Although it wasn’t quite ready for release when PlayStation VR2 launched last month, Supermassive’s Switchback VR was high on our list of PSVR2 coming out – here’s what we thought.
Not only is Switchback VR one of the few system exclusives for PSVR2, it was also being developed by a studio that previously released two exclusives for the first PSVR headset that we were impressed with. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood was a fun on-rails horror shooter, while The Inpatient might have suffered from pacing issues but still provided a technically impressive take on VR horror – with voice recognition being a standout feature. As such, Supermassive has a history of pioneering new uses for the technology used in VR, and we were curious to see what they’d do with Switchback VR – which thematically is somewhat similar to Rush of Blood, placing you back on a rollercoaster ride from hell.
While the gameplay is quite different from the interactive movie-like experiences that The Dark Pictures Anthology (by Supermassive) offers, fans of those games will see enough easter eggs and visuals that make Switchback feel familiar, as the game’s levels are all based on the currently released batch of Dark Pictures games. You go through them in order too, so the first two stages are based on Man of Medan while you end with two stages set against the backdrop of The Devil in Me. The final level is the exception as it’s completely original and exclusive to Switchback – doing its best to tie everything together before things wrap up with a grand finale, but all of the chapters have great boss fights in them.
What’s interesting is that each chapter has its own ‘style’, both in terms of the visuals and in terms of gameplay. Little Hope is full of jump scares, while House of Ashes features a surprising degree of puzzle-based gameplay – though this doens’t always gel well with the on-rails nature of the game. The creepiest moments can probably be found in the levels that relate to The Devil in Me, though we had seen some of its most interesting features in a dev video prior to playing it. A room where enemies are seemingly frozen but suddenly move closer to you and attack each time you blink – a rather terrifying use of the built-in eye-tracking features of PSVR2.
Switchback VR definitely follows Rush of Blood and The Inpatient in pushing the tech in new directions, and as a showcase game it’s excellent (provided that players have a strong stomach for horror). While it may not impress with lush open spaces and details like Horizon Call of the Mountain does, Switchback does the tech justice with its use of eye tracking and excellent support of haptic feedback – which can be seen when wielding different weapons but also when you bump into parts of the environment.
And while Switchback VR is an on rails shooter, it has a decent campaign length of four to five hours plus a degree of replay value as levels feature alternate paths you can take – you’ll see these presented to you afterwards in a nice little nod to the Dark Pictures games. Explore those paths, and you’ll probably still have undiscovered content in the shape of easter eggs that you can go back for.
If you enjoyed Rush of Blood, you’ll probably have a great time with Switchback VR as well – especially if you stuck with Supermassive for its Dark Pictures games. It’s not perfect though, as the immersion regularly gets broken when the game needs to (re)load a level – which feels odd when you consider this runs on a system lauded for its short or even non-existent load times. Still, if you’re looking for an experience you can’t get on any other VR headset, this is an easy purchase.