It doesn’t matter which way you turn, semi-defrosted zombies are lurching towards you, hungry to finish what a nuclear winter started two decades ago. You and your teammates huddle together, firing in all directions hoping your bullets outnumber the groaning horde. Turns out this time you were lucky. Next time, we’ll see. Welcome to After The Fall: Frontrunner – a VR shooter that drops you into the non-beating heart of the action.
After The Fall was originally released last year, with the Left 4 Dead 2 inspired zombie blaster delighting and enraging in equal numbers. The shooter captured the intensity, urgency and thrill of those classic arcade zombie games that gobbled pound coins as eagerly as the undead would feast on your poor player’s defeated corpse, but with an emphasis on replaying the five available levels with a slowly expanding pool of weapons, the game did feel a little barren.
Later this week comes the expanded After The Fall: Frontrunner season, which promises to add new weapons, new enemies and a new map. If you’re hoping for an in-depth campaign mode or an intricately unfurling narrative, this isn’t the game for you. After The Fall has always offered mindless fun and Frontrunner is more of the bloody same.
Set nearly twenty years after an apocalypse, After The Fall sees a plucky, gun-toting band of survivors killing the terribly-named Snowbies that have claimed the earth as their own, in an attempt to mine essence to fuel the hopeful return of civilisation. You’d think that a group of people who’d learnt to harness the spirit of the undead could come up with a better plan than charging into the wasteland with a cavalier attitude but really, the plot is nothing but an excuse for the blood, guts and mayhem that After The Fall offers.
We were invited by Vertigo Games to try out the new map. Full disclosure, this is my first time playing a VR shooter but the straightforward controls are only a small leap forward from using a Wiimote while the headset is so immersive, I completely forget that there’s at least two people watching me spin around a nearly-empty room and occasionally yelping.
In-game, we get dropped inside a safe room to gather our bearings before a swift nudge of a big red button opens the blast doors and it’s snowbie-slaying time. Over the next twenty minutes, me and three AI gunslingers trudge through Hollywood Boulevard, rifles cocked. The decadent luxury of old, now audibly dripping in various red and pink liquids, looks amazing and sounds horrendous. There’s an awful lot of squelching in After The Fall and thanks to the headset, you can hear every disgusting blob of moisture.
The game is straightforward enough. Walk, shoot, repeat. The VR means enemy hordes can appear from any direction, at any time which keeps things interesting. It’s surprisingly terrifying turning around and getting a faceful of teeth but jump-scares aside, the snowbies never feel like a proper threat. Despite the various kinds of snarling beasties, they can all be taken out by the same tactic (rapid-fire, swear words optional) and none of them are particularly smart or move with the terrifying urgency that’s made shows like All Of Us Are Dead feel so vibrant. There’s also never really enough of them to make you feel overwhelmed. Did we mention the name sucks as well?
It’s refreshing to play a game where you can actually use the scope in open-combat to score headshots (the game even keeps a tally going for you, ready to compare at the end of the round) and having to use two hands to stop the chunky rifle’s recoil does give After The Fall a sense of realism, as does the manual reloading. However, the game never requires the same levels of accuracy, skill or focus as say, Call Of Duty. It means that you and your three friends are on more of a level playing field when it comes to co-op (which should hopefully stop anyone throwing their PSVR headset across the room) but that fun comes at the expense of anything overtly challenging.
Elsewhere, creatures like the Juggernaut (an 8-foot troll with a hankering for flesh) encourage players to come together to work as a unit, but aiming at a specific point of his hulking mass is about as complex as the tasks ever get. He’s capable of one-hit kills but even when you’re squirming in his grasp, there’s still a sense of detachment. It’s in those moments you wish developers had been more decisive in choosing between realism and ridiculousness. I don’t know if I’m meant to be laughing or crying in terror as I clear the map – I’m not sure After The Fall knows either.
After The Fall is designed to be played with friends and there’s undoubtedly a lot of fun to be had in this snowy dystopian future. A lot of the time, it feels similar to the multi-player carnage of Timesplitters and our 45-minute session absolutely flies by. You could undoubtedly lose a few hours wading through the guts and gore whilst the pick-up-and-play style really lends itself to the casual carnage. It never tries to be anything more than that either, which is both a strength and a weakness depending on who you ask. We’re somewhere in the middle.
Frontrunner offers exactly the same infectious gameplay against a slightly different backdrop as After The Fall. First time players and fans of the original launch will undoubtedly have a blast with this uncomplicated title but there’s nothing new here to tempt back those who weren’t sold the first time around. At a time where VR titles are trying to be revolutionary, this one is content offering more of what it does best. Like the snowbies themselves, After The Fall just keeps lurching forward at a steady pace.
After The Fall: Frontrunner launches March 25 on PSVR