Impressions: ‘Pistol Whip – Smoke & Thunder’ Delivers a Fresh Dose of Gun-slinging Fun

Today Pistol Whip gets a major free update called ‘Smoke & Thunder’, bringing five new levels to the game tied together into a mini-campaign (similar to the prior ‘2089’), as well as a complete refresh of the game’s modifier system, offering more customization than ever before. Like ‘2089’ before it, ‘Smoke & Thunder’ successfully delivers a fresh dose of fun, this time built entirely around dual-wielding.

Smoke & Thunder

Pistol Whip has always had an optional dual-wielding mode which is personally my favorite way to play the game. So you won’t be surprised to know I was pretty happy to find that the entire ‘Smoke & Thunder’ mini-campaign, delivered today as a free update to the game, is all about dual-wielding.

Instead of a sci-fi adventure, this time ‘Smoke & Thunder’ throws things back… way back, to the Wild West. Across its five new songs it introduces two new weapon types and new threats to the game, all culminating in a fun boss-fight.

The story of ‘Smoke & Thunder’ is really just a loose thread to connect each level, but it’s quick and to the point, and there’s once again some excellent comic-style artwork to keep your eyes happy while you listen to brief exposition. I actually would have enjoyed a bit more depth this time around, but hey, this is a game about channeling your inner John Wick, so I can appreciate the focus staying on the shooting.

At the outset you’ll be introduced to the six-shooter which, unlike the game’s usual semi-auto pistols, only has—you guessed it—six shots (instead of 15). But you get one in each hand for a total of 12 shots between them. Half the fun in ‘Smoke & Thunder’ is finding out how to find the right rhythm of firing and reloading to make sure you’re never caught without a bullet in the chamber.

And you’re going to need to master that skill right quick, because just as you’ve gotten used to the lower bullet count you’ll be introduced to another new weapon type: the boomstick. And this time, you’ve only got two shots per-gun.

But what the boomstick lacks in capacity, it makes up for in power. Each shot delivers a blast that not only kills two-shot enemies in a single shot, but will also kill any adjacent enemies thanks to a small area-of-effect. ‘Smoke & Thunder’ gives you plenty of opportunities to strategically aim for the middle of a trio of enemies to take them all down with one shot, which is especially important considering you only get two shots per-gun before reloading.

After getting to flex your powerful new guns for just a bit, ‘Smoke & Thunder’ introduces a shielded enemy type that can withstand two shots from even your powerful boomstick.

While that doesn’t sound much different than the game’s regular two-shot enemies, it actually adds a lot of strategic decision making. Since you’ve only got two shots per-gun, you can decided to take down an enemy with two shots from the same gun (thus triggering the need to reload one of your guns) or with one shot from each gun (saving a bullet in each gun for when you need it next).

Image courtesy Cloudhead Games

Smoke & Thunder’ is at its best when you find the perfect rhythm between shooting, reloading, and dodging. At times I found myself slipping into a satisfying ‘skiing’ style where I’d double-tap with one gun then swing it down to reload, while simultaneously raising the other gun to shoot, and continue to alternate that pattern. At several times I felt like I was really in tune with the beat and the level, which is when Pistol Whip truly shines.

The final level of ‘Smoke & Thunder’ reaches a climax with a boss that has a few new tricks up its sleeve. Not wanting to spoil anything, I’ll just say that I enjoyed the challenge it threw at me.

Ultimately ‘Smoke & Thunder’ succeeded in making me feel like a gun-slinging badass… I only wish I could do some pistol spinning for style points.

Continue on Page 2: Pistol Whip Styles System »