Preview: Now There be Goblins – You Have my Hammer

Nobody likes goblins. They’re always getting into places, causing trouble, generally being a nuisance. I’ll tell you who really hates goblins; the king. As a blacksmith grafting for coin, apparently I’m on speaking terms with this smug-looking monarch. He commissioned me to craft a massive gold statue of him and the local goblins have taken a dislike to them. Or they want the gold. Either way, goblins are attacking, the king doesn’t like that and I have to defend the kingdom. I have no clue why we don’t have soldiers for this.

All I have are a shield and my trusty blacksmithing hammer. Thankfully I can build defences, which should clue you in on what genre Now There be Goblins falls into. This tower defence game plays like many others you will have seen or tried. The enemy enters an arena area and walks a predetermined path towards their goal, which is our failure point. As the hero, I build weapons and barricades to kill any and all goblins.

Across the opening levels I learn how to move around the playing area, plus how to select defence items. This early on, it’s the usual barricade that is placed on the paths to slow down the enemy, as well as a few weapons – crossbow, cannon and sharpshooter. These can be dotted around off the path to lay down damage. But you know this, I’m sure.

The goblins enter the kingdom in waves, variously armoured and kitted out with weapons. A highlight of Now There be Goblins is the ability to pick up the discarded weapons from the goblins, all of which feature differing damage stats and styles, such as bludgeoning or stabbing damage. It’s rather laughable to be standing behind a barrier, swinging both arms wildly to whack and stab horrible goblins.

Of course, in between waves placements can be repaired or upgraded, it’s all very much par for the course. Until the bosses show up, and then everything goes to hell. I was happily building items, looting corpses, defending the kingdom. I knew a boss was in this wave, but I underestimated them severely. They are huge, hulking enemies that seemingly know nothing except swinging a weapon and moving forward. I died. A lot.

However, even with those deaths, I was levelling up to unlock new weapons and items and slowly progress bit by bit. I began to admire the visuals and the wonderful little details that brought my role to life. I will happily write a paragraph about just the blacksmith hammer, which is attached to your arm via a chain. This means it can be thrown… and recalled. Like Thor with Mjolnir. I was lopping the hammer, snapping it back, catching it, taking a bit of a pose. It was glorious. 

There were a few graphical glitches from the chain – sometimes it stretched across the entire map, other times it glitched through the placements. But I still felt like a God. And that theme continues in the style of Now There be Goblins, the developers have used a slick cartoon style, with daft, overly large proportions and pops of colour. The weapons and defences feel weighty and look chunky.

I’m still slowly working my way through the campaign. This is an early access title, so it’ll keep receiving updates over time. And I’ll definitely keep coming back. Now There be Goblins has a really delightful gameplay loop, and while the bosses are scary and tough, they feel fair enough to return to the mission and try a new tactic next around. I’ll be back for those goblins, and to protect the kingdom, but I’ve got a Godlike hammer and a bad attitude.

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.

Preview: Outlier – A Roguelite of Possibilities

It’s surprising to think that Joy Way used to be location-based entertainment (LBE) specialist PlatformaVR, transitioning into a full-time virtual reality (VR) studio a couple of years ago. During that time the team has released a selection of Steam Early Access titles with the latest to arrive being Outlier. This joins the ever-growing roguelite genre VR developers are loving at the moment, continually fighting and dying, trying to inch closer to the finish line whilst incrementally improving your stats.    


Outlier very much has this at the core of its DNA with a basic narrative to give it some structure. You’re the captain of a spaceship looking to find humanity a new home, along the way getting sucked into a black hole that imbues you with powers whilst offering a potential planet. However, that planet is being attacked by hostiles that need clearing out first, so with new said abilities you get to unleash a little mayhem.

As an Early Access release Outlier doesn’t offer many bells and whistles, to begin with. All the VR basics are present, smooth locomotion only, you can grab ledges to climb and guns can be housed over each shoulder (nothing on the hip). There’s no manual reloading, simply pop the gun near your hip to reload making for a quick arcade-style experience. Early on there seemed to be some inconsistency when it came to dropping the gun. Rather than popping it over my shoulder, simply letting it go generally left it there although on the odd occasion it seemed to auto-return. Ahh, the vagaries of an early access videogame.

