This review was originally created in September 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Dead Ground: Arena is an action-heavy virtual reality first person shooter meant to provide a stand-alone sampling of what to expect in the upcoming Dead GroundZ (aka, Dead Ground Zero), which is presently in Early Access on Steam. As its name implies, Dead: Ground: Arena focuses on arena play, which is a sub-genre of first-person shooters. With arena play, the experience is tailored to the use of projectile weapons against hordes of enemies. While arena shooters typically emphasize online multiplayer, the designation also applies to computer-controlled bots that try and mimic play against human opponents, which is what’s found here.
Even though a more involved story mode and more in-depth missions are being reserved for Dead GroundZ, the basic premise remains the same: Take on the role of a secret agent for Blackrain as you’re sent into a range of challenging zombie-infested scenarios. You’ll battle more than 30 different shuffling, running, crawling, and jumping zombies, as well as oversized bosses. A variety of weapons are available to help in your fight, including shotguns and grenades, as well as more exotic fare like freeze and gravity guns. And like any first person shooter worth its salt, dual-wielding weapons is a given, starting you out with pistols and then letting you pick up additional weapons, ammunition, and health upgrades as each scenario unfolds and you deal with wave-after-wave of ever more aggressive zombies.
Dead Ground: Arena is designed for Vive, Vive Pro, or Oculus Rift and can be played seated or standing as a room-scale experience. Movement can be achieved through walking around within your own real-world environment, smooth locomotion (sliding) to simulate movement, or standard teleportation, so the game offers plenty of options for rooms of all sizes. And since the “arenas” are relatively small, and where you’re allowed to move within the larger environment is even smaller, most other movements beyond shifting position in relation to the enemies is rarely required.
Controls are relatively straightforward and intuitive, although it can be a challenge to manage and swap out different weapons when under duress. Fortunately, practice does make you better, if not necessarily perfect, when it comes to changing out weapons.
For most of the games I played, I didn’t feel particularly over-matched or scared by the zombie hordes. I did, however, gasp and get suitably startled every time an enemy got too close for comfort, which is indicative of how subtly immersive the game becomes. It doesn’t hurt either that Dead Ground: Arena‘s audio-visuals are also top-notch, with well-rendered enemy models and quality environmental effects like realistic fire. And unlike many other overly “grimdark” first person shooters, Dead Ground: Arena isn’t afraid to set its scenarios within the occasional well-lit, tropical environment. That’s certainly one way to know that the developers are proud of how their game looks.
While not the deepest of experiences – hopefully Dead GroundZ can provide more of that – if you just want to be a badass zombie killer, Dead Ground: Arena has all the straightforward fun that you need. Even meant as a proof of concept for a more involved game, Dead Ground: Arena delivers a lot of value for those looking for a good virtual reality first person shooter.
Score: 5 out of 5 stars.
Dead Ground: Arena is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.
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