A half-broken spaceship, darkly lit corridors and a mass of undead monsters baying for blood. Sounds like a recipe for a fantastic VR horror game with a touch of cliché, right? That's pretty much what Dead Effect 2 VR is all about.
With RPG elements thrown into the mix, a multitude of gameplay offerings and co-op play to boot, this new game from Badfly Interactive certainly has plenty of promise. Is it one you'll be dying to get stuck into?
A role-player at heart
Dead Effect 2 VR is an RPG first and foremost. At the start of the game you choose between three different characters with varying skillsets and, with a bit of zombie slaying VR experience under our belt, we naturally went for the one with swords.
As the action kicks off you're thrust into a single player campaign, based within said half-broken spaceship, with your goal to complete simple tasks to progress. That variest from rescuing survivors, to fixing problems with the ship's oxygen systems.
Of course, as always happens, some bad people have been experimenting on human beings, which has all gone a bit wrong. The result? A ship full of blood-thirsty undead running rampage.
So in order to complete your objectives, you need to battle your way through a variety of baddies, including numerous types of zombies of varying difficulty, security drones and even some seriously angry cyber dogs.
As if that wasn't enough hassle, there are also a bunch of military people who want to prevent you from making progress, who are more intent on stopping you than they are in dealing with the zombies.
Gunplay and guaranteed good times?
No problem, though, because Dead Effect 2 VR is not stingy with the weaponry.
In fact, guns are available by the bucket load - with over 30 weapons on offer to help you smash, stab and shoot your way through the battered craft. Everything from pistols to shotguns, plasma rifles, bows, swords, hammers, grenades, sniper rifles and even a mini-gun (just so you can go all space-age Arnie). All the weaponry is not only upgradable but also available in different skill levels too.
Unlike most zombie shooters, you're never short of weaponry or ammo in Dead Effect 2 VR. You can carry one main weapon, two secondary weapons, a small throwing weapon and grenades too. This allows you to mix up what you're using to suit your play style, though we found it incredibly useful to have at least one melee weapon on hand for when ammo did run low.
As you progress, weapons become more powerful and more efficient too. Killing enemies, searching cupboards and lockers and generally progressing through the maps gives you access to piles of cash that can be used to purchase new weapons and gear or upgrade your current inventory.
We found we quickly accumulated enough money to fully upgrade most guns in our possession within a short space of time. In fact, cash is so readily available that you can basically upgrade weapons with every facet as soon as you equip or unlock them – damage, accuracy, magazine size, and so forth, which seems to make the fact that you can unlock these elements a moot point.
An interesting game mechanic means that if you die during a level then you have to spend cash to respawn or face restarting the level from the very start. This can be costly or problematic if you've already spent all your hard earned cash on guns and ammo. That said, if you just replay the entire level you'll probably be better off financially as you won't lose credits for respawning and will accrue more as you go through again.
In addition to guns and armour, there are also upgrades for cyborg implants that make you a better fighting machine. These can also be bought and upgraded in the shop, as well as discovered throughout levels as you make your way through the campaign.
Progression gives you points that can be spent unlocking abilities that include special powers like bullet time, force fields, or the ability the throw enemies around the room. All of these upgrades come in handy as enemies also level-up in difficulty as you do.
A real hands-on gaming experience
We thoroughly enjoy the mass of weaponry on hand. Some guns need to be used with two hands, which means you need to keep a close eye on your ammo levels.
There are some nice designs touches here: shotguns, for example, have to be pumped after each shot, meaning one hand on the trigger, the other on the pump to be always at the ready. But then you'll occasionally need a hand free for looting crates, opening doors or picking up items. It's all very hands-on.
Reloading weapons is handled by raising or lowering them to the ammo belt on your waist. We found this was sometimes frustrating, as it is with most VR games like this, as the game didn't always accurately register where our hands were in relation to the ammo belt.
We also didn't realise until an hour or more into playing that you could eject half-spent magazines by clicking one of the buttons on the controller. This wasn't made clear in the tutorial stages and we had been working on the premise that you had to empty a gun before you could reload it.
Switching weapons is as simple as grabbing at the relevant holster on your body. You can even switch gun hands while you're in the middle of play. So there's plenty of flexibility when it comes to moving and shooting.
There are various computer consoles in the game that need hacking in order to complete objectives. Different styles of mini-game are essentially played out through these consoles. These come in various forms: simple wave-form patterns that you need to match up; mathematics puzzles you need to complete; or shape and object selection tasks. They add a nice bit of variety to the gameplay, though we're not too embarrassed to admit we found ourselves dumbfounded by the maths challenges when we'd been blasting zombie brains two minutes earlier.
Sub-par voice acting and a questionable storyline
So far, so good. But Dead Effect 2 VR is plagued with sub-par cheesy voice acting and a storyline that's a bit thin. That's forgivable, though, given how immersive and choc-full of content the game is.
There's a lot to be said for the graphics and sound effects. It's an impressive experience with plenty of highlights including highly detailed NPCs, convincingly rotting zombies and an interesting atmospheric environment. That said, Dead Effect 2 is not Dead Space in VR. Although you might get the impression it's a sci-fi horror experience, we really didn't find ourselves frightened for the most part. Yes, the game takes place on a dark spaceship, but we just didn't find it scary. Maybe it's the cheesy voice acting.
There's also an insane amount of content. Depending on your abilities and skill levels, you're probably looking at around 10 hours in the main single-player campaign, then there are other modes to play like Survival, Biohazard and more. That's very long-lived in VR gaming terms. We also loved that you could play all these modes, including the main campaign, with a friend in co-op. As if that wasn't enough, player-vs-player multiplayer is an option too.
The only gripe we have with co-op is all players have to play through the first two or three missions alone before the co-op serve is available, but once that's done you can play with up to two friends. Seeing your friends getting swarmed with enemies and having to shoot around them to keep them alive is as rewarding as it is thrilling. Dealing with level bosses is also significantly easier with a mate too.
Big bosses have an unnerving habit of getting up close and personal, so being able to smash, stab or slash at them is pretty essential to survival. However, we found that with the bigger guns (like the minigun) that the barrel often ended up sticking through them, thus rendering bullets ineffective at close range. This is a slight issue with the game design, but nothing you can't work around with the right gear.
There's no going back
Dead Effect 2 VR is compatible with standing room or room-scale play. It makes use of the standard beaming - clicking to "teleport" to a new destination ahead - or trackpad movement to move through the environment.
We found the beam method to be surprisingly fast - to the point where it caused minor issues with motion sickness for us (and worse for other people we played with). However, it was great for quickly zipping out of harm's way, whereas the standard trackpad-controlled movement is a lot slower.
One frustration with movement is that it's difficult to move backwards quickly. And as there's regularly large hordes of zombies out for your blood, this can be irksome. The old saying goes that you should never turn your back on your opponent - but with Dead Effect 2 VR, we rarely had any other choice, with the only solution being to turn tail and run.
Dead Effect 2 VR certainly has a lot going for it. This is a smart virtual reality role-player packed full of content that'll keep you coming back for hours and hours.
The upgrade and unlock system is enjoyable, though it could do with cash being a little less accessible to make it more satisfying when you finally get a chance to unlock certain weapons and all its upgrades. The cheesy voice acting isn't great either, detracting from what's meant to be a scary environment.
In the end, Dead Effect 2 VR is much more than just another zombie shooter. It has stacks of in-game content and weapons, plus multiple modes and co-op to help make the most of your zombie slaying shenaningans.
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