Virtual Reality is often seen as a solo experience and indeed, a lot of VR games on the market right now are just that.
Players are locked away from the real world, heads encased in a plastic helmet, arms twirling and pointing at imaginary targets. To any bystanders without the luxury of a share screen to look at, the whole thing definitely looks a bit silly. But for those inside the helmet? Well, it’s a new frontier of gaming, a way of immersing yourself in video games unlike any other, so it’s a shame that it’s still rather tricky to experience this as a group.
While there are plenty of PvP multiplayer games and VR chat apps out there that allow you to meet up and play with friends, pure, co-operative VR gaming experiences seem few and far between, which is why After the Fall feels like a breath of fresh (winter) air.
Although After the Fall can be played and enjoyed in solo, just like Left 4 Dead, the game that has so obviously inspired it, After the Fall has been designed with 4 player co-op in mind. Not only that but it’s also cross-play compatible across all major VR platforms, so that’s PC VR, Oculus (I still can’t bring myself to call it the M word) and Playstation VR.
And it’s a pretty great experience, truth be told, pulling in your pals (or a few of the many randoms who are playing right now) and working together as you take aim at wave after wave of iced zombies. Now when you look to your left you can see a real friend, hurriedly reloading their weapon as monsters bear down on them. To the right, another yells for help as a giant beast crushes them to the floor with an icy fist. You’re no longer the loner in a helmet that looks a bit weird to those in the real world. Now you’re out there, in the cold, fighting to survive as a team and when (if) you make it back alive, you’ve got friends with you who shared in that experience.
In this week’s VR Corner, you’ll be able to watch me play through the first level of After the Fall, but only in solo because what few friends I do have didn’t have access to the game at the time of recording. And also I’d probably need to pay them or something. Nevertheless, you’ll get a great sense of how the game looks and plays while running on a PC VR headset like my Rift S (or should that be Meta Rift? I actually have no idea).
Along with the ability to play on whichever platform you want and with what seems to be friction free cross-play between them all, After the Fall also comes with all the standard comfort options you’d expect from a modern VR release. That means it’s just as easy to play sat down and wired up, as it would be wire-free and on your feet.
The action is just as accessible as the gameplay too, and if you’ve played a Left 4 Dead style game before, you’ll hit the ground running here. Shooting the White Walker-esq ‘Snowbreed’ feels great, especially as you can dual wield pistols, and there are two different reload options to choose from. One involves manual reloading for added immersion whilst the other is more arcade-like and perfectly suited to people like me who are prone to panic induced fumbles in the heat of the moment.
As you can see from the VR Corner episode above, the AI teammates in After the Fall are fairly decent but they’re still a bit clunky. It’s definitely best played with friends, but I still had fun when I played by myself. Finding real life teammates isn’t too hard either, there were loads of PS5 players online when I recorded my gameplay and the game hadn’t even released properly at that point. Those players bombarding me with squad invites as I wandered around the very cool, disused video game arcade that After the Fall uses as a hub so even if you don’t have friends with VR headsets, it should be pretty easy to make new ones here.
With 5 campaign missions and a PvP mode available at launch, there’s a decent amount of game on offer, but some of the levels did feel rather short to me. Thankfully the way you earn and unlock mods for your weapons encourages replays so you should easily get your monies worth, even if you do decide to play solo.
After the Fall isn’t exactly the most polished of games either, there’s a bizarre design choice in terms of transitioning between high to low areas which is jarring and, as you’ll see in VR Corner, the game is not a fan of you getting too close to the scenery. Multiple times I got stuck to walls, just by standing near them, and this often resulted in the screen cutting to black during the worst possible moments.
Overall, the core gameplay grind in After the Fall isn’t exactly groundbreaking and it definitely feels like a case of ‘been there, done that but in flat’, but the social aspects and the added immersion offered by VR elevates the whole experience so you snow it’ll make a great addition to your library.