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ARZombi Game Review (ARKit)

In this post, I’ll be reviewing a game by Grisly Manor Studios called ARZombi. I wanted to review this game like two weeks ago, but due to technical problems, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to. It’s among the first ARKit games that I wanted to play and review and I am happy that I reached to the point that I can finally share this review with you guys. Just so you know, I reviewed the game using version 1.5. One more important thing: according to the iTunes page of the game, you need to be at least 17 years old to download this app, just so you know. OK, let’s move on to the review.

What is ARZombi?

ARZombi is an apocalyptic wave-based FPS Survival game developed using Apple’s ARKit technology. In ARZombi you need to defend your home against waves of zombies trying to invade your home.

You can play the game in any room of your house, but in my experience, it’s better to play the game in a large room and I will talk more about this subject later on.

ARZombi Gameplay

When the game starts, the player will be asked to position a door and three windows in the room, each one on one of the four walls of the room. Even if you don’t have four walls, you can still position them anywhere in space as long as they are facing each other in pairs from all the four directions.  I version 1.5, the developer introduced a nice helper widget that helps you to quickly set things up.

ARZombi gameplay screenshot on iPad
Those zombies are all over the place, I need to buy that M16 already (ARZombi game screenshot from my iPad)

Once the door and windows are all set, the first wave of zombies will begin. You have a few seconds to prepare. You can use that spare time to board up the entrances to make it hard for the zombies to get into the house. Even with the boards set up, you can still pick to see the zombies and shoot them. You can also use that time off to purchase items in the store using the “zombie coins” that you’ve collected. You can use those coins to purchase ammo, power-ups and new weapons that will help you survive the upcoming waves.

Let’s take a look at some gameplay footage before we move on, shall we? I shot it using my iPad in both indoor and outdoor so you can see how it plays in both.

Players will need to watch out for zombies from all four directions and continue boarding up the entrances as they go. You can nail wooden boards by getting close to the window or door and continuously tap the hammer icon. For some reason, the hammer icon doesn’t disappear even after you maxed out the number of board you can build.

I really liked that building mechanics, especially when it’s in the middle of the action. The combination of shooting and this simple defense gameplay mechanic work really well together and it doesn’t ruin the flow of the game at all.

Shooting zombies with a pistol in ARZombi
It’s actually day outside, oh well, I don’t care, let’s shoot!

Some of the zombies that you kill will drop ammo and coins, and you should definitely do your best to pick them up. You have very limited amount of ammunition. You can’t spray bullets in this game. This is part FPS part survival game. You need to make sure you nail those shots right and save your bullets when you can.

I don’t know if headshots do more damage. If they do I would have liked to see a notification and get some sort of a rewarding for being able to nail those headshots right (maybe have a better chance for an ammo drop).

There are different types of weapons in this game. You start the game with a pistol and a melee weapon mace club. Once you obtain more zombie coins, you can use them to buy more weapons, power-ups, and ammo crates.  These are the available guns in the shop: a Minigun (hold to fast continuous fire), Machine Gun, Shotgun, and Assault rifle (looks like an M163).

When shooting, you can shoot from the hip or aim down the sight for more accurate shots. I personally really love shooting with the Assualt Rifle, but the Minigun can really clean up a lot of zombies in a relatively short time and come with 100 bullets. as well The main downside of this gun is that it has 3-second warm up before it starts releasing bullets.

So this is basically it. You clean a wave, get coins, replenish your ammo, board up the entrances and get ready for the next wave. Maybe there are more surprises down the road, but I wasn’t able to too far to check it out (I’ve reached only to wave 9).

The Shooting Experience

I want to share a few words about the shooting experience. Not every FPS game that I play is able to nail the shooting mechanics right. Sometimes it’s too slow, fills floaty, the sounds are not that good, etc.

So how good is the shooting experience in ARZombi?

For me, the shooting experience could have been much better and let me explain what exactly is missing in my opinion:

  1. First of all the zombie animation when it gets hit doesn’t connect well with the shooting part. I don’t think that there is even an animation for that, only when a zombie dies. Even while writing these lines, I am still watching some gameplay footage in slow motion on my iPad to verify this. There is no animation when the bullet hit or even a sound as a feedback that the shot has been registered.
  2. The sound effects of the shooting aren’t persuasive. I just didn’t feel powerful shooting with the guns. The minigun sounds really bad. The sound effect of the empty magazine of the assault rifle sounds like a toy gun and the mace sound when it hits sounds like a button press on a keyboard and it doesn’t register with the hit on the rigid body.

The things that I did like with the shooting is the recoil animation, seeing bullets flying out of the gu and the fire visual effect is really nice. There is still work to be done to make the shooting experience more immersive—it is a first-person shooter after all. I also think that adding a light vertical and horizontal gun movement. This will make the gun holding posture look more realistic, right now it is just static.

It’s not the entire shooting experience isn’t good, it is good but not immersive enough, in my opinion, it could have been much better. The location of the gun when aiming is good, straight middle. It felt really good shooting while aiming down the sight.

