Review: Beat Saber is a VR Phenomenon, and Now We Know Why

Screenshot: Beat Saber Okay, we might be a little late getting on the Beat Saber hype train, but we’re glad we’re finally here. Beat Saber is a rhythm game where you have to use two different colored laser swords to cut blocks. Most blocks have to be cut only by their specific colored sword, and in the direction that is indicated by the blocks. You can lean and duck to avoid incoming obstacles. Screenshot: Beat Saber That’s it. That’s the gameplay. And man, is it a VR phenomenon. Screenshot: Beat Saber If there is one thing VR is great for, especially across all of its current platforms, is stationary or room-scale encounters and interactions. Beat Saber manages to be fun while making you stand in place, swinging laser swords to cut boxes with avoiding the occasional wall or low ceiling. At harder difficulties it’s super-fast, but always fun. Beat Saber isn’t only super fun; it’s also a great way to get moving. There have been testimonials online about the amount of weight people have lost when using Beat Saber as their exercise regimen. Just google “beat saber weight loss” and you’ll find YouTube videos, articles, and people talking about how Beat Saber has helped them become more active and healthy. Now, moving around might not sound super enticing, but it’s the sort of workout that distracts you so well while you’re playing, you don’t even realize you’re doing any sort of real activity. Screenshot: Beat Saber But what makes Beat Saber work so well? My initial impressions of Beat Saber were that it was very much like Audioshield—one of my early favorite games in VR. And yes, it is incredibly similar to Audioshield, but Beatsaber has a few more mechanics attached to it that make it feel more like an active game more akin to Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance, etc. Screenshot: Beat Saber Beat Saber does a great job of making you feel like a complete badass as you slash at boxes. There’s just something incredibly electric and satisfying with the combination of frenetic movement, and the quick thinking required to successfully dispatch the next floating box. Screenshot: Beat Saber Beat Saber isn’t only a collection of songs to slash boxes to. There is also a “campaign” that allows you to go through the Beat Saber soundtrack while performing various different challenges and increasingly hard difficulty levels. Even within the first ten levels, the challenges get pretty…well, challenging. Screenshot: Beat Saber Perhaps my biggest gripe about I would often fail challenges due to faulty hit registration. It doesn’t matter what platform I played it on, this problem kept happening. This isn’t explicitly Beat Saber’s fault, but it can make the challenges that require 1 miss or less to be especially frustrating. VR isn’t perfect, and even with the best calibration, tracking issues pop up sometimes—it’s harsh to lock progression behind such precision.  And while it’s frustrating to fail in those circumstances, you can try again immediately, and: oh no, you have to play more Beat Saber. Darn. Screenshot: Beat Saber Despite its popularity and universal praise, Beat Saber isn’t perfect. Perhaps its biggest criticism is its lack of songs. There just aren’t that many songs you can play. Unlike Audioshield that generates levels based on the sound file, Beat Saber’s levels are hand-crafted. This is a double-edged laser sword, as there just aren’t that many of them. If you want to get more, you have to pay. Honestly, that wouldn’t bug me so much if it wasn’t so expensive and so limited. I hope you like electro-dance pop, because that is mostly what you’re stuck with. I’m not complaining, but I’d like some more variety, too. There is a level editor on the PC versions (coming soon to Oculus Quest) that allows you create new courses, and even share them with others, so that does allow for custom songs. With modding, the song selection is technically unlimited.   Screenshot: Beat Saber The jump between the different difficulty levels in Beat Saber can be pretty brutal. I wish there as an overt practice mode that just let you play without repercussions, but in order to get that going, you have to create your own custom game. It’s not that much of a hassle, but for some of the harder difficulties, it would be nice to be something that’s a button press or two away. Screenshot: Beat Saber Beat Saber is a game that takes advantage of what VR does best right now, and makes it even better with extremely fun, intuitive mechanics that make you feel like a laser sword wielding badass. When you’re locked in with the music, you feel like a musical future ninja in a way that non-VR experiences just can’t match. Beat Saber is available now for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, and PlayStation VR. While we’ve played Beat Saber on the Rift S and the Vive, we haven’t had experience with it on other platforms.  If your experiences are different than ours, especially if you’re playing on a different headset, don’t be afraid to let us know in the comments.     If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more.
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.