pistol whip style guide

Pistol Whip Style Guide

Latest posts by Linden Garcia (see all)

VR might not have yet launched us into the Ready Player One-style reality we’d hoped we’d have by now, but there’s one thing for sure: it’s redefined the rhythm game genre, making those clunky, space-hogging, musical instrument peripherals look like as big a joke as the Virtual Boy.

Like that ill-fated piece of technology, none of the rhythm-based games of the day truly captured the intrinsic rapture of rocking out to your favorite tunes or the satisfying impact of boxing to music. And so, as technological innovation moved on, those bits of plastic and the genre itself were left to gather dust and fade into obscurity [or onto a car boot sale stall].

And Yet! With the revolution of VR, everyone has once again jumped at the chance to flail around looking like an idiot once more—although now, at least you can’t see the people laughing at you.

Beat Sabre may have taken the world by storm as a true evolution of Guitar Hero or Rock Band, but let’s face it, that one video of that guy in the airport, admittedly killing it in-game, showed us plain and simple that we don’t look as cool as we think we do while slashing blocks to the pumping rhythm of Hundred Dollar Bills.

Playing pistol whip, however, doesn’t look quite as silly. Dare I say; I’ve even gotten compliments on being a crack shot while playing as my family watches the mirrored image on the TV [safely outside firing range of my inevitable John Wick-style flailing].

The whole thing is pretty stylish, so it’s fitting, then, that the last major update to the game was called Styles Mode, a fantastic way to reimagine the game for those who had mastered every portion of it. Having spent countless hours blasting away my cyberpunk adversaries with the new modifiers on offer, I’m here today to give you a definitive guide to this refreshing new mode. Let’s dive in!

Bottom Line Up Front

If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to read the entire article, here are the key points to take away:

  • Styles is an umbrella term encompassing a group of new settings and modifiers that have been added to the game in an update.
  • These new settings aim to offer a new way to play by effectively remixing classic levels you know and love.
  • Players can customize their own styles to include whichever weapons and modifiers they wish to combine.
  • There are a total of five different weapons to choose from [excluding duel-wielding pistols] and seventeen distinct modifiers in total.
  • The update is available for free to all players.

If you have a spare few minutes, be sure to check out the frequently asked questions section at the bottom of the article; it might save you some Googling!

How Styles Work

Pistol Whip

Remember those cheat codes you could enter for Golden Eye 007 on the N64? Like the one that turned Pierce Brosnan’s previously perfectly cephalometric skull into a stretched polygonal balloon? Well, Styles are similar to that [and there’s even one that enables you to do just this!].

Styles are, essentially, another word for level modifiers. They take classic levels and add new challenges, or even make the game easier. Above all else, they’re there to cause disruption to a formula you know and love and make old levels feel fresh again.

Styles are presented as a sort of card that contains several key pieces of information, and it’ll probably look a bit bewildering at first glance. So, let’s investigate each component to determine how you can get the most out of this truly game-changing new feature.

Once you select a scene as you normally would from the main panel, you’ll notice a new Style window surrounding the start button. This panel denotes which Style is currently active on the level you’re about to play. This can be altered to your liking as we’ll explore below.

By default, the level will be set to Classic: a single pistol with no modifiers, the standard way to play [and what I’d recommend sticking to for now if you’re a new player].

When you’re ready to start switching up your Styles, look to the left. You will now find a dedicated Styles menu here in which you can dial in a wide range of new parameters. There are multiple components to this screen, so let’s look at them one by one.

The Main Window

Once you select a given style, there are a few parameters you should take note of. On the left of the screen, you’ll find a graphic denoting the weapon type; this will determine how the weapon functions, altering aspects like rate of fire and ammo capacity.

Next to the weapon title are five slots, and these display what modifiers are currently applied to the Style to alter the game mechanics. Think of the modifiers as the defining elements of any given style, with each serving to add a new gameplay mechanic. Some Styles have only one modifier active, while others utilize all five slots. As such, there are many different combinations you can try out to stack these effects on top of one another.

You’ll also notice a series of bullets encapsulated in a neon green box. This is the intensity meter, and out of a maximum of three, the marker dictates how difficult a style is.

The intensity can vary in several different ways depending on the Style, whether it be how quick and agile you need to be, how effective enemies are, or aspects such as the duration of the level and how much endurance you need to make it through. All of these aspects are accounted for when considering the intensity level, which ultimately offers a recommended skill level for attempting the Style and having fun with it.

A graphic displaying the various different elements of a style card. — Cloudhead Games


With seventeen different modifiers to choose from and a myriad of ways to combine them, these new settings truly are at the heart of the style system. In my case, they even took a couple of the classic levels I didn’t like as much and made them some of my new favorites.