AR Experience

Remember that I told you that I postponed this review for like two weeks. One of the main reasons for this is that the game was really not comfortable to play. I first tried playing it in my living room, which is very small.

Aiming down the sight using M16 in the game ARZombi
I really enjoyed aiming down the sight with the M16 and nailing some nice accurate headshots.

The windows and door placement set up felt really awkward. Why do I need to position the entrances in a video game, it felt really weird. Of course, I understand the logic behind it, it’s an AR game after all, but I just felt wrong and in some ways, it still is.

I later went down to play it outdoor and even then it felt eerie. The gameplay itself felt just too crowded, especially when playing indoors in a small place. I do have to say that I did get used to it after some time.

Some augmented reality games that are built around 360-degree awareness are more annoying than fun.To really enjoy a game like ARZombi, I feel that you need a large room with lots of empty space.

The portal-door effect is really nice but it doesn’t come close to the same portal door effect in Alice in Wonderland AR quest. It would have been so amazing if there was an option to be able to have some virtual space to move around when outside the house when crossing the door for example. If you physically cross the door in ARZombie, there is nothing out there. If you cross the portal door in Alice in Wonderland AR quest, you get to even walk around a new virtual place. I am not asking to have a large virtual play area there, but maybe like a 1-meter area where you can at least get a feel of the outside part of the house, not just a projected image.

I also think that the game setup process is somewhat tiring. Just think about it. You need to first scan the environment, now place the menu onto a certain located surface (what do I need to search for a location to deploy the menu?!) and then set up the game by placing the door and windows. You also need to place the entrances every time you start up a new game. I definitely don’t see that as a good example of a well designed ARKit game, even with the understanding of the ARKit technical limitations and what the developer wanted to achieve with this particular setup.

I wanted to see whether I can beat the game using its own unique game setup. I did try to see if I can beat the waves by just standing outside the door. Well, it worked well in a few waves, but then crowds of zombies came at me and I died almost instantly. The problem was that I couldn’t reach the ammo and you can’t melee 10 zombies coming at you at the same time. Oh well, I had to try this out.

I also did experience some jittering while playing the game, where the windows suddenly moved when I tried to shoot through it, it wasn’t steady. Overall, I didn’t experience many jittering issues, which is good.

ARZombi does try to bring the ultimate FPS experience, and in my opinion, in some aspects that have succeeded, and others the didn’t.

Is ARZombi Fun to Play?

Although I think that ARZombie still needs to go through several optimizations in order to be more immersive, it ‘s a really fun game once you get through the initial hurdles. I do think it can be a problem for people trying the game for the first time through.

The first 5 times I played it I didn’t enjoy it, It felt cumbersome at first.  The new update made it easier to set up the game so I could start it up faster. I actually start enjoying and appreciate the use of physical space as the gameplay area in this particular game. I think I start getting used to it when I played the game Meddling Martians AR, which I still think it’s one of the better ARKit “room-scale” (I borrowed this terms from VR, don’t kill me for that) experiences that I’ve tried to date.

Shooting zombie with a pistol in the living room, ARZombi game screenshot
Bang, Bang in your face! fun shooting zombies in augmented reality!

Once I got into the game, I start enjoying turning and running around the room and shooting zombies. It got even better after I was able to buy new guns and can afford purchasing new bullets.  It was really fun picking out of the window looking for those ruthless zombies.

I also liked the detailed zombie character design, they did look kind of disgusting and spooky. I liked the animation (although can be more fluid in my opinion), especially watching how the zombies are leaping through the windows.

ARZombi is a really fun game once you get across its set up hurdle and start earning more coins to unlock the more powerful weapons in the game. I liked that the game gives you the option to continue playing after you die for 50 coins. It could be really frustrating getting far into the game and finding yourself with no option to continue playing after you die.

I do think that it will be better if the player will be able to see the health bar over the zombies’ head. This will at least give him a feedback when he nailed a shot right. I do also really want to have an option to melee a zombie with my own hands. I mean, come on, a nasty life-size zombie in front of my face and I can even hit them with my own hands? You know what can be nice, being able for the game to detect a rotation of the iPhone or iPad on the Y-Axis and bind that as a melee hit animation with the equipped weapon—this will be so cool!

I also want to have some grenades, please. It would be amazing being able to throw grenades and kill a bunch of zombies at the same time. Make it that the grenade can also hit you, so the player can only use it when he is far away from the zombies. What about a leaderboard?

Well, just some suggestions that came through my heads when I played the game. I hope some of those ideas will be in the game in the future.

Conclusion

I am glad that I got to the point that I was able to give you a more accurate and in-depth review. As you can clearly tell from my review, I do think that ARZombi can be improved in many ways. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the time I had with the game. This is a VR-like room-scale gameplay experience in augmented reality.

I think that the things that I’ve mentioned regarding the sound and the shooting feedback should be improved. It’s doesn’t ruin the game of course, but just make it less immersive and fun to play in general.

It’s not a free app, but it definitely worth its asking price. A thrilling survival first-person shooter that gives you a realistic room-scale shooting experience in your own house. If all that sounds great, I recommend getting this game, I’m sure you’ll have a great time with it. Here is a link for the game on iTunes.

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