The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR on PS5 & PS VR2
It is always nice to see a platform getting support in a way that takes advantage of its unique features, and for the PlayStation VR2, immersion and putting players front and center of the action is why VR gaming hits differently in comparison to the more traditional ways of playing. It is with this approach that Supermassive Games is once again dipping into its horror well for another on-rails shooter, and while The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR keeps the action constant, it tends to go off track in other areas disappointingly.
While the mainline horror games tend to have a heavy emphasis on story, as they should, the narrative in The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR is merely window dressing. Players are strapped onto a rollercoaster ride, destined to take them to many familiar locations found in The Dark Pictures Anthology, blasting ghouls and getting scared. Why you are doing so is never answered, and while shooting things can be enjoyable, it can wear thin if there isn’t anything else engaging the player.
At the very least, The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR gets the gameplay right. If you long for the days of spending time in the arcade shooting at targets while the game moves you through the environment, then welcome home. Each level starts players off with the standard dual pistols with unlimited ammo, but there are always more powerful weapons that can be obtained that have limited ammo.
Choosing your targets then becomes a more strategic affair, do you unleash your full arsenal on whatever is in sight now, or conserve a little and utilize your pistol more so you are better prepared for more difficult horrors? The ability to change your perspective by moving around is also a neat implementation of the technology, ensuring that players are always kept on edge with enemies potentially approaching from a blind side, or get them moving in order to avoid certain obstacles.
The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR also throws the occasional puzzle into the mix, although they are never too involved or difficult, and is nothing your firearms can’t help you with. Reloading and firing feel natural using the Sense controller, and generally, your aim will be true, so get those headshots going against some familiar faces you encounter on your journey
Drawing from the first season of horror titles, the same enemies that once plagued your nightmares are now there to be whittled down to nothing. Think vampires or zombies, and that’s the general idea, there are also boss fights to contend with, even if they are not that memorable. Along the way, there are also objects that can be destroyed to add to your points total, or the aforementioned bonus weapons to help your fight.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a game themed around horror without some scares, but The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR tends to rely too much on the jump variety. While certain levels do really good in building a tense atmosphere, repeated jump scares just take all of that good work away. It is a pity, considering that the atmosphere in each level is enhanced by using the PS VR2.
Thankfully, the game does manage to up the stakes with a couple of sequences that take advantage of the device’s eye-tracking capability. Blinking at the wrong time will see enemies get closer and closer, and if you are unprepared, it could spell doom for your ride. Innovative ways like this need to be more of the focus, and hopefully, that will prove to be the case in the future.
All of this progress and missteps culminate in what is admittedly a short journey, with The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR taking about five hours from start to finish. Although there are different routes that can potentially add to the replayability, there are truly no significant differences that matter in the long run, just more shooting and scares awaiting. It is also noteworthy that there have been instances with texture pop-ins and the occasional lag when moving around in the space, so don’t be surprised if that becomes part of the experience.
At the end of the day, The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR delivers what it sets out to do with an on-rails shooter that is low on the story but high on the shooting action. While the fun may not last for a long time and the genuine scares are few and far between, it is still a good demonstration of what the PS VR2 brings to the table. Just like Until Dawn: Rush of Blood set the stage back in 2016, hopefully, this will only be the beginning when it comes to exploiting the full potential of PS VR2.