As I furiously pump the triggers on the Oculus Touch controllers clutched in my sweating palms the ghostly ranger serving as my virtual avatar fires burst after burst from her ethereal six shooters. When I hear the chambers click empty I frantically crouch behind the bar to reload. This is only a small glimpse into what it’s like to play Dead and Buried.
A quick downward flick of my wrists empties the spent cartridges and a second snap replaces my weapons with fresh ammunition. The whole process only takes a few moments, but every second counts when you’re being bombarded with bullets, dynamite and grenades across a ghostly saloon by two very determined opponents.
With my trusty sidearms now bursting with firepower, I take a deep breath and peak back above the lip of the bar. No sooner do my eyes clear the oak than I see the telltale muzzle flashes indicating my newly exposed head needs to quickly be anywhere else but here.
I duck down with whiplash inducing intensity and listen for the barrage to end. As soon as I’m sure their guns are as empty as mine used to be, I launch myself up on my knees and fire round after round into the bandit perched on the balcony above me. He leaps in the air in what I’ve come to recognize as the death animation, but I know I can’t rest while his teammate remains in play. As I turn to eradicate him as well – reloading again as I do so – the sound of hissing dynamite fills my ears.
I try to dive out of the way but it’s too late. The bomb goes off and my screen turns to grey. The game immediately asks if I’d like to respond, but I decide to take a second to catch my breath. Because when you’re playing Dead and Buried you take all the breathers you can get.
Dead and Buried is the the first Oculus Rift game to be fully developed by the company’s in house production team, Oculus Studios. It is a competitive, fast paced, multiplayer shooter that takes place in a literal Old Western ghost town.
Your characters in the game will literally be undead gunslingers, returned to the land of the living by a malevolent spirit in order to fill the empty coffins that disappoint him with fresh victims. The vertical slice of the game I got to play pits two teams of two against each other in a vicious first-to-25-kills deathmatch.
The duel takes place in an old-time saloon that is tinged with a sense of the supernatural. The art for Dead and Buried is cartoony by design, similar to that of Borderlands (minus the cell shading) and was designed by comic book artist Jeff Masuda according to Andrew Welch – one of this title’s co-developers.
Welch was also able to confirm that Dead and Buried will be available as a launch title for the eagerly anticipated Oculus Touch controllers in Q2 of this year. This is good news since all of the ducking, dodging, crouching, rolling, and jumping that I described above will actually need to be physically done by you in order to claim victory in this particular VR title.
Dead and Buried is the most physically demanding VR game I’ve played. I spent the entire experience crouching behind cover, dashing to new safety points, and furiously aiming or firing my guns. The guns themselves are as energetic as the experience itself.
You start with the standard dual six shooters but each time you die in the game you respawn at a different point around the map. This helps overcome VR’s locomotion issues, but it also positions you nearer to different weapons. There are shotguns, railguns (like a pistol but it shoots three powerful bullets in quick succession), grenade launchers, and sticks of dynamite around the map and each offers unique options for destruction.
Defense is a huge part of winning a round in Dead and Buried. Each time you’re killed the other team gets a point, so the name of the game is prolonging your ghostly existence while snuffing out your rivals as quickly as possible. This is easier said than done as it only takes a few shots to send you to the respawn screen. Finding good cover, therefore, is arguably the most important part of the game.
The saloon in which we were battling had plenty of cover points to take advantage of. And the main rhythm of the game involves hiding, peeking out to fire, hiding again to reload, and repeating. As monotonous as this might sound, it becomes an adrenaline fueled experience when you combine it with the motion capabilities of Touch and the immersive life-or-death sensations made possible by the Rift.
Welch explained to me that this will be a multiplayer focused title. It may support a few single player modes but mostly the name of the game will be connecting with friends online and seeing who has what it takes to conquer the virtual west.
The competition was fierce and addictively fun. This was, however, still an early build. Balancing issues such as a few too-good points of cover for camping and a comically overpowered grenade launcher still need to be ironed out. Jason Rubin, the head of Oculus Studios, was on-site at the demo and assured the participants that problems like that are being actively dealt with before release.
Dead and Buried will ship with new maps that include a train station and a typical old west outdoor shootout. Its mechanics work well, its gunplay is superb and its use of the Oculus Touch platform shows off just how immersive that system has the potential to be.
There’s no word on pricing or a release date for the game, beyond the fact that it is a Touch launch title. We’ll keep you posted on those updates as they become available.