Now on PSVR: ‘Pistol Whip 2089’ Update Brings Slick Synthwave & Remixed Gameplay That’s Right On Key

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Pistol Whip is a VR rhythm shooter which has made its mark as one of the best and most rated games on Oculus Quest. Almost one year to the month after its launch, the game saw its most ambitious update yet; the Pistol Whip ‘2089’ update packages a slick synthwave soundtrack as a sort of mini-campaign that brings subtle but meaningful tweaks and new challenges to the gameplay. Launched first on PC and Quest, the free Pistol Whip ‘2089’ update is now available on PSVR.

Update (January 26th, 2089): The free Pistol Whip ‘2089’ update is available now on PlayStation VR. The update originally launched on Quest, Oculus PC, and Steam in late November. Our impressions of the update, from the PC version of the game, continue below.

Original Article (November 30th, 2020): Since its release last year Pistol Whip [our review] has seen regular updates bringing new songs and scenes to the game. From its initial 10 tracks, five additional tracks were added in the ‘Reloaded’ series, and another three in the ‘Heartbreaker’ update.

The Pistol Whip ‘2089’ update, available on Quest, Oculus PC, Steam, and PSVR drops five additional levels, bringing the game’s total count to 23.

But ‘2089’ is more than just five new tracks. This time around, they’re presented as a cohesive narrative that plays out from one track to the next—a ‘concept album’, if you will. Further still, ‘2089’ brings remixed gameplay that hits the mark by mixing things up without straying far from the game’s signature gameplay.

‘2089’ drops you into a series of cyberpunk-themed scenes interlinked with short, graphic novel-style cutscenes with great art and well-voiced dialogue from the character you inhabit. There’s no crazy deep story here, but having an underlying narrative to tie everything together sets the stage for the new environments and enemies you’ll encounter.

This is the caliber of the still artwork (by artist Fico Ossio) that makes up the narrative interludes between 2089’s levels | Image courtesy Cloudhead Games

The core of Pistol Whip is still very much intact in ‘2089’; you’ll still find yourself continuously running along a straight path while dodging bullets and returning fire at enemies that appear mostly on the sidelines. But part way through ‘2089’ you’ll find a new weapon—a futuristic pistol with a four-round burst—that changes the way you play.

When you pull the trigger, the ‘2089’ pistol will automatically shoot as many of its four bullets as necessary into your target, meaning you can pull the trigger on the two-hit enemies and the gun will automatically fire two bullets to dispatch them. But beyond that, you can string one burst between multiple enemies, allowing you to take down rows of four one-hit enemies with the swing of your gun across them.

While Pistol Whip’s prior ‘dual-wielding’ mode made me feel like the bad-ass hero of Equilibrium (2002), ‘2089’ brings Wanted (2008) vibes, thanks to the way you swing your gun across enemies.

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While the new pistol gives you an enjoyable power boost, ‘2089’ balances things with new enemies and scenarios, at times pushing the game nearly into ‘bullet hell’ territory.

You’ll find yourself face-to-face with turret enemies which fire continuous salvos of bullets that must be smoothly dodged around. While enemies directly in front of you could once be optionally shot or pistol whipped, this time around many will be running straight at you with impenetrable shields and can only be pistol whipped.

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Meanwhile, strings of one and two-shot enemies will line up for you to knock down with your burst-fire, but if you aren’t quick about it you’ll be facing a hailstorm of bullets heading in your direction.

‘2089’ also delivers a fun and challenging climax which is unlike anything seen previously in the game and feels like a satisfying end to the chapter. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say you’ll be glad you’ve got the extra firepower.

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I would have loved to see the ‘2089’ pistol unlocked as a modifier for use in the game’s other levels, or the ability to use the game’s existing modifiers in the new ‘2089’ levels, as a reward for completion. And it would have been a nice touch to have a full avatar body (or at least arms) to make you feel more like you’re inhabiting the cool cyborg character. But those are minor gripes for what is otherwise a tasty slice of new content that hits all the right notes with some great music, a polished presentation, and remixed gameplay that balances extra firepower with new challenges. And it’s free to boot!

