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Dead Ground:Arena Early Access Review

Developer VRillAR has thrown their hat into the ring of wave shooters with Dead Ground:Arena. Gameplay is the tried-and-true experience of taking on increasingly difficult waves of zombies with a fairly large selection of weapons. It differentiates itself through some arcade-y flare with its point system and by allowing you to pick up weapons, ammo, and health dropped by downed zombies. While it'll no doubt provide an hour or two of decent fun, it's held back from being top-tier entertainment in several ways.


Dead Ground:Arena's controls and functions are a little cumbersome at first. I made the mistake of jumping into a level before playing the tutorial and could not for the life of me figure out how to select other weapons. (You have to hold the menu button for a couple of seconds.) The tutorial teaches you the basic movement controls for teleporting or a short dash in any direction. Neither control scheme feels all that natural, unfortunately, but it's nice to have options. Once you're in the level-select room, you're able to test out any weapon in the game in a zombie-shooting gallery of sorts, which is a nice touch. It helps familiarize players with the controls and get the feel of guns before being thrown into the deep end.


The default graphics setting has everything looking a little too blurry, but on Ultra, the graphics are about as sharp as you could hope for. Speaking of which, the particle effects — such as the smoke that billows out after an explosion — is gorgeous. It's one of the better smoke effects I've seen. On the other hand, other effects, such as the sparks that come out of a lightning gun, look like 2D sprites and actually look worse than their Unreal Tournament equivalent circa 1999.


The starting 1911 pistols feel a little too weak. I understand nerfing weapons for the sake of balance, but landing three headshots on a zombie before it collapses simply feels unsatisfying. Speaking of unsatisfying — the gravity gun should be a blast to use but isn’t. The whole point of a gravity gun is to launch objects and enemies into other enemies to create as much chaos as possible. This gravity gun only picks up enemies, and when a zombie is launched into other zombies, it simply passes through them like ghosts. A little collision detection on these living-dead projectiles could do wonders to improve this weapon. Most other guns are a blast to use though. The assault rifle is seriously powerful and it's incredibly satisfying to chew through a horde of zombies with it after hoarding its ammo for several waves. The shotguns feel appropriately powerful up close, though I will say that their range is unrealistically short even as far as shotguns go.


The dash and teleport responsiveness just isn't there. I had inputs not register many times, and it seemed like there was some sweet spot of where to click that I could never quite master. Other times, you think the input is not registering when really you're just being grabbed by a zombie. You can't move when a zombie is grabbing you, yet there's no on-screen indicator for when one has you… so often you won't realize you're being damaged for several seconds. It's not a good sign when you can’t tell whether controls are unresponsive or you're being blocked by an enemy.


The first level is a breeze on normal difficulty, especially considering the plethora of health pickups zombies drop. The same can't be said for the rest of the game, however. The second-level boss battle is way too difficult, especially for normal difficulty mode. I had saved up my best weapons and ammo, and even then, it took a relatively long time to take him down. I had exhausted all my good weapons about halfway through the battle and was down to a sliver of health when I finally killed him. Even for a boss, he's a major bullet sponge, and there's no way to tell what sort of progress you're making on him. The third map is even worse. The NPC I had to protect died on the second wave. Missions like these are never fun, but this one is especially tedious considering how clumsy the movement system is.


The Verdict

Dead Ground:Arena is another attempt at wave shooting for VR that doesn't do enough to stand out from the crowd. Its arcade-y gameplay can be fun for a little while, but its clunky movement system and poor design choices hold it back from being anything special. There are a few glimpses of potential here, but for now, it's dead on arrival.

Caleb Bailey
Written by
Wednesday, 09 May 2018 09:00
Published in FPS



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Caleb is a game reviewer who is way more of a nostalgic curmudgeon than any 25 year old has any right to be. He enjoys shooters, open world games and is a huge believer in virtual reality's potential. His guilty pleasure movie of choice is The Neverending Story which he still shamefully watches because it was his childhood favorite. He hopes to one day ride Falkor the Luckdragon in VR because that is what he means when he says virtual reality has potential.

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