay value to the songs that support it.
- The level design is a glorified audio-visualizer when compared to Pistol Whip.
- Thanks to Oculus/Meta’s terms of service, modding the Quest 2 version of Beat Saber can be impossible. As Oculus will refuse to let you play it until you reinstall it.
- There is no option to customize your sabers.
The winner is clearly Pistol Whip. Not that Beat Saber isn’t worthy of its champion belt and capable of endless hours of entertainment, Pistol Whip is the surgical equivalent. But, again, the passion and charm of this title’s developers ooze through. You can feel this game was made for them to enjoy while we are thankful enough to be along for the ride.
To me, the best VR experiences are the ones that feel like you are Charlie being led into the chocolate factory. You get to experience it and enjoy it.
Still, somewhere in your mind, you think your entertainment was meticulously planned out by Wonka himself. In this case, the goal wasn’t the world’s weirdest case about Child Labor. Instead, it made you feel as unstoppable as John Wick while rocking out and, potentially, getting fit.
If you haven’t tried it out, you don’t have much practice dodging bullets yet! That should make it easy for you to bite the bullet on this buy.
Every level of Ragnarok sets you at the stern of a Viking ship helmed by your brethren. Don’t think you can slack off just because you’re standing high and pretty. Your job is to handle the drums!
The most crucial part of any Viking ship, every successful hammer strike encourages your soldiers to row with all the more oomph. The settings and music all fit the theme beautifully, with your very first mission being to inspire your crew to paddle into the gates of Asgard.
We have covered swords, pistols, and Viking drums. Of course, we have to mention some proper dancing! Synth Riders is unique in that its gameplay feels more like dancing than its competitors.
Gameplay involves two colored balls where your hands are, and you simply have to make sure the colored notes coming at you are hit by the right ball.
The combo-connected paths of notes are where you will really feel yourself dancing, with the electro-swing songs really translating well here. I truly felt like I was being taught to properly ‘snap and swing.’
Question: Can the Quest 2 Users Mod Beat Saber to use Custom Games?
Answer: The method is available online. However, there is currently a disagreement between Oculus/Meta and the player. Oculus somehow does not believe buying both the headset and the game means they should be allowed to mod their game the same way as PC users can. I’m not bitter; they’re bitter!
Question: Can Pistol Whip be Modded?
Answer: While there are methods for modding Pistol Whip currently available, it is limited in what the creator wishes to do. Thankfully, Cloudhead has confirmed content planned for the future and official Mod Support!
Question: What did you Mean by Beat Saber’s Grip Style?
Answer: Thanks to the nature of beat saber’s gameplay, the grips themselves don’t necessarily have to be held with the same certainty as, say, a gun. Due to this, the community has developed several hand gripping styles. Fortunately, these might be just the thing keeping you from being the song saber samurai you dream of being.
There are also various third-party attachments available to allow you to, for example, take to the beat like Darth Maul. As I have yet to try using this attachment, your mileage may vary. Personally, I think it looks like it’ll make the side-by-side notes impossible.
It has never been so good to own a headset and adore VR. It doesn’t matter if you are more of a swordmaster or a gunslinger; there is a flavor there for you. That is the magic of this style of gameplay.
Just because I adore Pistol Whip more than Beat Saber doesn’t mean I dislike Beat Saber in the slightest! I personally enjoy the style of pistols more than sabers due to personal preference. However, when I want to wield a blade, I admit other options spring to my mind.
Both are well worth your time and efforts, but I hope you found what you were looking for in my comparison. Regardless, have a marvelous one.