In the few short weeks of its release, gamers far and wide are referring to Dutch Developer Vertigo Games’ newest release After The Fall as “Left 4 Dead VR” and with good reason – because for all intents and purposes, this 4-player online cross-platform zombie-shooter is about as close to Left 4 Dead as any game in the 13 years since its release. And while this would normally elicit eyerolls from hardened L4D fans, in the case of After The Fall it is widely accepted as all-good.
So maybe it hasn’t been all good – the original PS4 release was marred with some serious issues that caused the developers to issue a statement asking gamers to hold off with installing until they could work some of the major buds out. But once they got things sorted and gave the all-clear, gamers were introduced to one of the most exhilarating VR first-person cooperative shooter experiences yet on the PSVR.
PSVR allows gamers to use a bevy of different controller setups; DualShock4, two PlayStation Move controllers, or the underappreciated PS VR Aim controller. Given that, I decided to go with the VR Aim controller which added some complexity to the play, but made things real as hell.
Gamers are introduced to the controls with a quick tutorial in a local arcade that serves as the hub of all the gameplay, and the area in which weapons can be permanently upgraded using Harvest Points that are acquired during the game’s missions, or what they call Harvest Runs.
The arcade is chock-full of other gamer avatars running around chatting, gesturing, and otherwise looking like an odd bunch of goofballs looking for action. Action can be found by approaching one of the many open videogame cabinets (circa 1988) and grabbing ahold of the onscreen gun peripheral. This kicks in the cabinet’s screen from which gamers can pick their desired Harvest Run mission, and decide whether to play the game online with three human platers, or remain offline with three bots. Obviously, going with humans is generally the best way to keep your character alive to the end of the level, but the bots are surprisingly helpful in their own right.
After a lengthy load time, gamers are teleported to the starting point where they can purchase the requisite add-ons to add to their tool-belt; pipe bombs, health injectors, ammo, etc.. I’ll admit that this was something I had a really hard time understanding where/how to pack these items once purchased, so I generally just went into the level believing the other gamers would cover my butt when needed. They generally did.
I’m playing this on a launch-day PS4 with a first generation PSVR setup, so the visual quality on my rig is about as basic as it gets and that being said, even for a VR game was still grainy and bland compared to some of the other VR games I’ve reviewed recently. But for the sheer intensity and immersion, After The Fall absolutely takes the cake over most of those other games. The pace at which the zombie waves pour out of the walls will keep gamers absolutely on their toes (or edges of seats if sitting), and when the big bad boss comes it’s an all-out scramble to keep clear and keep plugging away the various vulnerable spots.
The in-game audio is exceptional in the PSVR headset, with a very food sense of spatial surround to help gamers hear enemies approaching from all directions. The guns pack an audible punch and the explosions are near-epic with deep bass booms.
Each Harvest Run takes about 30 minutes to complete, and if all players are wiped out it means starting from the beginning. Keeping alive isn’t too much of a chore – given the various health and ammo restocks scattered throughout the levels, but if you get on the wrong side of a boss fight, you’ll quickly end up in the red, literally.
The game’s comfort settings are endless, giving gamers the ability to tweak settings for movement, turning, posture, and accessibility. Gamers who like snap-turning can adjust the snap angles, and smooth-turners can tweak the speeds to minimize motion sickness. I was able to find the perfect blend of smooth movement and turning that didn’t leave me retching, so I was a happy gamer.
The cross-platform play is seamless, with gamers sporting the icon of their chosen gameplay device over their names. I didn’t notice any appreciable lag in gameplay with any of my co-op sessions, and everyone seemed respectful and appreciative of having other gamers to share in on the fun.
After The Fall is an exceptional VR experience that pays homage to an absolute gaming classic. Hopefully Vertigo will continue to support After The Fall with additional levels and upgrades to give the game a long enjoyable life.