Earlier this year I reviewed Zombieland: Headshot Fever on the Oculus Quest 2. It was an fun arcade rails shooter that made reasonably good use of the movie license, but the Quest 2 has become more problematic for me to use; mostly comfort issues with how it fits on my nose and the way I have to constantly move the visor up and down my face to maintain a consistent focus. The Quest 2 has started to collect dust now as I have shift nearly all of my VR gaming back to the Rift S. Thankfully, many games that were originally released as Quest-exclusives have been making their way onto Steam, and I am finally able to enjoy this game with more comfort and greater image quality.
For this review I played the game on both the Rift S and the Vive and for the most part the experiences were identical from a basic gameplay perspective. There are some subtle differences, some of which might even be subjective. I found the image quality just a bit sharper on the Rift S and the Touch controllers felt more natural in my hands as I wielded the variety of weapons the game has to offer. This is a stand/sit in place game so the room-scale benefits of the Vive never came into play.
Thankfully, movie knowledge is not required to enjoy Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever, although if you have seen at least the first movie then you will likely recognize the valiant attempt to recreate the four stars of the film in the VR world. Rather than play as these characters you’ll play the proverbial “new guy” attempting to get a spot in the Zombieland Invitational; a zombie-killing race course. But first you must prove yourself in a series of relentless VR trial runs.
Once past the initial setup and tutorials, etc. you’ll find yourself in the fancy rec room of some abandoned mansion where Tallahassee, Wichita, Columbus, and Little Rock will dish out missions, compliments, complaints, and advice. You’ll need to earn the respect of all of these zombie slayers in order to fill up the challenge grid and qualify for the invitational. Tallahassee will get you setup with weapons and upgrades you can purchase using TP (toilet paper) collected during missions. You’ll visit him between most every level to upgrade stats to your weapons and install various perks to boost your performance. Little Rock waits at the pool table where you can choose your missions sorted with a series of tiered skill brackets. Each mission will have various sub-challenges that will earn you a respect block from one of the four main characters. Some unlock by merely completing the level, while others require a certain time limit or more skillful challenges like not missing a single shot or finding a hidden item.
Missions are fast and furious, lasting about a minute or less; at least if you want to unlock the speed challenge. This means you’ll probably replay these missions several times before you unlock everything, as level memorization and weapon tactics are crucial to success. Sadly, this means that levels are seldom as thrilling as the first or second time you play them. Zombies run around and come at you in predictable and repeatable patterns; some run, some walk, some crawl on the ground. You simply need to prioritize the threats and make sure to reload often.
While mostly an arcade shooter there is a bit of skill and precision involved. Almost all shots need to be headshots or a shot in an exposed section of the torso. Double-tapping a zombie will earn you precious seconds of slow-motion making it easy to double-tap other enemies and stack the time bonus as well as the combos. Some zombies will throw items at you that need to be shot out of the air before they hit you, and most levels have a secret item you need to find and shoot/collect.
Your primary weapon has unlimited ammo while your more powerful secondary guns like shotguns and machine guns have limited ammo that can be boosted with upgrades. Your pistol is your default weapon until you reach over and grip whatever secondary gun you have on your opposite shoulder, and you’ll use that until you release the grip or run out of ammo. This weapon is best reserved for big bosses and emergency situations, but the pistol works surprisingly well in most any other situation as long as you are a crack shot.
And that’s what Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever is all about; being a crack shot. Nailing those double-taps is critical to clearing out the levels in record time and avoid being overwhelmed by the zombie hordes. There is also a fun reload system that requires certain motions unique to each weapon you’ll need to master, since running out of ammo at the wrong moment is the leading cause of death. You’ll also want to look for anything explosive that might take out a large number of zombies in a single blast. Once you have earned enough respect it’s off to the Zombieland Invitational where you will tackle the most thrilling zombie-killing race course ever created complete with leaderboards so you can see how you stack up with the rest of the world.
As mentioned earlier the game can be played seated or standing and works fine either way; the game will adjust the height for you depending on your choice. There is no issue with motion sickness since the game uses travel points to advance your movement by merely looking at the next blue waypoint on the ground. This keeps the game flowing extremely well since you are almost always looking at the next point after killing the last zombie. The aiming is extremely accurate, and with no target sight you actually have to aim down the barrel or get really good firing from the hip. Reloading is easy with a down-flick of the analog stick to eject the mag/clip, and accessing the secondary weapon is fluid and intuitive. You can even dual-wield weapons for maximum firepower or maintain cover fire while reloading your other weapon.
The presentation is really good for a VR game. Obviously, this isn’t going to look like Call of Duty Zombies but more like a Borderlands game with nicely design levels and zombies that range from scary to hilarious, all treated with a stylish cel-shaded filter that keeps the framerate high and the extreme gore not as shocking. The game looks significantly better and runs noticeably smoother on the PC than it did on the Quest 2. The sounds and music are excellent and the voice acting is surprisingly good and almost as cheesy as the movie script itself.
I had a blast playing Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever on the Rift S, and now that it is finally on a more comfortable system with improved performance I look forward to playing this game a lot more, honing my skills and shaving off seconds on my completion time; plus earning some of those challenges are crazy-hard, especially the no-miss challenge. The game works great seated or standing; enemies are always in your forward 180-degrees so you don’t need to swivel. There is definitely an authentic retro arcade feel to the game that will keep you playing over and over, and it’s also fun to break out at parties and see who can get the best score. Good luck climbing those leaderboards and remember…Don’t Shoot Homer!