Zombie-slaying gameplay isn’t something new. We’ve seen them in PC games and even in arcade stations. Deadwood Mansion takes the experience to a new whole new level. Players have to don haptic suits and body trackers, giving them a fully immersive experience.
Deadwood Mansion is the first hyperreality escape experience ever created by Sandbox VR. They utilise a wide range of technology: Hollywood motion capture cameras, 3D body precision trackers, haptic suits, etc and are built by engineers from EA, Sony and Ubisoft. They have franchises across USA and Asia (one in Singapore!) that we can visit. The price of a ticket is surprisingly more affordable, ranging from SGD 32 – 42 per pax.
What drew me to Deadwood Mansion was the idea of really bringing us into a different world and letting us feel like we are living in it. As exciting as VR is, a part of me would always remember that what I saw isn’t reality. I also loved the multiplayer aspect — up to 6 players are allowed in the room. You can physically interact with everyone inside. You could even choose your choice of weapons, from dual pistols to rifles and guns.
Despite being a heavy shooter game, Deadwood Mansion does a great job of incorporating a narrative to the experience. These are achieved with voiceovers under the pre-tense of calls from the team’s intelligence. Other than that, the game uses HUDs sparingly. Like standard shooter games, hand reference frames are used to show statistics on their weapons. There are some UI placed in the environment when the group receives “calls” from the intelligence or the villain.
Sandbox VR also records several videos for each session: each player’s POV and a room-wide view of all players with and without the virtual environment. Each group can sit down together to watch these footages after their session. Some of the videos really looked like the players’ real bodies got transformed into virtual bodies.
There is also a world wide leaderboard for game scores. I find that it gives some level of competition outside the game.
Besides Deadwood Mansion, Sandbox VR also provide many other worlds, some notable ones are Star Trek and UFL. Star Trek: Discovery lets players handle a Starfleet Phaser and find a lost Starfleet ship. UFL, on the other hand, lets people split into teams and battle in a gladiator fighting ring.
While I haven’t had the chance to experience it myself, there seems to be a lot of gears for player to put on before the game. I think that could potentially be a hassle before and during the game, depending on how heavy these equipment are. While it would be great to reduce the size and number of gears, that would probably require a lot more research and development before it can be achieved. After all, hyperreality VR experience is isn’t easy.
Another idea that I felt might make the game more immersive is having more than 1 room. Perhaps in between some zombie waves, the group could proceed to another room as part of the narrative. It could be something like the villain planting a bomb in the present room and the team has to escape it to avoid the explosion. I think might give a better sense of story/game progression.
Overall, I think Sandbox VR did a great job making hyperreality VR well, a reality. Personally, I see this as a one-time novel experience and not something that I would want to try again and again. Despite that, I think it offers a really fun and interesting activity that many people would be excited to try out.