Planetside, Outlier looks great, fighting through what look like ancient ruins and temples, giant monoliths stretching skywards with plenty of undulation in the level design; keeping most of the enemy encounters in small areas. Joy Way has also used a trick where the environment is entirely contained within canyons (so far at least), presumably because levels are procedurally generated. In any case, it doesn’t feel confined, with plenty of room to manoeuvre.   


And you’ll need to, the first opponents encountered are fast and deadly accurate with their throwing axes. It takes a moment to actually keep up and track their movements as they flit from side-to-side, unusually tricky for introductory foes. They’re actually a bit too erratic in all honesty and there were times where it felt easier to just run up and gun butt them, only to find I couldn’t! I’m also not a fan of the ragdoll effects when they die, definitely seems out of place in this style of VR experience.

Physical violence may have been off the cards but thankfully Outlier doesn’t just provide guns, you can unleash some telekinetic rock throwing. Thus you’ve got the option to dual wield two guns when you’ve found them, a gun and helpful rock or just go full-on Jean Grey and start hurling boulders around the place. Alas, you can’t just rip them out of the ground, only certain rocks and pots can be lobbed but even so, it makes Outlier physical, interactive and fun.

Now, as mentioned this is a roguelite which means gaining loads of useful stuff, death, losing all your stuff and then upgrading core abilities to go back at it. Outlier achieves this in a number of ways, the first being the in level buffs. Every so often you’ll come across a glowing pedestal with 2 or 3 items, usually 3 buffs or 1 buff and a gun. Buffs can range from improving your grab distance and walking speed to upping the number of times you can dash in succession or adding perks like Death from Above where you gain a 10% damage improvement when airborne.


These are all your temporary boons, the permanent ones come from killing enemies to gain some sort of magical energy. This is the good stuff, only usable onboard your spaceship once you’ve died. At the moment the ship doesn’t look as good as the rest of Outlier, very bland in its aesthetic and user interface. There’s also the less than inspiring voiceover for the story narration and gameplay tutorial. It’s not the only thing that needs some more polish whilst inside early access, enemy wall glitching and game crashes were two of the more prominent issues.

Outlier also seems to have been influenced (partially) by Joy Way’s biggest VR title Stride. The jump/dash mechanic takes a little getting used to, as it’s a physical flick. You have to hold the A button down then flick the controller in a direction, releasing the button at the same time. It is a gameplay fundamental learning to quickly dash sideways, backwards, or jump across chasms.

All of this combines to make Outlier an intriguing prospect. It could possibly become Joy Way’s biggest and baddest VR game to date, with some wicked looking enemy design – especially the boss – and variety when combining gems to upgrade yourself. However, this is the studios’ fourth early access videogame on Steam, begging the question as to whether they’ll all stay in this EA limbo or actually come to fruition. There are some excellent roguelite videogames available for VR headsets and Outlier could well join this group, eventually.

Steam Next Fest: No Lower Decks on Ziggy’s Cosmic Adventures

Elden Ring might be out tomorrow but who cares when you got all these virtual reality (VR) videogames on Steam Next Fest to play! Next to catch gmw3’s eye was Ziggy’s Cosmic Adventures by Stardust Collective, a title mixing roomscale sci-fi management with some space-based combat.

Ziggy's Cosmic Adventures

Ziggy’s Cosmic Adventures takes place entirely inside a very snug cockpit that’s very light on luxuries – there’s not even a seat for those long intergalactic journeys – but heavy on buttons, switches and levers. Excellent then for some immersive VR gameplay, where you have to main your little ship to keep yourself alive by managing power levels to systems including life support and flight control.

The demo treats you to the first level and one crucial component of Ziggy’s Cosmic Adventures, a strange green alien with unquantifiable power – no not Mooncake. This little guy quite literally powers your ship, although doing so seems to kill the poor little guy so you have to eject the corpse into space. So there are some dark undertones to what initially seemed like a fairly colourful adventure.

The demo doesn’t give you much time to play with all the bells and whistles the cockpit has to offer but there are certainly plenty of them. You can 3D print your little green pal Ziggy, swap batteries between stations and then blast off to your next destination. The cockpit is very compact but not claustrophobic, with everything nicely within reach, with the studio claiming you only need a 2m x 1.5m area.

