If you have a VR system then you owe it to yourself to get hold of this game
I remember when Virtual Reality (or VR as it is more commonly known) came out in the 90s and was hailed as the ‘next big thing’ in gaming and entertainment. It wasn’t. In spite of the best intentions and some wonderfully inventive experiences, the simple fact of the matter was that the ideas were way ahead of the available technology (especially in terms of graphics) and the cost of the systems was extortionate when considering the quality of the user experience. I remember thinking at the time that I was so disappointed that I couldn’t truly step into a different world and a much younger me held out hope that one day things would change.
Fast forward a couple of decades and VR is rapidly becoming a standard experience thanks to Google Cardboard headsets, 360-degree videos on phones and the success of the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. For some users, the ‘true’ VR experience is still something which seems too expensive (considering you usually need a high-spec PC to deliver a solid experience before you start to invest in the VR headset and associated equipment), but the ever-expanding range of games for Sony’s Playstation VR system means that it is becoming ever-more accessible to the average household. Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to finally get my own VR kit this year and my child-like desires have finally been fulfilled. Beat Sabre delivers everything you could ask for, so let’s cut to the chase.
Upon donning the headset and taking hold of the Move controllers, you find yourself thrust into a dark, futuristic expanse of space in which you can see your floating controllers dancing around in front of you as you wave your hands about. A few swift clicks through the menu and suddenly you’re holding two light-sabre-esque swords in your grip and the fun begins. It’s hard to express how real this feels but the combination of the weight of the controllers, the vibration function and the way that the camera tracks your position (and that of the controllers) leads to an other-worldly sensation which tricks you into feeling like you are in the game. This is much more than simple visual trickery.
Once the game is underway the premise is pretty simple but executed to absolute perfection: each hand holds a different color sword (one red and one blue) and the task is to slice floating blocks as they fly towards you. Each block initially displays a direction for you to cut in (left, right, up, down, diagonally etc.) and it only takes a couple of swipes before you fall into the rhythm and find your feet. Much in a similar vein to the rhythm-action games which gained popularity a few years ago (Rock Band, Guitar Hero etc.) the blocks reach you in time with the beat of the pumping tracks you play along to and adjusting to the tempo and beat of each track is a welcome challenge which keeps it fresh as you work your way through the ‘campaign’ element. In addition to the relentless swiping, slicing and dicing you also need to avoid walls and low ceilings by leaning, side-stepping and crouching as you try to maintain the pace. Personally, I would recommend having a decent amount of space as you get totally immersed in the world inside the headset and I’ve punched the wall and sloping ceiling in my gaming room more than a few times once I get into full swing (pun intended).
It’s hard to really transcribe the experience into words effectively, simply because it feels exactly how you would hope it feels, so let’s focus on the other aspects of the game which come into play as you improve and progress.
Just as you start to feel like a Jedi at a disco, the difficulty is upped through level-specific challenges which task you with various modifiers that complicate the sword-swinging. The first modifier was actually quite fun as it removed the need to slice blocks in a particular direction and this gave rise to a greater range of combinations due to the freedom of movement it allowed. Subsequently, I was almost entirely unprepared for the sudden demands of levels where the directional arrows faded before they reached the point of impact or when my shortcomings were punished by failure instead of a lower overall score. Some levels offer up blocks which you need to block instead of slice while others throw mines into the mix which must be avoided at all costs. Although there is no need for the game to do these things to ‘keep it fresh’ they are a welcome addition which certainly helps to up-the-ante as you work your way through the different iterations of the soundtrack.
Once you have settled into the different devices and twists you start to appreciate the different difficulty settings and starting on ‘Easy’ might seem a bit below those of you who are more seasoned gamer but I would recommend it just to get your head into the game. Crank up the difficulty a notch and everything becomes quicker and more relentless as the tempo of the songs is matched on more frequent beats and, hence, the number of targets to hit increases exponentially. If you go on YouTube and look at some of the mixed reality videos of people playing this after a decent amount of practice you’ll get a good idea of your ultimate goal within the world of Beat Sabre.
Quite simply, if you have a VR system then you owe it to yourself to get hold of this game. Honestly, it’s just fantastic. I can’t remember ever feeling this involved and immersed in an experience since the days of Afterburner in the arcade with the full-tilt cabinet which spun you around with the on-screen action. Beat Sabre is pure joy incarnate and deserves to be experienced again and again and again. A truly essential VR game which will go down as one of the all-time great rhythm-action titles.
Images and Game Play – GAMERTAG VR