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After the Fall

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Vertigo Games
Release Date: 2020


PC VR Preview - 'After the Fall'

by Thomas Wilde on July 3, 2019 @ 3:10 a.m. PDT

After the Fall is an epic multiplayer VR action FPS that will bring players into a vast, hostile world with seamless co-op gameplay at its core.

The Arizona Sunshine guys made another game.

There you go. That's pretty much all some people need to hear.

Arizona Sunshine, which was released in 2016, is one of the better-regarded virtual reality games on the market, and After the Fall is a co-op follow-up to it, set in a snow-covered post-apocalypse, with a bit of crafting and a whole lot of shooting.

Most of what I liked about After the Fall, when I played it behind closed doors at Oculus's booth at E3 2019, was how the guns feel. You can carry up to two weapons, one in either hand, and start with a nail bat and a surprisingly effective pistol. You're up against zombies, which tend to show up in giant, ravenous packs, so ammo economy is at a premium, which meant I was naturally trying to deliver clean headshots.

That's harder than it sounds, in my experience, in virtual reality. A lot of games don't have the collision detection to make accurate shooting possible, or they're hung up enough on realism that you'll have a hard time shooting for anything other than the center of targets. After the Fall, on the other hand, makes its guns feel smooth, efficient, and powerful, so you can romp through the wastelands popping skulls like you're the only one moving in slow motion. It's almost disturbingly satisfying.

Like a few other games I played at E3 this year, the "Fall" in After the Fall hit in the '80s. Nobody listened to Nancy Reagan, and overuse of a particular kind of designer drug has led to the fall of civilization. Most of the people in the world were turned into "Snowbreed" zombies, and the only survivors left are the ones who are, for whatever reason, resistant to the drugs' side effects.

It's 2005 now, and the players step into the role of four-player teams that are out to explore the cities, deal with the Snowbreed, and hopefully take Earth back for the human race. Naturally, that's more complicated than it sounds, because the Snowbreed aren't the most dangerous or even the weirdest thing out there.

The E3 demo put me in a two-man group with one of the Vertigo Games developers, and our characters kept up some breezy dialogue while we explored what was left inside a broken skyscraper. There are all sorts of items you can salvage and use to build mods for your primary weapons, such as a gadget that had a chance to tack electrical damage onto my gunshots, so it was useful to check every side room and dark corner.

The demo used a teleport-to-move system, which worked well enough as these things go. Unfortunately, I didn't find out until we'd cleared the stage that the game also supports simple twin-stick locomotion, which I would've used if given the chance.

As we explored, zombies popped out of every side room, random hole, and distant location they could, and they fell over relatively easily. This is definitely a game that believes in quantity over quality, as an individual zombie is cannon fodder in After the Fall, but once they show up in numbers, things get dicey. If this weren't a co-op game, the first few packs we ran into might've been a problem.

We did find better gear, though. There were a couple of submachineguns we could salvage, one for each of us, but the developers told me that resources aren't split up among members of your team. You will have to coordinate with your partners when it comes time to resupply, although bullets were easy to come by; your standard pistol has infinite reserve clips, and dead zombies can drop a few rounds or small amounts of health.

The submachinegun had a high enough rate of fire that it ran dry in seconds if I wasn't careful, but it chewed through entire crowds of zombies every time I did so. After the Fall's gun physics feel like something out of an action movie, where things like "recoil" and "stabilization" are secondary considerations besides looking dope as hell; this is the sort of game where you can just sort of hold down your trigger and make problems disappear. Of course you can hold a gun in either hand.

The real prize, though, was a bizarre micromissile gadget that strapped to my character's right wrist and looked like somebody had made it out of an old sports Walkman. Through what was basically sheer magic, the damn thing was a smart micromissile launcher. I turned my right hand so I was holding my gun "gangsta-style," held down a grip button to lock on, and when I released my grip, an entire crowd of zombies simply went away. At first, that kind of crowd control ability felt like overkill; as we moved through the demo and into the top floor of an abandoned mall, it turned into precisely the right amount of kill. Suddenly, we were swarmed by zombies, attacked by a giant ogre-looking monster that took an insane amount of damage to put down, and then abruptly menaced by tentacles that burst out of the roof.

To be fair, After the Fall is a co-op zombie shooter. A lot of people will tell you that there are quite enough of those. I will tell you that there are never enough. If we do not get at least one good zombie-killing video game every six months, it will lull those undead bastards into a false sense of security and the next thing you know, it is "Night of the Living Dead" up in this piece. This is for your own good.

My biases aside, After the Fall is a smooth co-op game with great shooting that I ended up enjoying more than I usually like VR games. I ended up making it one of my games of the show this year because the guns feel great, the co-op focus made me nostalgic for my Left 4 Dead addiction, and it has a sensible movement scheme.

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