PlayStation VR recently celebrated its second birthday. Just a month later, arguably one of its best releases arrived in the hands of gamers. Beat Saber is a rhythm game where players dual-wield two lightsabers as they chop coloured blocks in time to the beat of the song. It's a lot of fun and will give you an unintentional workout, but if you really want to succeed at the higher difficulties and become a true saber master, here are a few pointers to bear in mind.
Adjust the Floor HeightIt's entirely possible to just jump into the game and play reasonably well without changing any of the settings, but if you're having problems with dodging obstacles or want the best hit accuracy possible, you need to make sure the floor height is set up correctly. Going against the advice of the game, it's actually best not to adjust the in-game floor to match the positioning of your actual floor, as this results in blocks being too low and obstacles harder to avoid. The ideal position for you will be dependent on your height — my floor is set at knee height and others have found it to work well at waist height — but you'll want to make sure the menu is properly centred at eye level. Taking the time to adjust this properly will make the world of difference to your score.
Warm Up ProperlyBeat Saber will give you a workout. Not only are you swinging your arms in time to the beat, you're also ducking and dodging obstacles. If you want to avoid injury, you'll want to warm up. At worst, you'll want to play a couple of songs at a difficulty lower than the one on which you usually play, so if you play on Hard difficulty for example, play a couple of songs on Normal first. At best, you might want to consider a few shoulder rolls to loosen up your shoulders, knee bends to warm up your legs, rowing exercises and chest presses to warm up your arms, and some marching on the spot to get your heart going. While this sounds like a lot of trouble, you don't want to be like me where you spend the next two days wondering where these muscles in your arms have come from.
Use HeadphonesIf you're having problems with lag in between the game and the sound on your tv, unfortunately there is no in-game setting to change this. However, if you use headphones with the VR headset, this problem goes away. Players using an original PSVR headset without the built-in headphones will want to make sure the headphone wire is well out of the way of their swinging arms. The VR cable itself is also best tucked over your shoulder so that it runs behind you and it is far easier to avoid tripping over it.
Understand the ScoringGetting a high score is not as simple as making sure you hit each block — in fact, there are three aspects to the scoring. First, when you begin to swing at a block, you need to start the swing from at least a 90o angle. This will award a maximum of 70 points per block. Secondly, once you've cut the block, you want to continue swinging the Move controller for at least another 60o, so that you add another 30 points onto your total. Thirdly, make sure you cut the block as close to the centre as you can, as this will give you another 10 points. If this sounds really complicated, developer Beat Team released a video showing the scoring in action.
To get that elusive SS rating on a song, you'll need to get as close to the maximum of 110 points from each block that you can, because simply getting a full combo throughout the song will not be enough. Make sure you maintain your combo as much as possible, and don't be distracted by the background that will regularly switch between calming blue and an alarming shade of red. The red background does not mean you've failed! The developer just likes to keep you on your toes.
Get Into The MusicYes, you can complete songs with a minimal amount of effort by flicking your wrists in the right direction, but your scores won't be great. As mentioned above, you need a lot of movement for each block to get as high a score as possible, and the best way to do this is to really get into the music and start dancing along with the rhythm. The more muscles you use for each action, the more control you have when performing it because it increases the amount of power you can put into each move and allows for smoother movement at the same time. You're less tense, you'll be having more fun, and you'll likely find your accuracy increases. Who cares that you might be looking a bit ridiculous? After all, you do have a glowing VR headset on your head anyway.
Practice With No Fail and Slow Song SpeedEven taking all of those tips into account, you'll still need to practice, practice, and practice if you're going to become an expert saber wielder. The problem is there's no specific practice mode in the game, and if you just keep failing the same song over and over again, you'll get frustrated pretty quickly. This is where Freeplay Mode comes into its own. In this mode, players can try any of the game's 16 songs with a variety of modifiers. Applying the No Fail modifier means you can make as many mistakes as you like and still get to the end of the track. If you couple it with the Slow Song Speed modifier so that the song plays at a slower speed, you have more time to react to the oncoming onslaught. It's not ideal, but it's better than the alternative of never seeing the end of the song while seeing the start of it far too much.
There's a Difference Between Bad Cuts and MissesThe PlayStation 4 version of the game comes with a campaign that has objectives for some of the songs, and some of these involve Bad Cuts and Misses. A Miss is when you don't hit the block in any way; when it flies past you, it's still completely intact. On the contrary, a Bad Cut is when you cut a block in the wrong direction and/or you cut it with the wrong colour saber. Most of the levels will ask you to complete the song while getting fewer than a set number of each. It's great practice for when you play the songs in freeplay for a high score because both will break your combo, so you want to avoid them. Bizarrely, though, some levels will ask for a minimum amount of Bad Cuts or Misses, so you'll need to deliberately throw away your combo to complete them.
Getting a Minimum Amount of Hand MovementAnother campaign objective is to get through the song while moving your hands more than a set distance. There's no pretty way of doing this — you will need to flail your arms around as much as possible. If the level has a No Fail modifier, you can ignore the blocks as much as you want in favour of randomly swinging your arms, but I actually found it to be more productive hitting as many blocks as possible with dramatic and large arm movements. You also need to start moving your arms back and forth before the first blocks appear at the start of the song, and in every possible break you can. Finally, there is a period of several seconds at the end of a song that will count your hand movement, and the amount of hand movement you can gain in that period could be enough to push you over the target. In my opinion, this is by far the hardest objective of the game and it will likely take you several attempts.
Getting a Maximum Amount of Hand MovementIn the completely opposite corner to the last point, there is another type of objective where you need to complete the song while moving your hands less than a set distance. Unlike all of the other advice I've given so far, here you really need to stay as still as possible and hit as many blocks as you can with small flicks of the wrist. Holding the two controllers firmly against your ribs helps, as that's at an ideal height to hit blocks at all heights. Do not move the controllers at all until you hit the first block, minimise movement during breaks in the music, and don't move at all at the end of the song. Again, this will take practice, but there is more leeway for mistakes with this objective than there is with getting a minimum amount of hand movement.
Take Frequent BreaksIt's always tempting to just have one more go to try and finish a level, but if you play for extended periods of time without a break, you're going to get tired far quicker and your scores are going to suffer. When Microsoft's Kinect sensor was first released onto the market, they recommended taking a break every 15 minutes, and I'd recommend the same for Beat Saber. When taking a break, make sure to drink plenty of water too, as cramp in the middle of a song is not fun... dehydration even less so. If your body is starting to ache, perhaps it's even time to call it a day and come back to the game another time, because you'll certainly be feeling it later if you ignore those warnings. Mastering the game is more of a marathon than a sprint, so be prepared to take your time rather than push yourself unnecessarily.
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