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Ian and Aoife go head-to-head to see who will yelp the most in Switchback VR


After a slight delay, PSVR2 launch title The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR is finally here, but just how scary is this horror-themed rollercoaster ride? To put it to the test, Aoife and I popped along to Supermassive Games to try out the third level of Switchback VR which is set onboard the SS Ourang Medan, the spooky ship from the very first Dark Pictures game, The Man of Medan.

So who will yelp the most? The VR veteran (me) or the first time PSVR2 user (Aoife)? There's only one way to find out, and that's to watch this week's episode of VR Corner, which you can find above these words. Word of warning, some of the screams do get quite loud, but make sure you stick around until the end of the video for the yelp compilation. Aoife's rendition of Dancing on the Ceiling needs to be seen to be believed!

Watch on YouTube

If you don't already know, Switchback VR is the spiritual successor to Rush of Blood, Supermassive's excellent launch title for the original PSVR. Rush of Blood was one of my favourite games to play when the PSVR first released and as such I had pretty high hopes for Switchback VR but unfortunately, this new game failed to live up to the hype that I had built up for it in my head.

You can watch me play through the first half of the game in the live stream that is embedded above and in it, you'll be able to see my disappointment increase like a car ascending a lift hill (yes, I did google 'rollercoaster terminology). It's almost like everything that was good about Rush of Blood has been removed and replaced with well... nothing, and it's a great shame.

For a game that's set on a rollercoaster there's now hardly any 'rollercoastering' at all and the majority of the action now takes place on flat tracks which you trundle along on at a really slow pace, stopping and starting so often it's like you're stuck in the middle of an inner city traffic jam. In the level Aoife and I played there's a maximum of two drops and neither of them last very long. When compared with the swooping, soaring and speedy tracks of Rush of Blood, the pace of Switchback VR is an utter snooze-fest.

In terms of horror and scares, I think that's going to be subjective depending on who is playing. There's a reason why I don't feature in the 'yelp compilation' much and it's simply because I didn't find the game very scary. That's not to say that it isn't scary, some new VR adopters have found it terrifying, but if you're an old hat with VR like I am and have played Rush of Blood, there's almost nothing here to test the strength your sphincter muscles.

The most impressive moment for me featured a mechanic that moved mannequins around an area of the ship whenever you blinked (think Doctor Who's Weeping Angels), it's a brilliant idea that utilises the PSVR2's eye tracking magnificently, but after that it's never really used again. Also, as a side note, were mannequins even in The Man of Medan? I don't remember them if they were...

The other big feature of the PSVR2, the headset haptics, seem woefully underused too. There's a 'meat tunnel' you go through where fingers tickle your head, but the vibrations are so gentle in both the headset and the controllers that you'll barely even notice them. You don't even seem to get any headset feedback when the monsters are physically hitting you in the face, which seems utterly bizarre to me. While the 4K HDR does make some dark areas look suitably dark, that's the best I can say about the visuals because they are honestly quite terrible in places. There's so much blur, most of the textures seem low-res and graphical pop-in is visible everywhere. As a good example of how shoddy it looks, keep an eye out in the headline video for when rats attack Aoife and I and watch how the blood effect just seems to a .png of red spots that randomly flickers over the screen. It all feels so unpolished.

If you're someone who has never played VR before and you're up for being scared, I still think you'll get something out of Switchback VR, but if you're coming here as a fan of Rush of Blood, I'd urge you to skip this one entirely. If Rush of Blood is Alton Towers' Nemesis ride, Switchback VR would almost certainly be the Teacups. There must be a reason why Supermassive dialed back on both the speed and the scares (I can only assume it's because Sony didn't want new VR adopters to get overwhelmed) but those were the best bits of Rush of Blood and the game suffers massively due to their loss.

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