Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever comes to SteamVR – Is it just Another Damn Zombie Shooter?

Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever by developer XRGames and publishers XR Games and Sony Pictures Virtual Reality, launches today on Steam.  It is an arcade style light gun wave shooter that adds split-second racing mechanics while featuring just one mechanic – headshots that slow down time.  As a fan of the 2009 ‘Zombieland’ film who also enjoyed the sequel because of the excellent cast, dark humor, and over-the-top zombie-killing action, it was hard to believe that any VR shooter would be able to live up to the franchise. 

Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever is set in the Zombieland universe featuring Tallahassee, Wichita, Columbus and Little Rock. Little Rock is voiced by the movie’s Abigail Breslin who does most of the narration but Tallahassee is voiced by Woody Harrelson’s brother Brett.  You play as a survivor who has been recruited by “some rich guy” to enter his “Zombie Invitational” tournament that is run by each of the four main characters.  They teach you how to play, often commenting sarcastically when you fail.  And you will fail many times until you get each course down because it cannot be played with guns blazing, but rather requires precise headshots and high accuracy to succeed.

Inside the rich guy’s mansion, there are four main areas.  Little Rock handles all of the levels which are divided into Rookie, Advanced, Expert, and Pro which are further subdivided into sub-levels of increasing difficulty.  By completing a level, you progress to unlock the next level finishing with the Pro Invitational.

Tallahassee controls the player’s guns and upgrades, while Wichita and Columbus handle achievements. A training range with popup targets provide more challenges.

Zombieland: Headshot Fever requires that a player complete each level as quickly as possible.  Scores don’t matter.  Rather, you need to double-tap zombie heads one right after the other without missing.  As soon as the level starts, you must shoot a zombie head quickly so that it glows yellow, and then immediately pull off a second headshot to unlock Adrenaline mode, the equivalent of “bullet time”, that triggers its slow-motion system.  Time slows down allowing the player to set up the next headshot and then the next until all the zombies in each area are eliminated.  Although the actions are very repetitive, the gameplay is incredibly addictive.

Each of the levels except for the Invitational are on rails, so it is up to the player to memorize the sequence and patterns of the attacking zombies so the next run can improve on the previous one.  The zombies have different patterns, strengths, and attacking abilities.  Some of them energize the other zombies, while others call for reinforcements until they are taken out.  Multiple zombies throw objects at the player who must shoot them in the air or he will be stunned.  There are big zombie tanks that require multiple shots – but never shoot a harmless “Homer” or you will be time-penalized.

Each level features challenges to unlock new guns and upgrades.  Shooting zombies also gives you toilet paper which is the game’s currency used to buy upgrades and to enter the Invitational.  The player remains in one place unable to dodge or move but teleports to progress after clearing zombies from an area.  It’s all about quickly scoring accurate headshots, one right after the other.  If you miss, you will probably be mobbed and just one zombie swipe will end your life.

Before each level, a player may pick any loadout that is unlocked. Pistols are are the primary weapon with unlimited bullets. Secondary guns like the shotgun or automatic weapons have limited ammo that must be used sparingly, but their use instantly activates Adrenaline mode. Dual-wielding weapons while simultaneously targeting zombies on each side of the player is a zombie-killing dream come true. Remaining continuously in Adrenaline mode is absolutely necessary to get the best times on each level. Strategy is involved and there is just enough variety to keep things interesting for many hours.

There are plenty of upgrades for the weapons called Perks which include increasing the secondary weapon’s ammo capacity, but you can also unlock laser targeting and auto reload as well as modifications to the Adrenaline system which keep it varied and fun.  Two Perks may be used at once.  The only issue we found was occasionally with reloading the secondary weapon.  You have to eject the magazine and move it into the right position to reload, and sometime the game just wouldn’t cooperate.

Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever is just a lot of fun and far more addictive than expected.  Triggering Adrenaline mode and exploding one zombie head after another brings the player a big rush of excitement.  It is perfectly designed to encourage the player to beat his own time over and over as well as to compare with the leaderboard of the world’s best.  It is also well-suited for playing for short periods of time as each level may be completed in under a minute.

Graphics & Performance

The graphics are simple but good enough for a fast-paced shooter.   The headshot animations are explosive, bloody, and well done although the blood can be turned off.  The SteamVR version offers multiple settings that allow a “potato” PC to run it, to Ultra for faster graphics cards.  Visual options include post processing, MSAA, anisotropic filtering, real time shadows, as well as increasing the in-game resolution (Supersampling)

Unfortunately, FCAT VR does not work with the game.  However, using the SteamVR developer tab overlay we were able to track the frametimes and frame rates.  Using a RTX 3080 with a Vive Pro 2, we were able to manage the Ultra Preset at 100% SteamVR’s Render Resolution (3090×3090) without any reprojection.  Using a RTX 3060 we played smoothly on Ultra with a Valve Index (at SteamVR’s default 2016×2240) although we dropped the in-game Supersampling down to 120% from the preset’s 140% to make sure a steady 90 FPS was delivered.

Conclusion

Don’t shoot the Homer!

Zombieland: Headshot Fever is a blast to play.  At $19.95 it will make any fan of the Zombieland franchise happy as well as keep arcade light gun shooter fans occupied for many hours.  Its simplicity is appealing but it takes practice to get better and better at it. It is all about making accurate headshots and using a great level design that encourages replaying it.

Zombieland: Headshot Fever is available on SteamVR starting today, Thursday, July 29, with a special ten hour live broadcast and thousands of dollars of cash prizes to give away.  This SteamVR version includes two extra levels not in the Oculus version, and it also includes the most recent three new levels added to the ‘Kingpin Update’ on Quest.

Recommended!  It is not just “another Zombie shooter”.

Although we received a Steam Beta key from the publisher to preview this game, we will buy it for our own permanent library whenever we feel the need for a quick zombie-killing fix.  If FCAT VR is updated to work with Zombieland: Headshot Fever, we may also include it as a benchmark in BTR’s future reviews.

Next up, Rodrigo is hard at work testing the GeForce 471.41 driver which is expected by the weekend, and he is also testing the Radeon Adrenalin 21.7.2 beta driver that was released yesterday, due next week.  We also plan to bring you something special in August.

Happy VR Gaming!