Preview: The Living Remain – An Aspiring Zombie Epic in the Making

Do you ever get that videogame itch? No, not that rash you’ve been ignoring but the desire to dive back into a specific game or genre you know you’ve played to death yet there’s a reason you love it so. For me – and likely many of you out there – it’s a penchant for zombies, stepping into a survival adventure that’s all about headshots and not wasting bullets, each one needs to be a kill shot to secure your safety. With the arrival of The Living Remain this week on Steam that itch has subsided once more.

The Living Remain

VR is littered with zombie shooters so any new ones that arrive have some big shoes to fill, requiring satisfying gunplay, plenty of nail-biting action and gore (there can never be too much gore). The Living Remain has different levels of each that make for positive early access rollout with plenty of room to refine those rough areas.

Firstly, even though the Steam page only lists Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, I used a Valve Index as that’s permanently connected. This didn’t cause an issue, just a quick moment to adjust to the control scheme as the brief intro tutorial only showed the Vive controllers. All the reloading, locomotion and other interactive worked as hoped, grabbing pistols from hip holsters and dropping ammo in the backpack.

Let’s talk about that for a mo. The inventory system is easily described as bare minimum because you can only store ammo and filament (crafting material). These are stored by popping them over your off-hand shoulder whilst your dominant side shoulder stores larger weapons (a rifle or shotgun). Whilst popping a clip in with my left hand is perfectly normal, the fact I also have to grab ammo from my left shoulder feels quite odd. It’s not too difficult to get used to but nevertheless, still seems a bit strange.

The Living Remain

The Living Remain is a story-driven experience where you play a soldier separated from his family, so off you trot through an apocalyptic world filled with the undead. Delivery of the narrative is very well done, with the protagonist coming across as the grizzled war veteran you imagine him to be. There’s no break in the delivery either, no awful cut scenes or immersion-breaking 2D segments, you get it all as you explore and survive.

Explore might be too strong a word, The Living Remain is an A to B adventure with very little in the way of deviating from the main path. There’s the odd room here and there containing ammo and filament but that’s about it, your only concern is pressing forward through the hordes.

When it comes to the zombies you’ve got the slow walkers and slightly speedier joggers – they’re not really fast enough to be called runners. They look ok at this early access stage but you’ll quickly notice repetition and once they notice you, in classic fashion, the arms outstretched as they stumble forward. They tend to be fairly spaced out in my opinion, only a couple of times inside did it ever seem like I was going to get overwhelmed and even then, I had no shortage of ammo which is liberally spread throughout the levels.

The Living Remain

This makes the knife a little bit defunct, completely opposite to other VR zombie titles. You can stick the hunting blade in a zombie’s skull yet there didn’t seem to be any way to grab the said head, making the removal far trickier. So using the plentiful ammo – even attracting the zombies with gunshots – made for a far smoother gameplay experience. Running around popping heads left and right is what it’s all about anyway.

And you do have to run, there’s no teleporting in The Living Remain. There are some basic locomotion and comfort options (snap or smooth turning for example) if needed, although it’s certainly geared more towards VR acclimatised players.       

Plus what would a zombie game be with some sort of upgrade options? Provided here by the clever use of a 3D printer; hence you need to find that filament. The sporadically placed printer stations offer the chance to upgrade your weapons, add extended mags, increase the firepower with hollowpoint bullets or manufacture more ammo.   

First impressions for The Living Remain are good, the campaign is solid enough and the weapon handling is on point. Realism is certainly an important factor here, which is great for shooting zombies yet there’s no distance grab so you need to get up close to everything – definitely don’t drop a mag mid gunfight. Visually, The Living Remains suffers the most outside, open locations are barren and lack detail. Inside, especially the dark torch-lit areas, function far better building a much better sense of atmosphere and dread at what’s around the next corner. The Living Remain might not be up to The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners level at the moment but the core gameplay has tons of potential to come close.