Review: Beat Saber (PSVR)

Rhythm
9.5

Amazing

Ever since the dawn of VR, we were all wondering when we could yield lightsabers. Being a Jedi in virtual space is, quite literally, the dream. Since Disney and Star Wars don’t like money, we don’t have anything official to satisfy our wild imaginations and it’s up to smaller studios to fill that void in our hearts. Who knew that it would come to us in the form of a game where you slash blocks in half to the tune of some hardcore EDM.

I feel the urge to say this right off the bat because it’s important to the rest of the review. I strongly believe that Beat Saber is the perfect VR game. It might not be a perfect game, it might not be the deepest VR experience you can have, but it’s a game that fully encapsulates the modern marvel that is virtual reality so perfectly that it’s possibly the poster child of the entire medium. I have a lot to explain, so let’s get into it.

Feel the beat, Luke

The entire premise of Beat Saber can be explained in a sentence. You have two lightsabers, red and blue, and you have to slash incoming blocks in particular orientations to gain points. That’s it, that’s the entire game in a nutshell. You might see it as simple, but there’s so much hidden beneath the surface that it’s a veritable gaming iceberg. Beat Saber is a rhythm game, but instead of wailing on a plastic guitar on a couch, you’re frantically swinging around to the point where you can be mistaken for doing some sort of strange rave-fueled martial art.

It’s a combination of feeling like a complete badass, being truly immersed and attentive in a virtual space, and just being in pure awe.

The blocks that come cascading towards you each have a direction you need to slash in. Hit it at the right angle and you gain more points. There are also walls that you need to avoid by dodging to your left and right or ducking out of the way. In terms of variation, you can also do modes where you only use one saber and another mode that’s just directionless blocks so you can slash in any way you please. There are four difficulty levels and 16 songs that you can play. There are also additional modifiers that you can activate that are either an advantage or a disadvantage, like making a song faster or removing all the obstacles in a level that can alter your final score.

That block of text above is the entirety of Beat Saber summed up in the most mundane way possible. But this game is everything but mundane. When you’re strapped into the headset and pulling off these intense slashes to the beat of some hard-pumping tunes, you feel like a god. Of course, that’s if you don’t fail miserably by freaking out because you accidentally put it on Expert. The satisfaction you feel when you beat a difficult song with minimal errors is unprecedented and this is coming from someone who played rhythm games for a giant chunk of his life.

We’re playin’ Beat Saber

It’s extremely difficult to accurately translate into text the feelings you have when playing this game. It’s a combination of feeling like a complete badass, being truly immersed and attentive in a virtual space, and just being in pure awe. When you hear someone talk about the wonders of VR, this game is the pure embodiment of it. This game cannot exist in any other form except this and that is what makes it so magical. Even while being relatively simple in design, it absolutely nails what it’s trying to do and the end result is just pure gaming ecstasy.

It also helps that the game plays like a dream. Your sabers are incredibly responsive to the movement of the Move controllers (which are obviously required) and it truly does feel like you’re wielding two powerful energy weapons in your hands. That childhood dream of being a padawan can certainly be realised here. And it’s so incredibly simple that literally anyone can pick it up and know exactly what they should be doing. This game has the perfect recipe and it knows it.

The 16 available songs are all of the EDM/hard-style/electronic music ilk which is perfect for a futuristic-looking game like this. Some are better than others, but they’re all equally as fun to play. The only negative that I could find with the game is the lack of songs available and since this is on PSVR, you don’t have the ability to get custom songs like you do on the PC version which severely limits your potential song expansion. There are song packs coming in the form of future DLC and I really hope they make some kind of custom song editor that works with this version, but the songs that are available are more than enough to satisfy you for hours upon hours.

Dance like a Jedi

If you thought that the game looks like a workout, then you’d be completely correct. When you’re ducking and weaving while flailing your arms around like a mad person, the sweat just drips off you. After my first day heavily playing this game, my arms were like wet noodles and my legs were utterly, utterly destroyed. It felt like I did an intense gym session and the headset and I were just drenched in sweat. If you want to use this game to have a workout, you’d be more than able to and it has the added bonus of being incredibly fun as well.

This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the VR game to own

As for parties, this game is a complete no-brainer. I had the opportunity to really test it during a house party with multiple guests and having the PSVR set up in such a way that anybody can jump in effortlessly. Each and every person who tried the game couldn’t get enough of it. Non-gamers that never even play any games were instantly familiar with the mechanics and could enjoy themselves on the easier difficulties. Even my mother, who doesn’t play anything outside of iPad casino games, got the hang of it during her first try and loved it. I’ve even been bothered by some people after the party to just play a few more songs because of how much fun they had.

For short term sessions, the game is exceptional with its simple universal mechanics, but what about persistent play? If you go past a few hours with the game and feel confident in your skills to go to Hard or Expert, you have a whole new world waiting for you. On higher difficulties, the game turns into a true challenge of memory, reflexes and technique. In order to master a song, you’ll have to memorise it since just reading the notes is not enough because of how fast everything goes. If you want to commit yourself to the game and get the highest scores and best combos, then you’ll have that in spades.

Perfecting the beat

Additionally, the game also has a campaign mode. There’s no story or anything, not like it needed it, but it’s instead a series of songs you can play with added challenges thrown in to spice things up. Some songs require you to hit the blocks while the arrows disappear making it a true test of reflex and memory, some only allow you a set value of misses and so forth. There’s even some challenges that require you to move your arms as much or as little as possible, throwing a whole new dynamic into the mix. These campaign missions are incredibly tricky and it will take a good long while of trial-and-error and just pure skill to overcome.

Beat Saber is a simplistic marvel of a game. It’s accessible to nearly everyone, it has the longevity to have you constantly coming back and it’s crafted in such a way that you truly do feel like a Jedi disco master. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the VR game to own. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s worth getting a PSVR just for this game alone. There’s nothing else quite like it and it’s a perfect demonstration of the magic that virtual reality can achieve. If you have a PSVR, get this game right now since I can garuantee you that you won’t be disappointed. It’s just that good.

Good

  • Incredibly simple but hard to master mechanics
  • Feels absolutely incredible to play
  • Great for short bursts or long term play
  • Extremely responsive and smooth
  • Great simple futuristic aesthetic
  • Fun for everyone
  • The best most fun workout you'll ever have

Bad

  • Song selection leaves a little to be desired

Summary

Beat Saber is, quite simply, the perfect VR game. Slashing blocks with lightsabers couldn't be more fun and it's accessible to everyone. It takes the concept of virtual reality and implements a hyper-focused gameplay experience to deliver an experience unlike anything you've ever seen before. While being relatively simple in its design, everything is just set dressing for the lightsaber flailing madness that you'll partake in. And you'll love every second of it.
9.5

Amazing

I am way too tall, played way too many games and I love to write about what we love about games. In the end, I'm just being #Thabolicious

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