When I first got my vive, I was all ready to try a bunch of new games with exciting new mechanics. I got a few unique experiences, like The Wizards or Virtual Rick-ality, but for the most part I just wound up with platform defender shooters of varying flavor and quality. Now, I love Space Pirate Trainer and High Noon VR, but it reaches a point where it all starts to blend together. Beat Saber is a taste of exactly what I wanted with virtual reality. It's a rhythm game with an entirely unique mechanic that only could have been done with this burgeoning technology. I've never played a music based game that made me feel like so much of a badass. The songs are great, the game is simple to pick up for even the layman, and the difficulty ramps up nicely between the levels. Honestly, my only real complaint about this game is that there isn't more of it, but with it still in Early Access there's still some ways to go.
Beat Saber is available on Steam for $19.99.
Yeah, I'm skipping story. It's a rhythm game, what are you expecting, Spec Ops: The Line? The only real music game I've played with a story was Beatbuddy, and that didn't pull it off well.
So anyway, the gameplay is incredibly simple to pick up yet difficult to master. Slash to the boxes, avoid the spike balls, and dodge the red blocks to the beat of a kickass song. There are three modes, so I'm just going to go one at a time and explain how they differ.
The two handed mode you typically see, you have a blue off-brand lightsaber in your right hand and a red one in your left. You have to slash at the boxes corresponding to your lightsaber colors flying at you in time with the music. Each box has an arrow on it indicating which direction in which you need to slash, and the game usually helps you out by placing the arrow where your saber would have wound up at the time. This is the main mode and my personal favorite. The modes are quite accurate: Easy is something your grandma could do, medium is something your mom could do, hard is something your sister could do, and expert is something your sister could do if she was also a samurai master.
It is a little bit of a jump from hard to expert. Hard is something I could get on the first try with some focus, but you have to devote a lot of time to an expert level song on two-handed mode, and even then I'm only convinced I made it with a few of those as a fluke. At the same time, I can appreciate that the hardest difficulty level actually earns the distinction.
No Arrows Mode
You would think that a mode eliminating the slashing direction requirement would be easier than the full classic mode. You would be wrong. See, when the arrows are missing from the boxes the game compensates for the difficulty by switching up the colors more than usual. What happens is you wind up having to pay special attention to the colors, and you wind up flailing your sabers every which way. The game doesn't flow as smoothly as it does with the arrows. I honestly found this mode a bit more challenging than the corresponding songs and difficulties on classic mode. The game on this mode seems a bit more intent on throwing you off your groove, while classic seems more intent on putting you in one. I prefer it with arrows, but it is nice that this mode mixes it up a bit and it isn't just the training wheels for the classic.
Single Saber mode
This is it: true jedi mode. One saber, expert mode only. Honestly, it isn't too difficult. I beat a song in this mode before I ever beat a song on expert in classic. It still flows like a song in the classic mode, there's just one saber. It's still a challenge, but when all you need to think about is the arrow direction, it really takes more of a load off than the no arrows mode. It's a difficult mode, yet not impossible. You're still in a groove, just with one hand. I'd rather do the classic mode but this is a good addition.
Graphics and audio
I won't mince words here: this game looks and incredible. The aesthetic is very similar to Audiosurf, which is another favorite rhythm game of mine. It looks like Star Wars as portrayed in Tron. It would be so easy for a game like this to get too…epileptic siezure-inducing. However, it winds up looking beautiful yet simple. There isn't a lot going on, but everything is where it needs to be.
Now let's get to the main attraction: the music. Unless you install mods, the song selection is incredibly limited, but I loved all of them. They all had marginally different sounds, but they all had an EDM edge. If you don't like that style of music, maybe this isn't the game fo ryou, but because I can enjoy this style of music I could really feel the beat of these songs. I found myself bopping and weaving and feeling the rhythm of all the songs. Games like this require a strong beat so you can really feel the song and damn did I feel it. Where the rhythm may be tougher to pick up, I think they added a stronger bass drum to make it a bit more doable, and has the added side effect of making you feel like General Grievous playing a Taiko drum. Here's my favorite song from the game, you be the judge.
Beat Saber is exactly the kind of thing that made me want to get a Vive. Yeah it may still be a platform defense game in a certain light and the music may not be to the taste of every audience, but this is game is exactly what I was looking forward to when VR became commercial. It looks great, it sounds great, it's definitely a must for anyone who can afford VR and likes having fun. I mean, no story, but rhythm game has successfully tried to pull a good story? It knows where it's strengths lie and it plays to them. My only true complaint is that there isn't a ton of song variety, but I do love all of the music. I've never played a music game that made me feel so completely and totally badass. Were this not a preview I'd give this game a 9.2/10. Since it is a preview, however, all I can tender is a hearty and wholehearted recommendation. Two thumbs up. Most fun I've had yet with my Vive.