The Dark Pictures – Switchback VR Review

The Dark Pictures - Switchback VR Review

At the start of PlayStation VR2 (video) on February 22, 2023, the range of games was quite extensive. On the other hand, only a few completely new or even platform-exclusive games were released for the new Sony headset. With The Dark Pictures – Switchback VR another one is now being added, with the developer Supermassive Games continuing a tradition. Because with Rush of Blood the English had already supplied the first PSVR with a horror railshooter in 2016, which at least had a loose connection with their interactive teen slasher Until Dawn (in the test: grade 7.5).

Switchback VR, as the name suggests, has a connection to the Dark Pictures Anthologywhose first season will premiere in November 2022 The Devil in Me (in the test: grade 8.5) came to an end. Of course, the “murder hotel” from it is only one of the locations that you visit in the “Scary Shooter on Rails”. It also goes out to the eponymous horror village Little Hope (in the test: grade 7.5), on the ghost ship Man of Medan (in the test: grade 8.0) and in the underground temple House of Ashes (in the test: grade 7.5). In the short test I’ll tell you whether the railshooter turns me on in general and especially as a friend of the main series or not.

Switchback is pretty much what you’d expect from a railshooter: a shooter, but one that looks good and most importantly, works really well.

A classic rail shooter

In Switchback VR you visit all the locations of the four episodes of the core series so far, but you don’t meet the playable characters in them. Switchback tells a lot more of its own story, which is not staged in a big way, but that is not the only reason why it is ultimately completely irrelevant to the gaming experience. In the campaign, which is divided into individual levels, you are, as you would expect in a railshooter, in a kind of roller coaster car that automatically travels along a rail. Your room for maneuver is very limited. You don’t have to do much more than duck under obstacles here and there or lean to the side to avoid crashing into them. Well, apart from shooting, of course, which is clearly at the heart of the action.

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By default, you carry a semi-automatic pistol in your left and right hand separately, which has infinite ammo. If you want, you can even activate automatic reloading in the options, so you don’t even have to do it manually. You can only switch weapons at designated points by shooting “weapon boxes” and equipping them with a fast-firing submachine gun, a revolver, or a shotgun, for example. However, they only have a limited number of reloads. If the things are shot empty, you use the normal pistols again. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to use the other weapons. Although they bring certain advantages through higher damage or faster firing rates, the aim assistance that is quite effective with standard pistols is significantly lower. In any case, I hit more distant targets or the shootable bonus objects marked with a pentagram much worse.

Changing weapons is possible at certain points, but not necessary. This is different with this UV lamp. This is the only way you can identify the weak points and remove the grid in front of you. Otherwise, an absolutely deadly enemy will catch up to you.

It shoots better standing up

During the drive, however, there is only a few shootings in Switchback, whereby I can pleasantly break down many surrounding objects such as vases, beer mugs, skulls and a number of other things into their individual parts by shooting at them. Your wagon usually stops in the central shooter segments or at least drives considerably more slowly. But that’s a good thing, because it makes the raid-type attacks feel more dangerous. In addition, it is much better to aim while standing, especially since I am never attacked from behind, but sometimes very frequently from the front, left and right and in between.

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You just shoot the enemies closest to you so they can’t damage you. It’s no different even in most boss fights. Normal opponents will also attack you there later, who will also throw inflamed throwing weapons or spit poison at you. You neutralize both relatively easily by shooting at them. It rarely gets a little more complex. In one of the levels, you have to switch to a UV device that you can hold in either hand instead of a gun. This is the only way you can make weak points in obstacles visible and tear them down by shooting at them. This is important, because otherwise an enemy stalking you from behind will attack you in these passages, which exceptionally has an immediate deadly effect.

A few other facets will also be added later. In the “House of Ashes” passage, for example, you use a flare gun, on the one hand to save an NPC, but on the other hand to activate symbols in the area. If you shoot the wrong symbols, a switch will not be activated and you will go straight to your doom. Another element are devices with several switches. Only if you shoot them down in the right order and at the right time intervals, of course also by shooting at them, will you extinguish a wall of fire in front of you or save another NPC from a cage that is filling with water.

Even in boss fights like this, switchback isn’t exactly tactical. All you have to do here is destroy objects thrown at you. Eventually, explosive barrels will appear, ending the “vortex” and leaving the boss vulnerable. It’s still fun.

Short but atmospheric

Despite the use of UV lamps and Co., Switchback is not, as expected, a heavyweight in terms of game mechanics – and also short-lived if you only use it for one round. You’ll have it behind you in roughly three to four hours at the medium level. However, as far as I can remember, that’s about 1.5 times as long as Rush of Blood. But I still had fun. Because the shooting sequences work mechanically quite well and switchback always causes really panicky moments, although I don’t bless the time very quickly, especially in the regular fights. The spark jumps over just atmospherically. Also because I like the renewed visit to the locations known from the main series. But especially because there are sequences without shooting, in which the soundscape alone or the occasional jump scare scares me.

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In addition, Switchback is of course also about collecting as many points as possible in the levels or experiencing what is hidden behind the other junction on the manually activated switches. That’s why I’m motivated for at least a second round and thanks to the leaderboards (globally and in comparison with friends) and alternative levels of difficulty maybe even a third or fourth. At least I would have struck for the around 40 euros and not regretted it.

Author: Benjamin Braun, Editor: Ramona Kiuntke (GamersGlobal)

Dark Pictures – Switchback VR PS5

Conclusion: Benjamin Brown

For The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR, despite some special functions in its nature as a rail shooter, it might not be enough to be a heavyweight in terms of game mechanics. But that’s not even necessary, because a shooting gallery on rails just harmonizes perfectly with VR, at least here, where everything works smoothly apart from minor antics.

In addition, Switchback ignites atmospherically, is very scary in its peaks and sometimes causes panic. This is generally true, but especially for connoisseurs of the core series, who, like me, will usually have a lot of fun visiting the locations again in a completely different way. At least my thumb is pointing up in the end, because I already know that my hunt for high scores won’t end with reaching the credits.