Ziggy's Cosmic Adventures

After feeling like a kid in a candy store thanks to all those buttons it was time to try the space combat. Depending on your flying preference, I found it useful popping into the settings to tweak the invert options as you can swap them all for pitch, yaw and roll. With HOTAS-like controls you’ve got to make it through an asteroid field, shooting any that get too close followed by a few enemy ships that want Ziggy for themselves.

All the mechanics were easy to grasp with the combat section being the trickiest purely because you have to stand up – it is roomscale after all – so spinning around could get a bit jarring for less experienced players.

Ziggy’s Cosmic Adventures looks awesome and offers another great example of VR gameplay during the Steam Next Fest, well worth a download. For more updates keep reading gmw3.

Steam Next Fest: Jungle Survival in Green Hell VR

The Steam Next Fest is underway until next Monday 28th February, giving you plenty of time to delve into some of the awesome virtual reality (VR) videogames coming to PC VR headsets. One that gmw3 has certainly been looking forward to is Incuvo’s Green Hell VR, the immersive port of Creepy Jar’s popular survival adventure.

Green Hell VR
Green Hell VR – PC version

With Incuvo having already ported the likes of Blair Witch onto VR headsets there has been a lot of interest regarding Green Hell VR. It’s a far bigger beast than the horror title, an open-world experience set in the Amazonian rainforest, a huge, inhospitable jungle where most of its inhabitants are trying to kill/eat you.

The demo introduces you to the first 30-40 minutes of the campaign depending on how quickly you decide to follow the prompts, teaching you the basics of inventory management, healing, crafting a fire and such. If you’re already well acquainted with the original Green Hell the main difference you’ll notice are the controls, healing requires actually wrapping a leaf around your arm whilst lighting a fire requires finding flint to create a spark with your machete.

Those that are already well acquainted with VR controls should find the mechanics instantly familiar. Incuvo has stuck with VR norms that are intuitive, picking a useful item up can be put instantly in your backpack over your shoulder. Your notepad is on your chest for easy access, selecting items to craft or giving you information about items you’ve discovered.

Green Hell VR
Green Hell VR – PC version

The ability to physically interact with everything highlights how much Invuco has rebuilt for VR players, with minimal button presses – although there is the occasional one like pressing the button on the walkie talkie.

While the demo doesn’t feature any dangerous animals or locals to fight what I really wanted to get from the teaser was a true sense of being in a dense jungle. Where plants just seem to grow on top of one another and where one miss-step could lead to me becoming lost in this amazing world. So of course the first thing I did was look for the closest unidentified mushroom and eat it, you know, just to see what happens! As it turned out the first random shroom I found was edible so no harsh effect there (which was kinda disappointing).

Ultimately, I now really want to spend more time in Green Hell VR and see if I could actually survive a virtual Amazon. Incuvo plans on releasing this immersive adventure for PC VR and Meta Quest platforms this spring, so there isn’t too long to wait.

Preview: We Are One: Prologue – Getting Yourself out of Trouble

Whether it’s time-travelling or time looping, virtual reality (VR) videogames have continually played with this mechanic, providing some truly head-scratching puzzles. The likes of Wanderer head down the more traditional route of travelling back in time to alter pivotal events whilst Transpose offers a far more mind-bending experience with copies of yourself. That ability to buddy up is central to Flat Head Studios’ latest puzzler, We Are One, where success means making sure your past self doesn’t cock up.

We Are One
We Are One – Image credit: Flat Head Studio

Previously known as Help Yourself, We Are One is a time loop shooter where the aim is to shoot a variety of enemies before they kill you, before you run out of ammo; and most importantly of all, before you run out of time.

Starting from a lofty position where you can survey the environment you’ll be able to select from a number of teleport points. Some may offer cover, other’s provide shields to repel projectiles but generally, you need guns and ammo to complete each level. As mentioned, puzzles revolve around the use of combining your various selves together, so one may have access to the gun but no ammo or you may need to protect a past version of yourself to complete a particular task.

Whilst it sounds complicated Flat Head Studios has done a great job of gently building up your familiarity with the mechanics. There’s no locomotion to worry about, so you can focus on your surroundings – which as you can see from the screenshots are quite striking between your colourful green character against the black and white environment. In fact, the mechanics are fairly simple, all you need to remember is that time resets once you leave one spot and head to another.

