Billed as a rhythm shooter that sort of puts you inside a John-Wick-Meets-Equilibrium movie, Pistol Whip seems to be getting a huge mixed bag of reviews and comments on social media — ranging from game play to price tag. So what is going on? Should you buy Pistol Whip or not?
Let me preface this article by stating this is not a “proper review” for Pistol Whip (PW from now on). That will come later.
I’ve been following the discussion of this new (controversial?) game on r/OculusQuest on Reddit and felt compelled to respond to some of the game’s criticisms and questions on several threads.
What’s a guy to do with this information from a social network that scrolls messages off every 1.5 minutes? Write a Medium article!
The game appears to have a “love/hate” relationship from a game play point of view and a lot of discourse surrounding the $24.99 price tag.
Like Jessie Ventura says, “Follow the money!” so we’ll start with the cost of the game.
PW seems to “enjoy” a lot of comments about the game being “too expensive” at the asking price point of $24.99.
While tastes and preferences cover all sorts of gambuts, if we remove some passion out of the equation, we can see that this game is not really out of line price-wise.
At the time of writing, there are 16 other games that are the same price as or more expensive than PW. I haven’t done a count yet of the total experiences available (my gut says about 120 total, native experiences exist), but that equates to more than 10% of Oculus Quest games are the same price or higher. This isn’t a 1% overpriced game.
You could arguably say that a lot of swill flows through the gaming market as a whole, at $59 and up (along with endless microtransactions, battle passes and such nonsense) — and people gobble it right up. I mean, you head over to r/CallOfDuty and not one person is complaining about the price.
I think the bigger issue of contention within the community is that a lot of the same folks complaining that there aren’t enough new games coming out, there is insufficient content, release dates are slipping, etc. are the same ones expressing issue about a brand new (mostly well-received) game being a mere $5 more than a large majority of the games on the platform.
Many people have pointed out that Oculus offers a <2 hour played return policy (like Steam) so there is pretty much no risk (other than tying up $25 for a few days — waiting for a refund) to trying the game out.
But oddly, there is a legitimate argument here and it leads us to our next topic; it isn’t an instant gratification game; it requires a decent amount of time to acclimate to the strengths of the title — and 2 hours may just not be enough for players to “get it”.
Greed Gaming — It Isn’t About Instant Gratification
I’m pretty sure I cracked the code on why there is such a disparity between opinions of this game and it goes back to a gaming concept that is largely forgotten.
In my opinion, greed as a concept is so important in video gaming that I wrote an entire article on it here. Recommended reading before continuing this story. But for those that don’t like to hop off down another rabbit hole …
The act of taking potentially life-threatening actions in the hopes of a commensurate, often escalating reward.
Greed requires strategy. It requires replay. It requires a lot of effort sometimes and many gamers just aren’t up to it. Some are.
I suspect this has a lot to do with the wide swath of opinions of the game.
You can go into PW as an action shooter and find it is boring, slow and “certainly not worth $25”. If that’s the way you’re playing it, you would be right on all counts.
As mentioned above, the game doesn’t serve well to instant gratification; rather is is a combination of memorization, optimization of shooting and to some extent, rhythm.
Unfortunately, when you hear the word “rhythm” and “vr” you immediately start comparing to the crown champion Beat Saber. Throw in a gun and you now get comparisons to SuperHot.
Like SuperHot, this game is not JUST about timing — but about memorization. Some people hate that (we old timers call this the Dragon’s Lair effect; those that grew up in the 90s know it as FMV games; one path to memorize).
However, when coupled with enough random elements of timing, it removes the shackles of “playing a game of Simon” and makes for a better game. Like SuperHot. If memorization sucks, then SuperHot SHOULD suck (so too should PW) because there truly is no real randomness of the level design — but unlike Beat Saber (which could be argued is the same thing over and over per level) PW’s levels have almost endless ways of finishing it — depending on why you’re there; score, shooting, rhythm, whatever.
PW deserves not to be lumped in with traditional dancing style rhythm games. Shoot early, shoot late, don’t shoot and wait to melee, double tap now — wait a beat later … how you dispatch is all about you; not being told by position and direction how to swing your sabers.
If you’re willing to invest the effort to understand and embrace the greed elements of the game, it certain is worth $25. If you’re looking for the next Beat Saber, SuperHot or action shooter, it may not be.