Have you ever wanted to be a mixture of Darth Vader and Tiesto? Do you love lightsabers and rhythm-based music games? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this is the review for you. I have kept my eye on the development and publicity for this game for a while, I thought it looked unique and it was generating a lot of buzz on the VR scene. If you don’t know already or haven’t heard of the title before, it’s a VR game that equips you with a saber in each hand and has you chopping blocks coming towards you in time to an electronic dance soundtrack. The game sounds exceptional already doesn’t it? I knew I would love this game the minute I read about it.
Beat Saber does not have a story at all and definitely doesn’t require one, it’s your standard rhythm game affair, akin to games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, DJ Max and many others of it’s kind. In each of your hands is a saber, one red and one blue and they look and feel superb. You are presented with a song, or in this game, a banging dance track, and have to match its beat by slicing and chopping cubes that come towards you to the beat of the song. These cubes have arrows on them that designate which direction you must chop them and a colour, red or blue, to differentiate which sabre you need to use to chop it.
The perfect tracking and the feeling of the saber in your hands is a great experience, they crackle and glow while you’re swinging them around and spark when they touch, it’s just how I wanted VR sabers to be in a game, tactile and amazing. While songs are starting up I often tapped them together like a drummer and his drumsticks ‘tapping myself’ into a track, it’s brilliant. The haptic feedback on the moves also adds to the overall feeling, they vibrate when the chop or clash together and it really feels like you are slicing through something tangible. Along the way, there are a few hazards to watch out for like mines that are placed through the stages and red areas for you to dodge by moving around in the VR space. These red areas really change up the gameplay massively, sometimes you have to shift your body left and right to avoid them and even duck under them whilst still slicing through the blocks as required. It feels great to duck under one of these red hazards and cut a block either side if you in one motion like Kill Bill, it’s glorious. Sometimes the blocks move too to make your life a bit more difficult just as red and blue cube approach they swap positions. You must then cross your arms and slice the blocks with the opposite hand, it becomes natural over time though and just adds another layer to the gameplay.
You can start with the tutorial, as I did, it introduces you to the game and how to play it and is standard video game territory these days. It’s short, succinct and I was in the game within a few minutes knowing exactly what I was doing. It’s one of the great things with VR, everyone I demoed the game to knew exactly what to do straight away, even with very little video game experience. There are no buttons to remember, no long combos or menus to master, it’s just something we all have done before in real life. Essentially whacking blocks with a stick in your hand, even my mother who plays very little video games was a Beat Saber badass within minutes of starting. It’s very easy to get to grips with and anyone can play.
I then moved onto the campaign missions where the meat of the game lies, it’s a flowchart of various songs to work through at your own pace all with different modifiers and fail conditions. The stages start quite easy and build up the difficulty as you go, and I will state this now, things can get very tricky and take some time to complete. I reached stages last night where the arrows on the blocks disappear before they reach you, it took me a while to master the techniques but I changed my approach and my persistence paid off. The campaign missions are varied and the different modifiers make the stages unique, there is a lot to do and it will take some time to work through. The scoring system is nice too, giving more points for large swings and even cuts, rewarding big sweeping arm movements and really getting into the music. The timing is not a big factor and your cuts don’t have to be perfect, it’s refreshing and makes it so more people can enjoy it no matter how good you are at these types of games and even if your timing is off.
Along with the campaign you have a free play mode, par for the course on games like this. You can pick which song you want and your required difficulty and then try and beat scores on the high score tables. You can also add modifiers here too and mix things up, speed up and slow down the tracks to your liking. I tried a few songs on the top difficulty and believe me when I say this, I was not ready for that challenge. The notes were approaching me at light-speed and I could not keep track of what direction I needed to slice them in. I will definitely need more playtime before attempting that difficulty again. To complete that mode you will need some ninja-level reflexes which I hope to gain over my many hours playing this fantastic game.
The visuals on this game are beautiful, it’s one of the cleanest and well rendered PSVR games I have played. The UI is clean and not overcrowded and everything fits together and has a nice neon theme to it. Nothing is overly complicated and it’s all very intuitive, anyone with any amount of VR experience will feel at home and navigate through the game with ease. Within the game itself, all the cubes you have to chop are well rendered, clear and nothing is blurry or washed-out in any way. I never felt the resolution or graphics held it back in any way whatsoever and it’s all very pleasing to the eye. The sabers are designed very nicely and look amazing, they glow in the darkness of your VR arena and crackle away while you’re slicing and dicing through the games many stages. You can even burn the floor with them between tracks which I noticed while I was playing, it’s small touches like this that are not required but improve the immersion immensely.
The small but fully functional soundtrack is superb, big bass tunes to trance-like vocal numbers, it’s all here. Every track is a pleasure to chop your way through, the notes that you chop are also designed very well and compliment the music perfectly. You can sometimes predict the notes due to it being designed so well and this often helps in the harder difficulties. The music gets you pumped up to play and gets you dancing while you’re flailing your arms around like a crazy techno ninja. The feelings you get while playing are euphoric and I found myself still humming the music tracks long after finishing my session on the game. The promise of free and paid tracks down the line is also a bonus to keep you playing in the future. Beat Saber performs amazingly too and in a game where timing affects performance so much, this is critical. I never missed a note due to the game not performing and every mistake I made was my own fault, it was a smooth experience and runs perfectly.
This game is amazing, I have not felt like this playing a video game in a very long time. The feeling you get from slicing the cubes in VR is astounding. That paired with perfect move controller tracking, brilliantly designed songs and stages is a sight to behold. The cubes slice exactly where you slice them, the move controllers slightly rumble when you do so, making it feel like you are really chopping the cubes. The thumping music ties the experience together so well, all the tracks are good and work so well with the gameplay. It’s a euphoric experience that needs to be felt in person and a unique one at that. A nice campaign with varied stages and modifiers helps to mix things up and high score boards keep things fresh and increase replayability. Everyone who has visited my house and tried the game has loved it, it’s the most positive I think I have seen people when I have demoed PSVR games to friends. I also read a tweet the other day stating that a lot of free and paid for tracks are on the way and the devs are working hard behind the scenes. This means the future, as well as the present, is very bright for Beat Saber and it’s one of my favourite games of the year. Its superb and an experience anyone with a PSVR should enjoy first hand.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*