Modifiers come in two categories: Advantageous and Disadvantageous. Let’s take a look at both categories individually and the mods contained within them!

Advantageous Modifiers

As the name implies, these modifiers tend to make the game easier than it previously was, but not always. I found some of the modifiers in this category to be more neutral, simply adding a fun twist rather than making things less challenging. Here are each of them:

  • Unobstructed: Pistol Whip can be quite the workout at times, and maybe you don’t want that right now. If so, the “unobstructed” modifier is your friend. It removes all objects you’d ordinarily have to physically dodge out of the way, enabling you to focus solely on blasting. It’s also a great choice if you don’t have a lot of play space available.
  • One-Shot: The One-Shot modifier dictates that enemies only take a single bullet to go down, which is something I found to be a welcome change of pace. Thankfully, this mod still works well with each of the game’s music tracks, but it makes levels feel more methodical and deliberate. It tones down the later levels in the game, which verge on bullet hell, to foster playthroughs that are less noisy, both in the literal and non-literal senses.
  • Reinforced: Reinforced can be a great mod to use just to take the edge off of the often breakneck gameplay a little. It affords the player an extra shield, meaning times when they’d have originally succumbed, they get a second chance. This modifier is the best choice for levels that give you a rough time, but when you don’t want to negate the challenge too much by including something like Threatless or Bulletproof. 
  • Big Head: This one is pretty straightforward: all the enemies now have gigantic heads, which are advantageous in that they give you a much wider range to score a hit. I found this one perfect for use with beginners. It enables them to learn the rhythmic nature of the game without getting bogged down by the fidelity required to actually hit the enemy, which I found offered them a much less frustrating introduction. 
  • Low Velocity: This mod simply makes enemy bullets come toward you more slowly. I did find that this could throw off the intricately woven music a little, but if anything, it makes for a novel experience to try after you’ve done everything else. It can also be a good modifier to pair with the game’s slower, more methodical tracks, or maybe something to think about if you like to add your own music to the game.
  • Bottomless: The Bottomless modifier offers the player unlimited ammo, and I have to say, despite its simplicity, this is one of my favorite modifiers to use. Sometimes, the best alterations are the smallest, and I found this mod to enable me to get into the groove of the music more by removing the anxious necessity to check how many bullets I had left. Being one less thing to worry about does make the experience easier, but in that sense, it’s perfect if you’re looking to breeze through your favorite levels uninterrupted.
  • Bulletproof: Bulletproof represents Pistol Whip’s version of God Mode. What was once a command line in games of the 90s has now become a championed feature, though it’s probably my least favorite of the modes. Without the risk of dying, the mod saps away any semblance of haste, and it doesn’t even really teach beginners anything because they can essentially do what they want and still make it to the end. Perhaps you’ll find your own unique uses for it as you learn to develop your own custom modes, though!
  • Threatless: Threatless makes it so that enemies don’t fire back at you. Of course, this makes the game pretty easy, but because of that, it’s great to practice levels to get better at the more musical aspects if that’s something you struggle with. If you’re struggling with a particular stage, turning on Thretless can be used to familiarize yourself with the beats, patterns, and upcoming melodies so that you know them by heart. Then, when you turn it off, you’ll be better placed to tackle it. 

Disadvantageous Modifiers

Pistol Whip

These types of modifiers are going to make the levels harder for you in some capacity. They’re great for getting a sweat on with levels you used to breeze through, which, given Pistol Whip’s relatively short length, any veteran will be doing. Let’s take a look.