We Are One
We Are One – Image credit: Flat Head Studio

This sets up some awesome sequences where early on you’re passing the gun up to yourself on a higher platform or catching it mid-air to pop the final enemy. Of course, you need to make sure you don’t muck up by fumbling a throw or getting shot. Should that happen you get the option to completely restart the puzzle or overwrite your last position – (and only your last position).

The prologue has a decent selection of levels to keep you busy, with the full game to feature a story mode, a level editor and more. It may have only been a taster of what’s to come but every level was enjoyable, offered a new twist from the last, and made progression really fun. There’s something quite satisfying about seeing your past selves working together, especially when it’s one of the latter, trickier puzzles.

If you own a Meta Quest 1 or 2 then you may have already played We Are One, as a beta has been available via AppLab and SideQuest since last year. Today, Flat Head Studios has progressed the title even further with the launch of the free prologue. This updates the Meta Quest version with new environments, better lighting, enhanced visual effects, more levels and other tweaks whilst making this early portion of the title available to PC VR owners.

We Are One is slated for an official launch later in 2022 and gmw3 can’t wait to see the final version in action.

Preview: Sword Reverie – Just the Beginning of this JRPG’s Journey

There just aren’t enough Japanese anime-inspired role-playing games (RPG) for virtual reality (VR) headsets so when Isekai Entertainment revealed Sword Reverie a couple of years ago, the videogame looked like it could well fill that void. Today, after three years of development Sword Reverie hits Steam Early Access, offering a taster of what’s to come.

Sword Reverie

Like any fantasy RPG, you want plenty of combat, an engrossing storyline and a protagonist that you can really inhabit and customise to your liking. Some of these features are present in Sword Reverie whilst others certainly need some further finesse.

The title is quite clearly built around combat, getting you into the action whilst attempting to add a narrative via a dude who idly stands next to you watching the battles unfold. You have a blade in each hand that you can neither drop nor stow away in any fashion like you’re Daniel Radcliffe in (the stupid but fun) Guns Akimbo. Needless to say, this would make using an inventory rather difficult so there isn’t one. You can pick items up from fallen enemies and chests but they’re automatically added to your magical storage. If you enjoy organising your potions from your weapons then you’ll be disappointed.

During the main levels, Sword Reverie is a far more arcade-oriented experience, you wander through the town killing everything in your path. The first four are very linear, opening up a touch more after that. However, there’s a very by-the-numbers feel to the fights as most of the enemies simply stand there waiting for you to walk up to them. Some of the slightly tougher armoured opponents do have a small path they follow yet for the most part you can often see who’s in the next section and plan accordingly.

Sword Reverie

Not that’s there’s much planning involved, you’ve got two giant magical swords after all. That magic is key in Sword Reverie as it’s elemental-based and so are the enemies, red for fire; green for grass, and blue for water; each one more effective over the next in the sequence. The only caveat to these three is the yellow/gold magic, which can be used against all three, so you’ll find yourself sticking to that a lot.         

If you do you’ll miss out on all the magical effects the other elements have. For example, swinging both swords from head to toe unleashes a ranged attack, a bright yellow arrow when using that elemental magic whilst the blue element launches three balls of water for a wider attack. Magic is physical, swinging your arms to activate it. Unfortunately, the first two abilities are very similar in action with Cleave requiring both swords to cross in front of your chest before slashing downwards. The number of times I’d try one move and get the other did start to grate, especially as they both use different amounts of mana.

What really needs some fine-tuning is the melee combat because it isn’t satisfying. Think hack and slash rather than an actual sword fight where you block, parry and attack. You can sort of block but it was easier to step back to avoid the swing, then reengage. Part of the problem was the clunky, slow nature of the enemies, with some ragdoll physics kicking in if they fall over. They do look great, with a superbly bold, vivid art style, and once you begin inflicting punishment the armour starts to look worn and bodily scars begin to appear. The final blow tends to slice them in two, although on one occasion I felled an opponent by cutting off its foot.       

Sword Reverie

Away from the action in the Guild Hall you can utilise all those resources to craft new weaponry, refine resources or other items. It’s the only time you get any sort of customisation options in Sword Reverie, hopefully, Isekai Entertainment will expand this section further.

On first inspection Sword Reverie hasn’t immediately sold itself even as an early access title. There are certainly good ideas in place such as the elemental magic, creature design and it isn’t bad to look at either. What Sword Reverie needs is for the combat to be more fluid so the sword fighting becomes less repetitive as well as better delivery of the story, some random adventurer talking failed to absorb me in the narrative. Sword Reverie is out today on Steam if you want to give it a chance.

