Note: HordeZ is available for the HTC Vive.
The same old story: a zombie apocalypse has thrown the world into upheaval. Your job, your home, your life as you know it no longer exists. The only item on your agenda is to survive.
The first level fades in to the sound of slobbering and moaning. You're in a back alley in some city set fire, and you brought your collection of guns. I am immediately reminded of an arcade shooter, minus the greasy orange pistol. The zombies start attacking, and they don't stop until you've reached the end of the level. Will you survive?
Wave after wave after wave...
HordeZ is best described as a wave survival shooter and can be likened to Horde mode on Gears of War — you can see where the inspiration for the name came from. Instead of a large room with multiple points of cover, however, you start at one point on a map and move slowly toward the end of the level. You can move around the perimeter of your Vive's play area, but your movement is always going in one direction.
Don't worry — there's no sign of motion sickness. The rate of velocity is very slow and steady, and I was so invested in dispatching brain-hungry bad guys that I hardly noticed I was moving at all. Only after a wave of zombies was lying in ruin at my feet — the gore is to the point that zombies fall apart and spray blood all over — did I again notice my locomotion. If you do experience any motion sickness, there is an option to automatically teleport to a further section of the level once you've dispatched a certain amount of zombies.
You need to keep your head on a swivel as you progress. The levels usually have two, three, or four access points to the area you're in, and you can be assured zombies will come pouring out of each one. The ability to hold a weapon in each hand is absolutely necessary.
If you're looking for a shooter with an enormous arsenal, look elsewhere. HordeZ went with a submachine gun that deals medium damage at a high rate of fire, a pistol that deals high damage at a slow rate of fire, a shotgun that has a two-shot capacity before needing a reload, a katana for close combat, and grenades for large mobs.
Reloading requires you to squeeze the grip buttons on your Vive wand — there are no special movements needed, as this would be almost impossible when using a weapon in each hand.
To swap between weapons, you hold down the touchpad to bring up a floating, 3D menu, then touch the virtual controller to the globe containing the appropriate weapon. It might take a level or two to get familiar, but after awhile you won't need to look down to select a weapon — it will be easily done by feel only.
The sub-machine gun has a laser on it that allows you to just blast away without much regard for accuracy, but ammo is limited. This is where arcade elements begin to seep in. Killing enemies with consecutive headshots awards score bonuses that flash over the slain zombie's head, and will sometimes reward you with a drop.
In your inventory is something called a Grabber that looks like a futuristic ray gun — you use this to pick up drops of ammo and health. Aim, squeeze the trigger, and a tractor beam pulls the items toward you. It's a neat way of adding some complexity to the game and is a nice workaround for the on-rails inability to walk back through the level and pick things up.
There is also an actual arcade mode you can choose in the main menu which changes the way you select weapons and the way you pick up drops. Instead of tapping the touchpad to bring up a 3D menu of weapons, the weapons are now attached to your body — pistols at hips, submachine guns behind your back, katanas over your shoulder, etc. Picking up drops is as easy as shooting them. No more Grabber and way less weapon switching.
The first level offered to you — you can skip it — in singleplayer mode is a tutorial where you stand on a stage and blast harmless zombies. It's a great way to immediately get used to the controls.
There are six difficulties and ten levels to work through, so you can replay this game countless times whenever you have a thirst for zombie carnage. This isn't a story waiting to be read — this is an in-your-face, gory romp through a post-apocalyptic city that can be swallowed in intervals of 10 minutes. The last level is a 100-stage endurance challenge that you will almost certainly not survive your first time around.
The timing in this game is pretty great. Once things get rolling, you'll have just enough time between waves to pick up drops, reload your guns, and compose yourself among the decomposing body parts. It's not long before you again hear footsteps and moaning.
There is, unfortunately, no music — I can't decide whether some guitar riffs would make things better or worse. Sound plays a big part in HordeZ — use it to judge where the next enemies will appear, and try to listen to any zombies sneaking up behind you — so loud music might wreck the experience. On the other hand, some music in the main menu would help get excited for the challenge ahead.
If you get tired of playing alone, hop into a game either you, a friend or another player hosts online. There was a serious lack of games when I played multiplayer, but hopefully, as more people realize what a fun game this is, the lists will populate. The game works the same way, except you have a friend with you.
The Vive's microphone picks up audio clearly, so you and your partner can give call-outs and/or scream about impending danger. Playing with a partner cuts the creepy factor by about half, so if you want maximum scares, go it alone.
For only about $16, this is a must-have game for Vive. You can use it as an introduction to VR for your friends with strong stomachs or as a high-score competition for veteran VR gamers. No, it doesn't have a ton of weapons or a storyline, but it makes up for it in other aspects of play. One of the best features is that it doesn't require a strong commitment of your time — all you need is about 10 minutes and a strong constitution.
- Creepy landscape
- Price is right
- Dispatch zombies with your friends
- No music whatsoever
- Small arsenal
- Not a lot of depth