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Preview: HordeZ

First-person shooter (FPS) videogames in virtual reality (VR) were the expected norm two years ago, but recent history has told us that the locomotion involved as a basic principle for the genre causes issues. Many developers have tried to overcome this, from Epic Games’ teleportation mechanic in Bullet Train to the stationary back-to-back co-operative shooting in Survios’ Raw Data. However, an elegant solution has been devised by ZensVR, with their little discussed HordeZ.

HordeZ Screenshot

Designed as a co-operative experience for both HTC Vive (version tested) and the Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch, HordeZ is a simple but hugely enjoyable videogame. The player(s) is given a small arsenal of weapon to take on increasing waves of demented demonic foes as they attempt to close-in on your position. The pistol and machine gun both have a satisfying thump as their bullets penetrate zombie flesh, while the throwing knives and grenades are somewhat more awkward to use – demanding a press and release of the trigger at the peak of your throw gesture opposed to the traditional hold before and release during – with the former most certainly intended as a back-up for when ammunition runs dry.

Weapons are selectable by holding your thumb on the HTC Vive controller’s touchpad, sliding to the quadrant displaying your chosen firearm on the virtual pop-up screen and depressing the pad. The centre of the pop-up hosts an attract gun, which locks-on to power-ups, such as additional ammunition and health packs, dropped by enemies and must be used to pull this content towards you. Running over the power-ups does nothing as – and here’s that unique locomotion mechanic – the player doesn’t actually run at all.

HordeZ places the player upon an illuminated floating board, which moves automatically along a set path. Although this sounds very limiting, the videogame’s design is based entirely upon it. To begin with the enemies will only come from one direction and have to follow you down a tight corridor, bottlenecking their aggression. However, it’s not long until the player reaches wider areas, intersections between four pathways and eventually wide open spaces. HordeZ is incredibly well designed to allow for a quick yet smooth learning curve.

HordeZ Screenshot

This movement technique makes HordeZ feel more like an arcade light-gun videogame than a now traditional FPS. Although there’s no cover system as with Virtua Cop or Time Crisis, the videogame is based upon the ideal of never having a momentary lapse of concentration: you’ve inserted your coins and the videogame is going to continually attempt to punish you until it’s game over and the next player in line gets their turn to pay for the privilege. However, HordeZ isn’t an arcade cabinet of course, and so that next turn will always be free.

According to the official Steam page for HordeZ, a release date of 1st May 2016, is currently expected. This will obviously be the HTC Vive version as, at present, Oculus VR hasn’t announced a release date for the Oculus Touch. In the meantime, VRFocus will be sure to keep you updated with all the latest details on HordeZ and other VR titles from ZensVR.