Image courtesy Cloudhead Games

Developer Cloudhead Games has set a high bar for itself with ‘2089’, and shown that it’s willing to take Pistol Whip’s gameplay in new directions. I can’t help but be curious about what we’ll see next.

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  • Eric Colona

    Why would anyone listen to that lame ass music. Thankful for the volume button so I can listen to my own music. Thanks for the new scenes though!

    • knuckles625

      How on earth do you play a rhythm game without listening to the actual game music? Are you just playing it like a 2020 version of Time Crysis?

      • Eric Colona

        you don’t need the rhythm to avoid walls and bullets.

  • Ad

    This looks very high quality. While I would like them to move towards custom songs, this seems like the opposite direction. On the other hand maybe we’ll see licensed music come in actual interesting level narrative packs like this. Beat Saber has felt kind of stuck for a while as most licensed packs aren’t nearly as good in either presentation or gameplay to the best custom maps, and can feel very fuller. The only exception I can think of is FitSaber.

  • Ryan

    Wow, it is free! I didn’t expect that. This game has been a great value. Cloudhead is an awesome studio, they made some of the earliest VR games (The Gallery 1 and 2) that pioneered many VR systems that have now become standards.

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    • Popin

      Sadly they also abandoned The Gallery which was originally slated to be a 5 chapter story driven experience. At launch it was trimmed down to be a 3 chapter experience with the first chapter being very short, albeit well done. But the studio couldn’t even get through the narrower scoped 3 chapters and have let it languish after heart of the emberstone.

      • Ryan

        I’ve been following Cloudhead / Denny Unger since DK1. The Gallery is the game they wanted to make. Pistol Whip is the game they made to succeed in the market. They’d keep making The Gallery if the financials were feasible.

        • Popin

          I’m not faulting them for the consideration to make a much lighter weight experience that they can sell on quest with a broader appeal. I’m faulting them for not communicating or following through on the expectation they set with fans who financially supported them with their The Gallery: Six Elements kickstarter. They wouldn’t even have a studio right now without those fans.

          As someone who backed the project, I was slightly disappointed in the change of scope from the Six Elements to the “5 chapters”. Then was further disappointed with the reduction of scope further to 3 chapters along with the significantly smaller than expected scale of Call of the Starseed. Chapter 2 followed through on their response to the negative criticism of the length and scale of chapter 1 and it was a much improved experience.

          I would have been perfectly fine and supportive of the studio if they would have announced expectations and some sort of roadmap for completing The Gallery when they announced pistol whip. Their silence on The Gallery and no indication they will ever fulfill their promises for the series has burned this bridge and I’ll never support them again. They’ve had plenty of time since they launched pistol whip to pause development on the minor expansions for it and work on wrapping up The Gallery.

          • Ryan

            Search youtube for Denny Unger. He talked about it a bunch.

  • Billy Wallace

    If the product is free, YOU are what is being sold. Jaron Lanier says to boycott Facebook lovers like Denny unger and cloudhead games. Sorry Denny, I can’t support the evil you are doing. They fired Palmer, and even Palmer says “free isn’t cheap enough”. Will boycott all Denny unger products on every platform.

    • knuckles625

      Is your complaint that since this DLC for a paid game is free (as all pistolwhip DLC’s/updates have been), Cloudhead is somehow making alternate revenue off of you? Or is your complaint that Cloudhead is generally too closely aligned to Facebook?

      Either way I’m struggling to figure out how you’d be supporting facebook by buying pistolwhip on steam or playstation. I’d guess most would rather every VR game be as cross-platform as possible to avoid breaking up an already small segment

      • Billy Wallace

        Denny made the choice to harm his own children by helping evil. Enslaving them to darkness. https://slate.com/technology/2018/04/are-you-really-facebooks-product-the-history-of-a-dangerous-idea.html

        You don’t care why Facebook fired Palmer? All you and I can do is what Jaron suggests, boycott Denny ungers in every way until they stop working with Facebook. When Denny refuses to publish anything on oculus/Facebook products, he will prove to me he loves his kids and their future, then I will be his friend again. I can’t respect a father that lets zuck rape his 2 children. Do you?

        • CryMeARiver

          That’s a massive truckload of triggered hyperbole you have there.