Last year nDreams announced plans to not only continue their efforts to become the largest virtual reality (VR) videogame developer in the UK, but also to expand their repertoire to publish titles from other developers. Paw Print Games’ Bloody Zombies, announced today, is the first such title, coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC later this year.
A side-scrolling beat-‘em-up, or ‘brawler’, Bloody Zombies sticks rather firmly to many of the traditions of the genre: light and heavy attacks, linked combos, air attacks, collectable/breakable weaponry and health items. It also throws together a selection of more modern mechanics such as a level-up system (unlocking new moves) and juggle bonuses. On the surface, Bloody Zombies looks set to deliver exactly what is promised by that genre label.
Inside however, there’s something much more interesting happening. When played with a VR head-mounted display (HMD), Bloody Zombies opens into a much more progressive experience. The viewpoint significantly changes, bringing with it not just a more interesting visual style, but also new gameplay opportunities.
Compatible with Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, Bloody Zombies with added stereoscopy casts a different light on the already interesting art style. Now, the characters appear as 2D cutouts in a 3D world; leaning into the scene allows them to be viewed from an angle where they appear to be paper-thin. Furthermore, you are given a much wider view of the landscape, able to see enemies approaching from a greater distance and even view hidden areas that may not be immediately recognisable when played on a 2D screen.
You could suggest that this will give a player in VR an advantage over those on a monitor as, indeed; it does appear that way at present. However, Bloody Zombies’ wealth of multiplayer options takes this into account. Up to four players can join in the co-operative gameplay (given individual scores at the end of each level to encourage player rivalry outside of the action) and this can be any combination of local and online players, VR and non-VR. For example, two players could be on one PlayStation 4 system with one wearing a PlayStation VR whilst the other plays on the television screen, with two further players online also wearing a PlayStation VR. Or not.
The interesting camera perspective granted by VR is currently Bloody Zombies’ greatest unique selling point (USP). As an addition to a well worn genre it doesn’t particularly shine; there’s an interesting variety of enemies but the combat feels very rigid. What Bloody Zombies does have going for it is that, in VR, there’s very little competition. Insomniac Games’ Feral Rites felt very flat while Gang Beasts and Kite & Lightning’s forthcoming Bebylon are an altogether different style of brawling. With that, Paw Print Games has an opportunity to set a precedent for the genre when it launches later this year.