Dead Ground: Arena Review: Taking A Jaunt Down Death Lane

By now I (along with some of you) would probably qualify as a professional zombie slayer after all the undead killing I’ve done in virtual reality. All that’s missing is the ‘been there, done that’ t-shirt. Yet here we are, nearing the middle of 2018 and still talking about zombie VR wave shooters. Well, here it goes I guess.

Dead Ground: Arena is an action-packed arena mode of the upcoming FPS VR game Dead GroundZ. It released this April in Early Access and offers around 20 different types of weapons to kick zombie butt with while you complete various missions like saving VIPs and defeating bosses. The game doesn’t have much in the way of story, since that’s being saved for the upcoming full game, but it does a good job of showing off the type of gameplay you can expect – which is essentially shooting all the walking (or crawling) stinkers that every round throws at you to bits.

The game is available right now on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift at a $14.99 price tag. I got to give the game a try using a Vive and while I enjoyed the amazing visuals, wide range of undead creatures and action-packed shooting – this game is very much limited by the fact that shooting a wave of oncoming creatures is pretty much all it offers. Which is to say, you’re not getting a relatively unique experience out of Dead Ground: Arena (unless you’re a complete newbie to VR or have somehow missed the hundreds of other zombie wave shooters out there) but it does what it does very well.

Check out my gameplay video:

One of the first things that Dead Ground: Arena makes clear, is that it’s all about the weapons. The main menu allowed me to take a look at each of the weapons the game has to offer, and unleash some fire-stopping fury that blasted the zombies on display into little chunks of ragged meat. There were lots of awesome weapons to try out, including a gravity gun that allowed me to pull zombies closer and throw them far away, a black hole grenade, a freeze ray, and a flamethrower – and those were just the more peculiar options. The game definitely focuses on providing a wide array of familiar and unusual weapons to make the undead step into their graves for good.

That being said, I was a little disappointed to find that most of the weapons felt like they handled the same. The team did a good job of incorporating recoil and haptic feedback for a lot of the more heavy-duty weapons, like the minigun – but unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to all of them. Of course, as of right now VR hardware doesn’t allow for things like recoil and gun feedback to be incorporated convincingly, so there are limitations in that regard that the game can’t be held accountable for. Other than that, though, the action is very satisfying – especially when things started getting overwhelming with hordes of zombies making their way to me.

Psycho Zombies For The Win

The weapons aren’t the only diverse offering Dead Ground: Arena has. There are also various different types of zombies that range from the absurd to the downright crazy. The gameplay picks up tension in successive waves and is at times very fast-paced with a menagerie of assorted zombies jumping, running, and crawling at you in groups, with the occasional straggler for variation. I even encountered crawling zombies that would jump at me as soon as they got close. Those and the exploding obese monsters are a definite nod to Killing Floor, though if you want original Killing Floor action then you can just check out the VR version.

Some of the zombies are so strange that I sometimes forgot to look around the environment. Not that there’s much to do but run around since the environments don’t offer anything in the way of interaction. Though the game does offer visually stunning environments with lots of details on the zombies and weapons as well, so you have something nice to look at when resting in between waves. However, I usually spared those times for switching between weapons because ammo is relatively limited and the inventories are a bit hard to navigate in the heat of the moment. Luckily time does slow down a bit when opening them, which makes it a little less of a hassle, but the waves are relatively short which allowed me to just switch then.

Getting Around Death

Movement in the game is very limiting. Though it does offer both smooth movement and teleportation, both are very slow and don’t feel particularly user-friendly. The teleportation has sort of a charging effect, at the end of which you can teleport a short distance. As for the smooth movement. Well, that too could only be done in short bursts as I push down on the trackpad in the direction I wanted to go. Being used to VR games that let me either move in the direction I’m looking at or pointing to in one smooth swoop, meant this was extra jarring.

Dead Ground: Arena does a great job of previewing the upcoming Dead Ground Z and shows a lot of promise in terms of the type of quality gameplay we can expect. It may not hold your attention for long, and it certainly has its faults, but it’s also still in early access and so it can only get better from here if the developers keep working at it. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for when the full game releases to see what undead craziness VRillAR has been concocting for us.

Gameplay: 6
Graphics: 9
Sound: 7
Concept: 6
Controls: 7

The Goods

  • Does a great job of previewing the upcoming full game
  • Visually stunning with lots of details
  • Lots of different weapons that are satisfying to use
  • Variation in zombie character designs and behavior

The Bads

  • Movement feels halting and limited
  • Environments are only there for aesthetic value, no interaction
  • Gameplay is limited to shooting waves of oncoming zombies
  • The game can get stale after a while

Average Score: 7.0

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