Beat Saber might be five years old now, but it’s still arguably at the very pinnacle of the VR rhythm action genre. Now, for PlayStation gamers, it’s better than ever, thanks to the newly launched PSVR 2 version of the game.
The premise of Beat Saber is very simple. You stand at the end of a conveyer belt with blue and red blocks floating towards you, the Sense controllers in your hands transformed into lighsabers that you must use to slice the blocks in time with the music. Most blocks have an arrow showing the direction you must slice them in and they can come at you in symmetrical pairs or asymmetrical patterns, sometimes with a flurry of blocks of one colour or, just to make things a little more tricky, pairs of blocks that swap places as they move towards you. Harder levels bring in walls that must be swerved around and mines that you cannot slice, but that’s essentially it: slice the blocks in time with the music, and rack up a high score.
Each tune also comes with four difficulty levels and you are scored on how close you slice through the centre of the block and your movement. A score multiplier is also used, increasing with every successful hit but dropping back to zero as soon as you miss a block. If you fail to slice a consecutive number of blocks correctly, it’s game over and the song will stop.
The first couple of games of Beat Saber will teach you one thing: you cannot stand still. Simple staying put and flailing your arms around won’t work, you have get your groove on a dance, swerving your body under the virtual walls and crossing the swords like a ninja master. Someone watching you play in the real would may comment that you look like an octopus tangled in a fishing net but within the neon world of Beat Saber you will feel like a John Travolta on the Death Star.
You can play in Solo mode and pick any track you want at any difficulty level, or work you way through a Campaign, which is essentially the same but with the tracks ordered by difficulty. There’s also an Online mode in which your you can see your opponent as an avatar as you both play the same track. There’s no direct head-to-head element here, and it would have been nice to have some sort of influence on the other player, similar to Tetris multiplayer. Perhaps a power up could be used to switch your opponent’s blocks around or temporarily increase their difficulty level.
A good rhythm action game must have great music and while you may not recognise any of the artists that come with the base game almost every tune is a bop. Being five years from launch does mean some of the dubstep style songs are sounding rather dated, but the rest really haven’t really aged – my favourite being Country Rounds which is like a rave at the Eurovision Song Contest. You can also by additional tracks as DLC from the likes of Queen – new alongside the PSVR 2 launch – Lady Gaga, BTS, and Imagine Dragons.
So does Beat Saber PSVR 2 bring anything new? Well, no, not really. It’s the same as the PSVR 1 version but now comes with crystal clear graphics and more precise controls. There’s a missed opportunity to add a few improvements such rumble of headset when you missed a block as that would give you a much clearer indication you messed up. However, the good news is that if you already own the PSVR 1 version you can upgrade to the new version for free.