Without a doubt, losing the cable makes Beat Saber an entirely new game—the one you were originally promised.
If somebody were to walk up to you and ask you to visualize, in your head, a ‘Jedi warrior’ in the heat of battle, what’s the first thing that’d come to mind? Some may think of the classic standoff between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader on Cloud City, but for me, that prompt paints my mind with images of dancing lightsaber duels; the hallmark Hollywood acrobatics of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
When Beat Saber first arrived on PC VR headsets in May of 2018, the collective imagination of the VR community exploded with new ideas on how to play the game—including a dual-bladed staff implement, mods that added new gameplay features, and enough custom (illicit) music content to sink Napster during its heyday.
On the other hand, for all the newly unlocked gameplay and fitness possibilities, there was one thing that the vast majority of players could not do: Spin a full 360 degrees.
So, as you can imagine, it came as a pretty big deal last month when Oculus dropped a trailer showcasing Beat Saber as an Oculus Quest launch title. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it right here:
If you weren’t paying attention or haven’t played enough Beat Saber on a cabled device to understand the significance of what’s being shown in the trailer, this is the first time that Beat Saber will free its players to inhabit the full 360-degree range of motion required to become literal acrobats—if they so choose.
Where the mark of a skilled Beat Saber-ist is currently judged by how well they can play extremely fast, extremely complex tracks while standing in one spot and looking forward, this development could split the pro Beat Saber community into two halves—one which is more traditional, and the other which treats Beat Saber like an Olympic sport.
While that’s another discussion for a future time after the post-launch dust has settled, I’ve already gotten the chance to step inside of Beat Saber with an Oculus Quest headset. Here’s what I thought of my experience:
As I’m sure plenty of pitchfork-waggling Internet dwellers are craving to hear, it’s immediately obvious that there’s a graphical downgrade here from what PC VR and possibly even PSVR players are used to. Everything on the screen at GDC felt more blurry, more compressed, and less snappy overall when compared to its stationary cousins.
But honestly, who the hell cares?
It’s Beat Saber, albeit on a standalone headset that you can take anywhere without fretting over a cable. And, for what it is, the graphics are still expertly satisfying. The blocks still respond to directional slices. Your twin sabers are still colored with their idyllic hues of neon red and blue. As far as I can tell, there are still lasers shooting around in the environment and the whole game still has that minimalistic Tron look.
Does it look good? Of course it does. It just doesn’t look better than how a $1000 gaming PC would render it, and that’s perfectly fine with me.
While there were only three songs available in the GDC demo to play with—I played K/DA – “Popstars” on Expert mode—the entire original soundtrack and anything included in free updates will be immediately available to all players.
Beat Games has said that they don’t intend to officially support copyrighted custom content on their platform, mobile or not. That stance is definitely not slated to budge at any point in the future (unless copyright laws change or Beat Games somehow builds a platform for custom content creators to get paid directly for plays), however, Quest owners will be fundamentally able to purchase, download, and access all of the content coming in from DLC.
I can’t always be bothered to look at both of my sabers at once, and I often like to point-blank the last beat in one sequence while telegraphing the next sequence; meaning that I might or might not be looking at my saber when I’m slashing those random notes far to the left or right of my field of view.
Of course, the only notable issue that I ran into during my demo was occasional tracking loss during those exact moments, because I didn’t keep either/both of my hands within the range of the Insight tracking cameras. Is this a big deal on its own? Not necessarily. But I think it would preclude the Oculus Quest port to be considered for pro-level play (in its current iteration) if most of the (custom) streamer songs weren’t already unavailable anyway.
I’m consistently impressed by how freeing the Oculus Quest feels each time I put it over my head and dive into whatever game I’m demoing. It’d be an understatement to say that Beat Saber is the perfect match for untethered gameplay, but here we are, and Beat Saber is clearly the perfect match for untethered gameplay. Your movement flows so much more naturally, your ducks and dodges are so much less encumbered, and yes, it feels just as amazing to spin all the way around as it looks in that trailer.
Beat Saber is a fast friend to the Oculus Quest, and an absolutely brilliant launch title to kick the platform off with. While there are plenty of players who will miss the mods and custom songs that define the guilty pleasure of a “complete” Beat Saber experience on PC VR, the Quest offers entirely new dimensions of gameplay through its cable-free portability.
Would Beat Saber be enough to sell you on purchasing an Oculus Quest? Let us know in the comments!