Bloody Zombies is a new brawler for PS4, Xbox One and PC with built-in VR support on the systems that support it. It also supports cross-platform and couch coop modes for multiplayer fun. We reviewed the game on PS4, in both VR and non-VR mode.
When we met with the VR experts at nDreams during Gamescom last month, one of the games we were shown was Bloody Zombies. Despite only playing the game in VR and in solo mode, a few things immediately stood out. The game is essentially a very traditional 2D brawler in the same vein of Double Dragon, Final Fight and Streets of Rage, but (using a headset) viewed in VR. The way this works is that you feel like a giant, looking at a miniature world that looks like it’s been meticulously crafted on top of a long shelf. While you can’t walk the length of the shelf freely to explore the level at will, VR does allow you to look ahead at what’s coming, which is something a traditional arcade brawler normally doesn’t do. It also allows you to look up and down, and this gives you the chance to discover secrets that non-VR players might otherwise not have spotted.
The latter is especially true in levels in which verticality plays a big role – for instance in the level where you’re facing off against the undead on one of London’s famous bridges. Bloody Zombies – as the clever title implies – is a very British title, at least thematically and in its tone. This can be seen in the backdrops of the various levels, but also in the various characters available to you. Mixing a bit of Shaun of the Dead with a few caricatures of soccer hooligans gives the game a unique dose of character, which makes it more fun than your average brawler.
The gameplay itself isn’t as innovative as the VR viewpoint that you can use to view it all, and it’s actually more like the 80s originals that inspired it than the more refined modern day examples. That may sound like “ooooh, retro!” to some, but it also means that controls can feel a little clunky at times – especially when ‘platforming’ to reach places that are higher up – possibly because a VR player alerted you to some goodies up there. Mistiming jumps is common, especially at first, and it can cause some frustration. The brawling itself feel quite a bit more modern and refined, with a lot of emphasis on combos and (in later levels) crowd control. Bloody Zombies is easy to pick up and play, but hard to master once London’s streets are overrun with more and tougher zombies to defeat.
A lot of fun that can be had in Bloody Zombies lies in the fact that this title has been optimized for multiplayer gameplay. You can play with a combination of VR and non-VR players, and you can do this locally and/or online as well. The game even supports cross-platform play, so on PS4 you might be pairing up with PC gamers. Of course local coop is always preferred as it provides the best and easiest ways to communicate and work together, but there’s an interesting dynamic when a VR player enters the mix – either online or locally. The VR player isn’t just joining you in battle, but can also serve as a ‘spotter’, which is a great and unique way of cooperating in a game like this. I’m sure the novelty will wear off when you’re playing with a bunch of players who’ve played the levels and found the secrets already, but it’s excellent for first time players.
Bloody Zombies doesn’t set the brawler genre alight with innovation, and in 2D non-VR it’s fairly formulaic apart from the verticality that some levels offer – but the broad multiplayer options and VR compatibility offer just that little bit extra to elevate the game above the pack. Well worth trying out, especially if you have access to a VR headset or have a buddy with one who will go into London’s zombie-ridden streets with you.