Shooting zombies in a group of four friends is basically a game genre in itself at this point. The Left 4 Dead series had squads of pals jumping into undead-infested hellscapes throughout the 2010s, and Back 4 Blood reignited that excitement in more recent years.
After The Fall thankfully refuses to put digits in its title and brings this idea into the world of virtual reality. Getting to try it out was a first for me, although fans have been playing it since its launch late last year. Lately, the game's Frontrunner season has added new guns, modes, and maps, one of which I got to try out.
It's 20 years post-apocalypse. Everything is frozen, snowy, and kind of horrible. You're in LA, which is nice. You're being hunted down by zombies, which is less nice. You'd best learn the ropes real quick.
Getting to Grips
The main gripe I've always had with VR is the initial struggle. I watched my After The Fall gameplay footage back, and it was rough at first. We played through a level with a member of the dev team helping us out, and it was still hard - I was fumbling around with my gun, desperately trying to work out the three-step reload process when I'm used to a single button press doing the job.
Of course, being thrown into a horde of zombies is going to be a challenging scenario in any game, but in After The Fall, I kept on doing silly things like dual-wielding accidentally and trying to punch the zombies (the response I got from my guide was "Very brave, but we're saving that for the next version").
It was always going to be a tough beginning, but After The Fall's place as a VR shooter put it in the perfect position to swiftly understand the rest of the game. I know how to wield a gun (kind of), so clumsily aiming down the sights and blasting zombies was easy enough to figure out, especially since the game was just forgiving enough. It didn't feel condescending like the zombies were made of bullet magnets, but wasn't too punishing when I sprayed and prayed.
OH S*** THERE'S ANOTHER ONE
I'd had a long week. It's close to the end of winter but the sun still sets early. I'd been busy so hadn't seen people in a little while, and I hadn't done my swimming or workouts. In short, I was full of energy.
Turns out, blasting zombies in virtual reality is exactly what I needed and wanted. It's made me want to delve into the world of VR a little more, giving me a similar feeling to those heady days when Wii Sports dominated the free time, living room, and excess energy of everyone with a television screen and a Christmas tree.
I was barking warnings (or pleas for help) to my teammates, dual-wielding an LMG and a shotgun, and desperately running to escape the giant special zombies that explode when you get too close to them. It turns out the perfect antidote to a long and stressful week is getting way too immersed in a world that, once you learn its quirks and rules, acts as an outlet for you and a whole squad to divert everything into the flesh-eaters staining the snow.
It's a shame that virtual reality still being a fairly rare find in folks' gaming setups means it'll be difficult to find anyone to co-op with once I do buy in. I haven't been able to try the game solo, but I hope it brings as much intense energy out of me as it did when I had a crowd of friends rescuing my clumsy, overconfident self from giant monsters with their hands around my throat.