Like many of you no doubt, I have fond memories of visiting my local arcade growing up, getting a couple of bills from a family member, running over to the change machine and turning that paper into the magical “tokens” needed to play my favorite cabinet. I was never any good at fighting games (and I’m still not), so I gravitated instead toward light gun shooters – titles like Area 51 and Time Crisis. Those certainly were simpler times, and Zombieland: Headshot Fever Reloaded took me right back to that place, but now with the accoutrements of modern gaming.
Zombieland is a great arcade light gun-style shooter, and one that if it were a cabinet at your local joint in the 90s, would have people lined up waiting to play. It’s a relatively simple package, but it doesn’t really need to be much more. With that said, if replaying levels over and over, chasing low times and high scores isn’t your thing, it likely won’t stick with you.
The game opens with you assuming the role of “The New Guy” joining up with characters from the Zombieland films like Tallahassee and Columbus at their safe house. Here is where you’ll select levels, upgrade and customize weapons, equip perks, and more. Levels are divided up by difficulty, from Rookie to Pro, and they do ramp up appropriately over time. Completing certain milestones on each level unlocks various items such as perks, gun skins, or toilet paper (more on that later). The premise is a simple yet intoxicating one: blast your way through levels of zombies, chasing low times and high combos. Rankings are awarded for each level based on time, and chasing that highly coveted S-rank hooked me almost immediately. After each run, you can also see where you stack up against other players in the online leaderboards. Speaking of, I really don’t know how some of you are that fast.
The heart of Zombieland is of course the gunplay, and it is fantastic. It’s quick, it’s precise, and it’s elevated by the adaptive triggers on the PS VR2’s Sense controllers. Two-shot headshot kills (double-taps) are the focus, as they initiate adrenaline or “bullet time”, if you will. Chaining together adrenaline kills raises your combo, and the time you spend with a combo gets deducted from your overall time at the end of a level, feeding that addictive gameplay loop. Completing levels and killing zombies rewards toilet paper – the game’s form of currency – which, hilariously, makes total sense when you think about how valuable wiping with comfort would be in the post-apocalypse. TP is used to upgrade guns to higher tiers, which will in turn increase a weapon’s stats such as damage or magazine size. As far as weapons, you start out with a basic pistol and double-barreled shotgun, but these can be swapped out as you unlock better armaments. Pistols have unlimited ammo while special weapons do not, although upgrades and perks can increase your ammo capacity. The special weapons include shotguns or SMGs, and these can also be dual-wielded by using a certain perk, although I was never brave enough to run that setup. The shotgun is cool and packs a punch, but I typically ran with a pistol/SMG loadout and reached for the SMG when things got hectic and I was about to be overwhelmed by zombies. When in doubt, spray and pray!
There is a nice variety of enemy types to keep you on your toes, each with varied attack and movement patterns that you have to learn to be an effective zombie slayer. Some enemies move extremely fast, some call-in zombie reinforcements, some are tanks, and some give you a time penalty if you shoot them. You’ll need to learn how to effectively deal with each and in what order to maximize efficiency, as well as to avoid dying. Mastering levels requires memorizing enemy locations, hitting your shots with speed and accuracy, in addition to being efficient with reload patterns. While I never felt the difficulty ramp-ups were unfair between tiers, I do want to note that if you aren’t typically good at twitch shooters, there is a chance you will struggle with Zombieland. To be able to unlock the next tier of levels, you have to complete a certain number of challenges – things like compiling a certain combo number or finishing under a particular time limit. If you can’t complete enough of those to unlock tiers, you won’t be able to progress. The final level, the Zombieland Invitational, is a culmination of everything you’ve learned and killed along the way that concludes with a boss fight, which will be especially tough for folks with poor aim. The beauty of the game though is that when you do inevitably fail, it gives you that nostalgic “quick, put another token in!” feeling.
Another big reason why the game is so tough to put down is its high comfort level. Despite the hectic and fast-paced nature of Zombieland, it’s a quite comfortable VR experience. That’s partially due to the nature of it being an on-rails arcade experience, but the other key feature in this regard is how the game handles locomotion – opting for a teleporting mechanic where all you have to do is look at the next point to advance to it. As a VR noob myself, I always like to share my experience with how titles made me feel in the headset, and in Zombieland most of my sessions went well over an hour with no adverse effects on my body.
If you do require a change of pace from an onslaught of zombies trying to kill you, then let me suggest the excellent Gun Range mode. How many times have you read a review that recommended a game’s practice area? I’m guessing not many. It’s well deserved in Zombieland’s case as, like the main game, I quickly became addicted to the various challenges at the range. Three types are on offer: Speed, Accuracy, and Quickdraw, and they’re a great way to sharpen your aim and reaction skills, but more importantly they’re just an absolute blast to play. I guarantee that you will not stop at just one attempt.
Zombieland: Headshot Fever Reloaded was honestly a lot better than I expected it to be, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for it to suck me in like it did. If arcade shooters were ever a part of your DNA, I suspect you will enjoy it just as much, and if you’re on team “gameplay is king”, then look no further. I can see a potential skill barrier if you’re not all that great at twitch shooters, as speed and accuracy are paramount, while some players are likely to find it a bit one-note. Oh but what a high, high note it is.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the newest member of Gaming Nexus. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours. I also co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.View Profile