Sandbox VR lets you kill zombies with friends for your next party

You’ve heard it before: VR is almost certainly the future of gaming, but the technology just isn’t there yet for mass appeal. Headsets are too big and expensive, their resolution is too low. But perhaps most importantly, VR is an isolating experience. You can’t easily sit down and play a VR game with a friend – at least not in the same living room.

That’s a problem companies Sandbox VR is trying to solve. The company combines technologies that allow multiple people to share a VR experience in a single physical room. That’s neat enough on its own, but Sandbox takes immersion a step further by incorporating motion capture technology for more realistic movements and in-game actions.

It all amounts to an experience that feels like a combination between laser tag, an arcade, and an escape room –  a prime combination for a night out with friends.

The company currently has six locations around the world, and is opening up a new experience in San Mateo. I was able to try out the tech at the Imax VR in Times Square here in New York.

You walk into a large room that is essentially a 360-degree green-screen. Then you strap on your headset – a modified Oculus Rift in my case, but the company use the superior Vive Pro in other locations – and a VR backpack PC that’s lighter than you probably think. Lastly, you attach this doodad onto each of your limbs.

The power of shiny balls allows the motion capture cameras to accurately track individual arms and legs as you move around the room. The experience requires two to six people; there were three total in my party.

The game we played was called Deadwood Mansion. It’s basically a VR version of House of the Dead – a classic Sega arcade game – complete with cheesy dialogue and plot. Of course, arcade shooters aren’t about the plot – in this case, they’re about shooting zombies.

The game places you in the lobby of a mansion, from where zombies can come at you from any direction. You have to try to survive for 30 minutes. Spoiler: we didn’t make it through.