Last October, the GearVR got an arcade shooter from Pixel Toys called Drop Dead. It looks and plays a lot like a House of the Dead clone, which isn’t a bad thing. Just a few days ago, the game made its way to the Oculus Rift with several new features. These include remastered visuals, Touch Support, fourteen more single player levels (making a total of forty-one), and multiplayer support for co-op Horde mode and avatar support. GearVR users also get the additional levels as a free update. The price of the OR version is twice that of the GearVR version, retailing at $20.
So, House of the Dead is a classic series, and as a fan of those and other spin-offs like Carnevil, I was looking forward to Drop Dead. Drop Dead is played on rails and is essentially a lightgun zombie-shooter, and I’m not saying that to diminish or knock the game by the way. You’ll take the role of Cipher, a zombie/human hybrid who is on the right side of that balance (mostly human). Your working to stop the evil Dr. Monday, a typical mad scientist with a particular European accent who is hell-bent on destroy the world with a zombie army. Agent Rattler will provide you intel and chat to you while you’re in-mission, as will her dad. Starting with just a six-shooter, you’ll eventually pick up everything from chainguns to rocket launchers as you blast your way through hundreds of zombies.
One early disappointment I had with Drop Dead is the inability to dual-wield. The first time I came across the shotgun, I attempted to pick it up with my left Touch controller and use the six-shooter in my right, but, that’s not supported. You can use one weapon at a time, and at the start of the game, you choose whether you are using your right hand or left. You can also choose a comfort mode which just snaps you in between the action rather than including the short walking sequences in between. I found the comfort level of Drop Dead to be fine on the ‘normal’ mode for the length of time I would play in sessions, for what it’s worth. Anyway, like a true arcade shooter, the single weapon at a time mechanic is not a deal-breaker by any means, but I have to admit it would have been cool to use two weapons at once.
Drop Dead puts the player in three different time zones as you traverse the levels. I’m actually still working my way through this game as I write this, as the difficulty and the time I’ve been able to put towards it has become unbalanced, but suffice it to say that these forty-one levels are not all a walk in the park. The ranking and leaderboards shown at the end of each level may give you additional motivation however. As brief as the levels tend to be, I have to admit it’s sometimes annoying having to restart at the top should you die or accidentally let a civilian get killed. This is can get especially annoying given that cutscenes or other delays in design — be it waiting for some event repeated, scripted event to happen again in a level or just having to play the same easy part over again — are not skippable.
I admit some surprised at there not being an on-screen reticule or a laser sight either. I found myself literally closing one eye a lot of times to aim, and the aiming seemed mostly accurate, but I had to give my hand a little bit of uptilt to get my shots to line up as expected when looking (albeit at an angle) at the iron sights. It’s a difference you learn to compensate for quickly enough though.
Some kind of melee attack would have been welcomed too if you get caught reloading or with a weapon jam. As is, if you’re unable to shoot, you’re unable to attack (unless you’re using a grenade). Reloading is done by lowering the gun and pressing the trigger button while the fast-moving slider goes through the highlighted zone of the reload circle (a mechanic that I’m not describing very well but that you’ve no doubt seen in other games). Nail the timing on the reload mini-game and you get an instant reload, but if you press too early, your gun jams up for a few seconds, leaving you vulnerable.
As far as presentation quality, it’s not bad, but still fairly limited. For one thing, the action does not take place in a full 360 degrees, it’s mostly just what’s out in front of you. It would have been neat to see more of the virtual space used. Graphically, the technical quality is sufficient, but having roots in a mobile version means it’s somewhat limited, but still a plus. The audio can be a little annoying, such as the narrator voice reminding you to reload or judging your reload mini-game performance, but otherwise the audio package is, again, sufficient and pretty good, but not great.
Overall, at $20, Drop Dead offers a lot of zombie-blasting action with a few notable, but not necessarily deal-breaking flaws. For fans of the old light-gun games, this is definitely worth checking out.