Launched one year ago to the month, Pistol Whip is a VR rhythm shooter which has made its mark as one of the best and most rated games on Oculus Quest. Now the title is about to get 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 to gameplay and new challenges.
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.
This Tuesday on Oculus and Steam (and on PSVR in Q1), the Pistol Whip ‘2089’ update will drop five more 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.