  • Scavenger: Scavenger makes the classic Pistol Whip melee mechanic the main focus of each level. It totally switches up your usual method of play by making it necessary to perform the movement to reload your weapon. This means you’ll have to rethink how you assess enemy movement, keep an eye on your ammo, and bait an enemy in for a devastating blow. It’s not one you’ll want to include in your Style all the time, but it’s a unique option to throw on once in a while.
  • Deadeye: Deadeye is easily one of my favorite modifiers in the game. While some options can feel a bit overkill in their efforts to make the game easier or harder, Deadeye takes away aim assist, meaning you’ll have to be much more deliberate and accurate with your shots. This simple change can vastly ramp up the difficulty of sequences you thought you could do with your eyes closed, so I highly recommend trying it out with your favorite levels.
  • Reckless: With the Reckless mod, the player has no shield. Naturally, I found I was darting around a lot more with this mod on, as every bullet was that much more deadly [perfect if you’re wanting a solid workout]. The mod is unique in that it doesn’t change anything acutely to make it more difficult, but it requires far greater focus to stay alive as you don’t get many chances.
  • Vengeance: The Vengeance modifier turns your own bullets back against you as they ricochet off the enemies directly back at the player. This is one of the most challenging modifiers to deal with in the game. It adds a whole new layer of complexity to an already frantically fast game, and many times I found it a little too much. I did find it to be good fun on the slower levels, though, especially when combined with some of the other advantageous modifiers above, so do some experimenting of your own.
  • Head Hunters: Head Hunters is the ultimate test of your aiming prowess, as kills only register when you hit an enemy in the head. In the base game, a hit is a hit, no matter where your bullets strike; you don’t get any special reward for gaining headshots, so this modifier is a welcome change for those that fancy themselves crack shots. In reality, I probably have this mod active on most of my re-runs of the classic levels these days. It makes the stage so much more engaging if you’ve been playing since launch!
  • Bullet Hell: I don’t think there’s any other mod on the list that is more appropriately represented by its name. Bullet Hell essentially provides every enemy in the game, no matter their strength, with what can only be described as a minigun on steroids. They’ll fire an endless stream of bullets, making for straight-up ridiculous fights on the harder levels. I found it most fun when I added bottomless and Low Voltage to the melting pot.
  • Disorder: If you’ve been playing Pistol Whip religiously for the last four years, enemy placements will be second nature; you’ll know exactly what to do and how to make sure you get through a stage in the fastest way possible and with the highest score. The game becomes routine by that point, but Disorder randomizes the enemy placement every time, essentially providing a brand new challenge every time you play. Combine other mods, and you’ve got infinite possibilities!
  • High Velocity: High Velocity is the exact opposite of Low Velocity — incoming bullets are made considerably faster. This has obvious implications as far as the added challenge goes, but I love it most when paired with Deadeye. The increased risk of having to dispatch an enemy with blisteringly fast accuracy before they kill you is a thrill like no other; it turns the game into one long cyberpunk western dueling match.
  • Heavies: Heavies is the best modifier to use if you’re looking for the ultimate test of your endurance. It gives all enemies double health, making the hardest enemies that ordinarily require four shots to down now take eight. Time is of the essence, as it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. 

My Top Styles

Pistol Whip

As someone who’s put a great deal of time into learning all I can about the ins and outs of the Styles system, I have developed a fair few favorites in that time.

So, to round off this guide, here are my personal favorites that I think you should consider giving a try. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down, but I’ve managed to choose some from each of the main categories: Casual, Advanced, and Fitness. I haven’t included any Styles from the Basic category: this category mostly just includes basic weapon alterations, but be sure to have a look there regardless for some cool two-bullet intensity modes.

Boundless Power

  • Modifiers: Bottomless
    Category: Casual
    Intensity: One Bullet

The process of reloading is essential to the overall challenge in the main campaign, driving the importance of efficient multitasking as you focus on rhythm, accuracy, and utility all at once.

When you want to focus mostly on rocking out just as much as attaining a high score, though, there’s no better way to do it than letting rip with this Styles’ duel pistols with unlimited ammo. It’s a great warm-up style that I always go for first as soon as I boot up the game, and like a couple of the others below, it’s an excellent choice if you’re diving into the Styles system for the first time.

Bullet Storm

  • Modifiers: Bottomless, Vengeance, Heavies, and Bullet Hell
    Category: Fitness
    Intensity: Three Bullets

Bullet Storm might be the least fitness-focused Style currently available, but that doesn’t make it any less effective! Where other styles meticulously tailor their rhythmic structure around the body movements they necessitate, this Style works by entirely throwing the player out of their comfort zone.

It utilizes four of the most intense Disadvantageous Modifiers available to ensure fast movement at all times. There’s no real structure to how you’ll be jumping about to avoid the onslaught you face, but that doesn’t really matter; between tirelessly pushing back your heavily defended enemies and simultaneously avoiding the relentless ricocheting of your own bullets, I challenge anyone not to get a sweat on while playing with the Bullet Storm style.

Thankfully, the included Bottomless modifier means you at least won’t have to worry about reloading, so there is some saving grace!

John Whip

Pistol Whip Gameplay

  • Modifiers: Dead Eye; One Shot
    Category: Advanced
    Intensity: Three Bullets

Admittedly, this is the second allusion to Chad Stahelski’s highly successful series of action flicks, but it’s with good reason. Many modifier pairings work really well together, but Dead Eye and One Shot are a match made in heaven.

The great thing about this style is that it really forces you to feel the music; with being required to land one perfect hit, every shot is impactful, and knowing you made the hit without the use of aim-assist is doubly satisfying. What results is both a substantially increased challenge and a significantly different but fun method of playing through each level.

Disadvantageous modifiers, if paired wrong, can often make levels less enjoyable in favor of a large difficulty spike and the challenge that comes with it, but the John Whip Style balances everything perfectly.

Bullet Bag Stake Out for Two

  • Modifiers: Vengence; Heavies
    Category: Fitness
    Intensity: Three Bullets

Realistically, every option in the fitness category can provide a great workout, and in a variety of unique ways, too. But it was Bullet Bag Stake Out for Two that I found to hone the best balance between fun and hard work.

