After The Fall is a frustrating experience to discuss. On the one hand, the game is a marked improvement for Vertigo Games over their last VR experience, Arizona Sunshine. It eschews a serious single-player zombie survival sim in favor of a more arcadey co-op action romp. It doubles down on quick bite-sized gun battles with escalating threats and a pretty solid weapon-crafting system. And yet all of that good is buried under some fundamental oversights, technical issues, and the lack of social features.
Baby, It's Cold Outside
The first big hurdle I faced with After The Fall came right in the tutorial. You wake up in a bunker in some alternate timeline version of 1980s LA. A freak blizzard has overtaken the city and there are ice zombies called snowbreed running around. You're a Runner dedicated to making quick missions above ground to scavenge for supplies.
And I spent north of twenty minutes in the tutorial because the game barely explains half of its controls. Worse still, there is no way to re-map button controls. It was only through trial and error that I was able to figure out how to move, drop and swap weapons, sprint, and shift the camera both left and right. Considering how crucial a first impression is, After The Fall doesn't exactly start off strong.
Things do improve a bit going forward. After a run-in with the snowbreed, basically off-brand white walkers, you are taken to a social hub zone. It is here when you can go on missions with other players as well as upgrade your firearms. The weapon crafting is pretty cool, you actually use a tool to take the individual pieces off the gun and add any new bits you unlock through play. As for interacting with other players, that is underwhelming. All matchmaking and mission selection is done through a light gun arcade cabinet. You can still see other players running around the hub, usually as crab walking monstrosities spitting in the face of an angry god with their gnarled limbs and twisting heads, but interactivity here is limited.
As for what amounts to a story in After The Fall, it's basically a snow and ice take on Left 4 Dead. You and three other survivors run through a map, fight zombies, scavenge for supplies, and move from safe room to safe room until fight a boss at the very end. There are special zombies that pop up like brutes covered in tactical military gear, giant bloated monstrosities that explode when killed, and towering hulking monstrosities with glowing weak points.
Completing these missions earns you rewards. These range from a currency called Harvest, which you can use to buy new attachments for your weapons, and floppy disks which unlock additional weapon mods. As you go from map to map, you will also pick up additional weapons. Unfortunately, these amount to the same conventional firearms you've seen before: pistol, SMG, assault rifle, shotgun.
Overall, these missions are fine, even if they don't break any new ground. Searching abandoned rooms for keys, holding off waves of zombies while waiting for the path forward to open, managing consumable items like pipe bombs and healing syringes, struggling to reach the next safe room. All of it works as intended. Better still, each mission can be finished in about twenty minutes, which is great if you can't play in VR for extended periods of time.
The only other mode that After The Fall has is PvP multiplayer, and it feels really tacked on. While the maps themselves have decent mixes and sightlines and weapon placements give me mid-2000s arena shooter vibes, balance seems off. Despite there being long-range options and powerful shotguns on hand, it seems the best strategy in any of the matches I played was to dual-wield SMGs and spray and pray.
Thankfully, both of these modes do highlight a shift for Vertigo Games. While Arizona Sunshine tried a little too hard to be a realistic gun game with zombies, After The Fall leans further into action. Picking up ammo is as simple as walking over it, and the highly finicky realistic reload system can be switched to something faster and more straightforward. Overall, it's a better fit for the kind of game they're going for.
Hell is Other People
But what ultimately dooms After The Fall to not being the VR answer to Valve's acclaimed zombie shooter are dozens of annoyances that add up to a miserable slog. The first big ones are visuals. In addition to the horrendous looking flesh puppets that make up your fellow players in the central hub, everything else from the map locations to the setpieces is just drab and visually dull. Despite four hours of playing this game and going through multiple maps over and over, I cannot remember anything unique or memorable about any of them. Not to mention when there are more than a dozen zombies on screen, their animation quality drops significantly. In some pitched battles, it felt less like I was fighting ice zombies and more like I was fighting demented stop-motion puppet rejects.
But the biggest sin After The Fall commits is quite simple: they made an online game with barely any social features. First, it must be said that After The Fall includes cross-play between PSVR and Oculus players. This is a good thing due to how niche of a community VR gaming is. But how this internal online community is handled is nothing but infuriating.
The best example I can give is from my own personal experience. I got loaded into a random match with three other players, all with mics. One of these players had part of their online name censored. This exact same player kept shoving his digital gun in my face, yelling insults, and threatening other players with violence.
This was the textbook example of a Toxic Gamer, complete with homophobic remarks and juvenile antics. I pull up the Social menu. There is no way to boot him. There is no report system in place to call out bad players. The minute the mission ended, I went back to the social hub and found out there was a way to block players from being matched with you. But there is no shortlist of players you've played with recently. There is a search function, but rather than use the player's name, you have to punch in an eight digit player ID number, written in barely legible white text above their name. Not over their name in-game, but in the Social menu during your session with said player.
In short, I had a terrible time with a garbage player, and what little features were there did nothing to reprimand his behavior. Even without this negative experience, this makes even finding friends and assembling parties in the game is tedious and annoying.
After The Fall | Final Thoughts
If you can suffer through some below-average social features, tolerate subpar visuals and bland level design, and have several really good friends on hand, After The Fall can provide some mindless zombie shooting spectacle. But considering how much of an investment VR is and how much other co-op games in the same space have evolved and changed, there are better alternatives out there.
TechRaptor reviewed After The Fall on PlayStation VR with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index.
- Fun, Satisfying VR gunplay
- Rewarding Firearm Customization
- Terrible Online Quality Control Features
- Underwhelming, Bland Visuals and Enemy Design
- Unbalanced, Bog Standard PvP