Until Dawn: Rush of Blood was always the game I used to showcase PSVR to anyone new to virtual reality. It’s easy to understand, a lot of fun, and scary, so perfect for terrifying unsuspecting visiting friends and family members.
I’ve been hoping the follow-up, Switchback VR, would be the same for PSVR 2, and thankfully it is, although it’s not without its limitations.
Supermassive’s game is one of PSVR 2’s highlights, but it’s not as deep and scary as I hoped.
A bigger, more varied game
While Switchback VR is still a rollercoaster horror shooter, it’s certainly bigger than Rush of Blood. The ten levels are about 20 minutes long on average and feature branding paths that make replaying them more appealing.
That does mean you could finish the campaign in one evening, but high-score chasing and checking out sections you’ve not seen mean completing one run isn’t the end.
The level design is brilliant too. Of course, being on rails allows Supermassive to tightly curate the experience, ensuring you see certain things at just the right time and travel through the changing world in the right way.
You’ll move through creepy enclosed buildings and larger open fields, or even theatres or streets, so the atmosphere of levels is always evolving. You’ll encounter puzzles, rollercoaster-centric sections, and boss fights in the majority of levels, keeping it fresh.
Dark Pictures story beats
The clever level design also allows you to encounter story beats from previous Dark Pictures Anthology games. I found Switchback’s own story pretty vague and uninteresting, but there are things scattered throughout for fans of the series to point at as they roll past.
Switchback’s fun factor is also aided by the fact that the shooting feels pretty great. Aiming, shooting, and reloading feels so natural, and it’s responsive enough that even the more chaotic combat moments don’t feel overwhelming.
High-score chasing will require a bit more thought, but Switchback is easy enough for anyone to jump into and enjoy without confusion. Since it’s not a long game, ensuring that it’s a PSVR 2 game that’s perfect for showing off was vital to it being a success.
Excellent use of eye-tracking
It also makes excellent use of PSVR 2’s unique new features. I’ll echo my thoughts from my preview: its use of the eye-tracking technology is the best I’ve seen yet.
Switchback features rooms that tell you not to blink before you enter. Blink and the enemies will move closer to you, like the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who, and the only way to get past is to keep your eyes open.
There’s also a moment in which you’re being attacked by an enemy from each side of you, but they stop moving if you look at them. You’ll be staring at one that’s standing still, knowing another is getting closer behind you. I did everything I could to look at both at the same time. It’s really brilliant use of the technology and one of the few genuinely scary moments. However, I only encountered each a couple of times, and the branching paths mean the best moments are easy to miss.
The use of PSVR 2’s haptics, both in the Sense controllers and headset, is great too. The headset rumbles as you move, imitating your head brushing against things, and even the wind swirling around. The controllers also make each weapon feel different, the shotgun being weighty and the pistols being agile and light. It’s a real step up from Rush of Blood in terms of immersion.
Not as scary as it should be
That being said, Switchback VR isn’t as scary as it should be. After a couple of levels, it’s easy to see the scares coming. It relies on gore and jumpscares for the most part, but they’re usually easy to see coming. It would be so much scarier if it utilised the game’s lighting and atmosphere to surprise you, rather than just an evil-looking thing jumping out in front of the rollercoaster cart.
There are some levels in the middle of the game that use fog to hide the horror around you, but even then, most of the scares are just things jumping out of it, few of which are genuinely surprising.
However, if you have genuine phobias, I’m sure there’ll be something to creep you out. Bugs, rats, blood, dolls, robots, zombies, almost anything you can imagine crops up in one of the ten levels.
In short, while Switchback VR is an excellent showcase for PSVR2 and a great option for new VR players, the limited scares and vague storytelling reduce its effectiveness in sessions longer than a level or two.
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