Remember Dead Island? It was a 2011 zombie survival game that raised a lot of hype with impressive trailers and screenshots, but a plague of technical and design frustrations left a lot to be desired. Dead GroundZ is essentially the same story.
Fitting, as this VR first-person shooter basically lifts all of its elements from Techland’s shooter. After being drugged on a luxury cruise ship, players awaken on Bikini Island, the carefree residents of which have long been transformed into a popular brand of brain-devouring zombies. No points for originality there but, hey, it gets the job done. Not a lot else about Dead GroundZ does, though.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a game is going for B-movie and either failing or succeeding. With Dead GroundZ, there’s no issue making that distinction; the dialogue here is some of the worst I’ve seen in VR and any early hints of irony are soon dismissed (“Follow the road to go to the place”). The game will occasionally cut to third-person cutscenes where the camera swings and jolts around with no concern for the user’s comfort. Though it is admirable that there’s even an attempt at story and style, none of it’s particularly well implemented.
Gameplay-wise, Dead GroundZ isn’t quite as offensive, as its presentation. It’s essentially Arizona Sunshine, just rougher around the edges. That is to say it’s dated and then some. Enemy’s heads catapult off into the distance with a single shot and baseball bats and hammers might as well be made from foam with how light they handle. But it works; there’s back-against-the-wall standoffs and nasty jumps to be had, they’re just unoriginal and done better elsewhere. In a post Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners world, there isn’t much to recommend here.
All that said, Dead GroundZ does at least score some points for having a genuine campaign in which you move through some surprisingly well-realized environments. Even with three more campaign levels to come, though, it’s hard to recommend a game that feels years old on arrival. If Dead GroundZ is to become more than a footnote in a respectable library, its dated design is the real zombie to slay.
Dead GroundZ is available on SteamVR Early Access now. It supports Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows VR headsets.