The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR Review
In 2015, Supermassive Games took an unforgettable step into the horror genre with Until Dawn. The sadistic thriller established the company as connoisseurs of the macabre, unlocking additional opportunities to delve deeper into psychological fears. Their meticulous attention to detail and the amalgamation of influences, allow them to deliver terrifying experiences consistently. As well as choice-driven narratives, they have also ventured into the virtual realm with the incredible Rush of Blood. The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR is both a spiritual sequel to the rollercoaster hell ride and a new entry in their current anthology series but will it manage to reach the heights of its predecessor?
Your journey begins in the midst of a typical train ride. As you head towards your destination, a brutal crash renders all aboard in critical condition. Suddenly, you awake in a nightmarish world that takes you on a fiendish trip through set pieces from the franchise. While the narrative isn’t at the forefront, Switchback VR still manages to deliver a story that is full of intrigue. Periodically, you return to the train and gradually learn about the events and the characters. Links quickly form and you will notice characters invade areas which help to create connections between the situations. Due to the bizarre, stream-of-conscious theme, the game is able to drift in and out of ideas which allows the developers to set up some truly nerve-racking moments.
A Trepidatious Trip
Stuck within a cart, with a weapon in each hand, you spiral through unsettling environments on a twisted rollercoaster ride. As enemies can attack from any direction, you constantly survey the area in order to control the situation. This leads to a number of horrific situations that possess pulsating jump scares. Supermassive Games uses the technology of the PSVR 2 in wonderful ways to heighten the impact of these moments. The way they manipulate the lighting and skew the environment is masterful; due to this, they manage to construct stress-inducing segments that will hold you in a state of anxiousness.
Even though you are literally on a rail, the game is not fully linear. At certain points, you can choose which path to venture down which adds an element of replayability. These sections have their own personalities, with some unique enemies altering the experience. Smaller sub-missions are also within levels. There are times when you may encounter NPCs that you can either save or leave to die. Many of these choices have repercussions that add further weight to your decisions. However, the implementation of these is subtle which allows you to focus on the moment-to-moment gameplay. Even though these are minor additions, it fleshes out the experience and adds more depth to the usually simple genre. At the end of each level, you will see your statistics that display your route and choices which encourages another ride.
A Shot to the Heart
As you bolt through diabolical areas, you will notice items with yellow markers. Shooting these will add to your score and result in continuous gameplay without the reliance on enemies. This amplifies the impact of encounters and avoids desensitization. As you scour the environment, you’ll also notice weapons that give you limited ammo. This adds a layer of strategy as you will need to decide which gun to use and when. Throughout, you will also come across light puzzles which help to vary your experience. These tend to involve small tasks to continue your descent into madness. They are a welcome inclusion as they allow you to settle and think, whereas the majority of sequences are more reactionary.
Switchback VR toys with your psyche in devious ways. Obscure shadows linger and place an aura of doubt that festers throughout. The implementation of haptics, especially in the headset is fantastic. One segment will have you physically duck from the gruesome hands of fetuses who are within the walls. As you do, you can feel their digits scrape across your cranium. This adds an additional layer of immersion and keeps you on edge throughout. At times, the game even takes your weapons away and leaves you vulnerable. These sections are excruciating as you helplessly await what may or may not come.
I’ve Got My Eye on You
Supermassive Games also uses the PSVR 2’s eye-tracking technology in various ways. Aiming is much more intuitive as it can sense where you observe to refine your accuracy. This makes segments more enjoyable as you are not fighting with the tech which is something that occurred in Rush of Blood. In addition to this, they also use the technology to construct some of the most terrifying segments in the medium. Taking inspiration from Dr. Who’s Weeping Angels, certain foes will only move toward you when you blink. This adds a physical strain on your already frail psychological state. You will try to keep your eyes open to avoid further torment but ultimately will give in when your body is unable to cooperate.
The overall presentation is morbid but lacks polish. Each area is full of detail and builds a vile picture of the world, however, pop-ins do occur and are quite frequent. The audio design is remarkable as each shuffle across the terrain and hum of lights creates an unfathomable level of tension. The animation of the dogs and rats lacks the quality that resides with other creations. While their segments are not vast, the difference is noticeable.
The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR improves on every aspect of Rush of Blood to create an essential horror title for the PSVR 2. The innovative use of the headset adds to the immersion to create memorable moments of terror. While the story takes a back seat, the heart-racing ride through the grotesque is not to be missed.
***A PSVR 2 code was provided by the publisher***
- Haunting Atmosphere
- Use of the Headset
- Accurate Gunplay
- Animation of Dogs and Rats
- Odd Load Screens
- Low Res Graphics