We remember rather enjoying Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, the PSVR launch title that combined the fun of shooting terrifying enemies while riding a rollercoaster.
When it comes to The Dark Pictures Anthology: Switchback VR, however, a title that could be considered a spiritual sequel, we’re much less enamoured. Once again players are confined to a rollercoaster, and subjected to countless horrors as they’re driven forever forward. And to spice things up, there’s the occasional choice as to which route to take, meaning you can play through stages multiple times and still perhaps find new things to entertain you.
The Dark Picture Anthology: Switchback VR goes one step further to try and provide a bit of depth and replayability, too, by offering not only puzzles for you to solve, but people to save. The latter aspect is particularly interesting, with the fate of each of these unfortunate souls being left in your hands. Figure out what you need to do and you might just be their saviour. Or you may choose to simply abandon them, or kill them on purpose. The choice is yours, although it might take you a couple of goes of a stage before you figure out exactly what you need to do if you do indeed want to save them.
It’s just a shame the stages themselves aren’t a little more exciting. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Switchback VR presents its own story, which finds you a victim of a train crash. Though as you wait for rescue you’ll find yourself inexplicably moving through the locations of the four mainline entries in The Dark Pictures Anthology series, doing battle against their particular nasties. Does it make sense? Not really. But it does at least let you unleash some cathartic violence against some familiar foes.
There are two stages per The Dark Pictures Anthology release, plus an additional two that bookend the experience. So overall that’s 10 stages. Each one takes about 20-30 minutes to complete, which to be honest feels a little excessive. We’d have much preferred it if they’d have been cut down into bite-sized chunks to make them a little more replayable. As it is, they simply drag on at times. It doesn’t help that sometimes you move forward for a considerable period with nothing of note happening. There are even moments where you’ll come to a complete stop, and have to wait so long for an event to occur that you’ll wonder if you have to do something to trigger it.
It’s likely an attempt to cause tension, but it fails. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that The Dark Pictures Anthology: Switchback VR isn’t that scary at all. Some of its enemies are a little freaky, but mostly it relies on jump scares to put you on edge. The problem is, they’re so, so predictable. The scariest parts are where you need to not blink: it’s pretty much impossible, and every time you close your eyes your enemies get a little closer, ramping up the tension. It’s just a shame it’s underused.
And there are other reasons why The Dark Pictures Anthology: Switchback VR fails to impress. Its enemies, for example, often feel like bullet sponges, with even a simple zombie requiring multiple headshots before they go down. Some gameplay aspects don’t work very well, either, such as shaking your gun to reload. Chances are you’ll quickly switch to reloading via buttons on the Sense controllers instead. Even aiming can feel a little off at times, which is troubling for a game all about shooting.
The nail in the coffin is the fact that The Dark Pictures Anthology: Switchback VR is underwhelming on the technical side, too. It’s understandable that it doesn’t look as good as a normal entry in the series given the size of the stages and the speed you move through them, but some of the assets really are basic, breaking your immersion. There are some laughable animations as well. Add in fairly long loading times, and you have a game that is likely to disappoint early PSVR 2 adopters.
While this review may sound very negative, you can have some fun with The Dark Pictures Anthology: Switchback VR. The problem is, we just expected it to be better. While we didn’t find it scary at all, some might. We at least appreciated that a number of its scenarios put us under pressure. It’s perhaps apt that it puts you on a rollercoaster, as like a real rollercoaster ride it’s full of highs and lows, both technically and mechanically. At the end of the day, there are better on-rails shooters available on PSVR 2 already. And the unique elements on offer here just aren’t accomplished enough to draw us away from them.
Note: The Dark Pictures Anthology: Switchback VR has received a major update since this review, which substantially improves the game’s visual clarity and more. Read all about it right here.