Bloody Zombies Review – Undead VR Brawler (PSVR/PS4)
I’m a guy who enjoys a good pun, and a play on words using different dialects is among the highlights. Bloody Zombies may seem like a painfully obvious name for a game about beating up the undead, until you realize that it takes place in London and features a cast of four British survivors looking to destroy every bloody zombie in their path. It’s a bloody good pun, one made through sheer simplicity. I’m already excited to play this game and we’re not even past the title yet.
Bloody Zombies is a brawler game like classic arcade brawlers of old. Think Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, or Turtles in Time and you’ve got the right idea. Brawlers are a dime a dozen though, with a new one seeming to hit the PSN every few months at least. It’s a formula that’s easy to copy to almost any theme. In order to stand out, you’ve got to do something unique. The team at Paw Print Games decided to take the brawler formula and add VR, giving a unique perspective on the traditionally side scrolling format. With virtual reality support, it becomes another game that allows for multiplayer both within and outside the headset, removing the stigma of VR being a traditionally solo experience.
Better in VR
In fact, it seems that Bloody Zombies was designed with the idea of having at least one person playing in VR at any given time. Facing the same side-scrolling view as TV players, the VR players can look side to side and up and down, unbound by the limitations of the edges of the screen. Secrets and dangers can be discovered and communicated from this angle, and the depth of the play area is far easier to judge than trying to play on a screen. With the headset on is my preferred way to play, and when my wife donned the headset after three or so levels of playing co-op without, she agreed.
It might have been because I started in VR first and then moved on to playing on the TV screen, but I felt that the TV experience was quite limited in scope, albeit on purpose for the benefit of revealing secrets in VR. In many ways it can feel tedious and frustrating playing on a two dimensional screen. The screen boundaries almost feel unfairly limited just to attract that VR player. Having a better sense of depth by leaning into the scene makes performing combos and taking down (or avoiding) enemies much, much easier. As virtual reality gains ground, I’m always on the lookout for unique uses of the platform. Expanding the scope of a traditionally limited view brawler certainly fits that bill.
There’s a frustrating nature in depth that comes from the flat player character and enemy models. The combat can feel quite unforgiving if you are even a hair too far forward or too far back. In massive fights with tons of enemies on every side, each with varying abilities and attacks, it’s important to be able to judge the depth and get into or out of position very quickly. The more I played, the more I was able to get used to the particular nuance of finding that right spot, but I was also playing in VR where the particular depth is easier to judge. Moving to the TV becoming a test of patience as depth perception was severely limited.
Master the Combo
A brief tutorial at the beginning doesn’t go much into how essential combos are to surviving past the first couple of levels. Increasingly difficult enemies require attacks that will hold them at bay and do more damage. Once I figured out the combos and the special attacks, Bloody Zombies went from being quite difficult to a little more fun, I just wish the game had taken the time to explore the ins and outs of chaining attacks, juggling enemies, and using powerful special abilities at the right times. In fact, the system of special abilities is unnecessarily complicated both in equipping and in execution. The game defaults to teaching the “hardcore” inputs as opposed to the simpler ones, something that will turn away more casual players just looking for a fun and quick brawler to play with friends.
Multiplayer makes any brawler better, and would be a fundamental loss if a brawler title were to launch without it. Despite being a virtual reality game, Bloody Zombies supports any combination of couch and online co-op players. Of course, for local co-op, system limitations mean that only one person can wear the PSVR headset, with three couch players on the TV. As far as I am aware, online poses no such restrictions, allowing up to four total people to play in VR. The characters in game get a little VR headset on their character model to denote which players are playing using a PSVR headset; not that it’s necessary, but it adds a dash of flavor and personality.
What would a zombie apocalypse be without a little character? Helping to sell the pun present in the title, each of the survivors is almost a stereotype of London brash, ready to kick some bloody zombie arse. This coming from someone born and raised in the Rocky Mountains, so perhaps it’s not all that exotic, but I found each character really fun, with their own voice lines throughout. Brilliant cartoon animations bring the typically dark and dreary nature of a zombie threat into a light that many pieces of media fail to provide, while still painting London red. It is called Bloody Zombies after all, and that title isn’t just because they’re Brits.
Without the support of virtual reality, it would be hard to recommend Bloody Zombies as anything outright different from any other beat ’em up game. Does it need virtual reality? No, it could have just been another digital brawler, albeit one full of personality. Does it benefit from virtual reality? Absolutely, and without it, my score would be lower. VR lends a unique perspective and gives players real gameplay reasons to want to put on the headset instead of just playing on a TV. Thought of as a virtual reality game with the ability for couch co-op via the TV, Bloody Zombies is a fun brawler that has both unique implications for its own genre and VR. That kind of evolution of games and platforms is just what video games need to grow.
Bloody Zombies review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PS4 and PSVR headset. For more information on review scores, please read our Review Policy.