The style is clever in its modifier pairings: you’ve got both Vengence and Heavies turned on, meaning that you’re going to be ducking, weaving, and squatting twice as much as you already would. Duel revolvers have a risk-reward element, as you’re tempted to fire at two different enemies at once to save time, but you’ll then need to take into account the fact that your bullets will be flying right back at you in multiple directions!


  • Modifiers: Bullet Hell
    Category: Fitness
    Intensity: Three Bullets

Three guesses for which category this Style belongs to. Sweaty is a simple alteration that removes your guns altogether, turning Pistol Whip into a frantic bare-knuckle brawn.

If things were not hectic enough, the mode adds the Bullet Hell Modifier into the mix. The package comes together to ensure you’re ducking and weaving at every second of each level. Where other Fitness Styles have a strong sense of rhythm akin to the feel of the base game, the Sweaty Style does away with most of that in favor of non-stop action — at least, in the traditional sense.

The Style ultimately harnesses a new sense of rhythm: you’ll spend five to ten seconds dodging automatic weapons from all angles, and then eliminate your assailants by satisfyingly punching them in the face. It should be noted that the intensity level of this one is no joke, particularly when used on later levels. It’s most definitely the most difficult fitness Style I’ve played, which also makes it one of the best!


Pistol Whip Gameplay

  • Modifiers: Reckless, Deadeye, Scavenger, Disorder, and Vengence
    Category: Advanced
    Intensity: Three Bullets

For me, the Lunacy Style represents the ultimate challenge. There are a few other Styles that stack the modifiers slot to the brim with an assortment of Disadvantageous Modifiers but have spent a lot of time with each, I found Lunacy to present the best balance.

Of course, I suppose that depends on how you define the word ‘balance’, as this Style is a far cry from the meticulous blend of rhythm and shooting from the base campaign. With no shield and ricocheting bullets, the mode puts your accuracy to the test and you can’t waste even one bullet.

Adding to this greatly enhanced risk is the necessity to perform the Pistol Whip to reload. The Style is based on accuracy — to hone your skills and be precise and careful. Ordinarily, it’s easy to be lulled into the security of aim assist and shields, so if you’ve mastered the game with those crutches, now is the time to take them off!

Big Brain Billy

  • Modifiers: Dead Eye and Big Head
    Category: Advanced
    Intensity: Three Bullets

The Big Brain Billy Style is the perfect example of how different modifiers can complement each other: your aim assist might be turned off, but all the enemy’s heads are bigger.

While it might seem so at first, this doesn’t have a neutralizing effect. Despite the larger heads the enemies still remain harder to hit than they are in the base campaign, so the Style offers a suitable increase in intensity but with some leeway afforded. I had a lot of fun with this one: it’s great when you want to switch things up with an advanced style of play, but don’t presently wish to embark across the hellscapes of the harder Styles.

This is also a great option for your first introductory Style, and the addition of the duel revolvers really makes the prospect of blasting away bobble-headed enemies all the more enticing!


Question: Is the update available on the PSVR version of Pistol Whip?

Answer: Absolutely! When you load the game up, you should have full access to the Style System and the Smoke and Thunder campaign that came with the update.

Question: Is it possible to make the game unplayable by adding a particularly difficult combination of modifiers to a custom style?

Answer: Technically, I don’t think so. But it can actually be pretty easy to cross the barrier between enjoyably difficult and borderline impossible.

Of course, there’s always going to be someone who persists and manages to beat a stage you determined was not worth the effort, but that’s different. Slapping on Bullet Hell, Head Hunter, and High Velocity will guarantee you a style of gameplay that doesn’t gel with Pistol Whip’s intricately crafted, rhythm-based mechanics, for example.

Question: Will there be any more updates like this for Pistol Whip?

Answer: Yes! You can view the currently in-motion road map here. The next two updates include a brand new official modding tool called Pistol Mix, which will enable players to create and share their own scenes [a huge deal!] as well as a collection of five new scenes that are set to release sometime later in 2023.

Pistol Whip Style Guide: Conclusion

I hope this article was informative for you, and I hope you have a great time besting your scores all over again with these new additions. If you want to take your Pistol Whip even further than what the developers offer, check out my other article on how to add your own custom songs to the game.

If you’re interested in checking out other VR rhythm games, have a read of my Hit Stream review; like Pistol Whip and Beat Saber before it, this one will get your heart pumping if you’re looking for a tough cardio workout. I should also note that, if you didn’t know, Pistol Whip has a vibrant community online. Check out the Pistol Whip board on Reddit if you’d like to engage with it. Until next time, have fun!

Read More: Best VR Gaming Gear to Get Started-My Top Recommendations

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