Preview: AGAINST – Slicing a Hardcore Rhythm


When a virtual reality (VR) developer reveals another rhythm action videogame it can be a little difficult to get excited about the whole prospect. However, when Joy way revealed that its latest project AGAINST would be in this genre it piqued VRFocus’ interest due to its dark aesthetic and multiple gameplay features. Looking unlike any other rhythm action title is one thing but providing a unique gameplay experience, that’s a bit harder. Due to arrive as a Steam Early Access videogame, AGAINST does have its own flair, even if it is a bit cheesy at points.


You might have already played a version of AGAINST as Joy Way took part in Steam Next Fest during the summer, offering an early demo of its gritty design. The look and feel of AGAINST has been significantly enhanced since then, particularly where the visuals are concerned. Gone is the very striking, almost film-noir style in favour of an environment a touch easier on the eyes. That hint of colour which would only appear in an enemy’s eyes or as the indicator to slice in a particular direction has made its way across the landscape, making for a far more polished looking experience.

AGAINST might look prettier but it’s no less brutal in its delivery, where you can hack henchmen in half, cut the heads off giant snakes and uppercut gormless goons with visceral trails of blood. Unlike a lot of other rivals AGAINST doesn’t pretend to try and handhold new VR players with friendly, bouncy rhythms; it’s brutal, in your face and definitely looking to attract those hardcore VR fans.

In a similar vein to Pistol Whip 2089, AGAINST employs a narrative campaign strategy rather than loads of individual songs you can swap between. So you get a story set in 1930’s New York City, playing out over seven levels. Full of the stereotypical comic book tropes, there’s an over-the-top villain who wants to unleash darkness on the world and you play a detective determined to stop him. While the narrative does provide a mildly humorous respite between levels and provides some explanation of why you’re fighting werewolves, burly blokes and snakes, if you skip it you won’t be missing much. Although the skip function never worked, so replaying levels meant having to listen to it all again and again, unfortunately.


When you first start AGAINST it drops you almost immediately into the tutorial, and for good reason, there’s a lot to get to grips with. If you’ve played any rhythm action title several components will be instantly familiar such as using the sword to slice opponents, knuckle dusters to punch them, and a revolver – followed by Tommy guns later on – to shoot them at range. Kill them in time to the music – which is mainly Dubstep or heavier EDM – and you’ll score points, helping attain that leaderboard position, you get the gist.

AGAINST mixes things up by adding punchable directional arrows, thus activating a short wall run sequence or boosting you up to a higher platform. The wall running especially helps to open up the dark and moody levels, providing a novel switch in focus for a moment. However, later levels naturally bombard you with opponents, obstacles to dodge and these switching moments. Even on the normal difficulty setting (Easy and Hard are also available), this can get quite fierce which some players may find jarring.

Get past that and you’ve got a really challenging experience that takes two or three levels to get into. The first just seemed ridiculously difficult even on normal with multiple restarts required to complete the level. The second and third were a breeze in comparison and moments where you have to use the sword to deflect bullets back at the shooter became mini (John Wick style) badass moments that were very satisfying to complete. What you have to get used to is the constant weapon switching between the sword, guns and fists. As any Beat Saber player will know, you find a nice rhythm and flow that makes the more expert levels manageable. AGAINST doesn’t quite have that as it just feels like it’s trying to do too much all at once.  


That being said, AGAINST has a personality that other VR rhythm games lack and additions like the mini-bosses at the end of some of the levels help to give it a classic arcade vibe VRFocus loves. Joy Way says that the Early Access period will be used to add a couple more weapons and polish and that the core campaign is done, which is slightly concerning regarding longevity as there are only seven levels. There is a free Beatmap Editor (VRFocus hasn’t tested this tool yet) which could extend the experience by making your own custom maps if you really want to. AGAINST didn’t instantly hook, it takes time to warm to but there is a little magic under the surface. Hopefully, Joy Way will nurture it and not leave it in the early access abyss.

Preview: After the Fall – Frosty Social Mayhem

After the Fall

With all that’s happened over the last couple of years, 2019 seems like an age ago. It was that year when VRFocus got its first hands-on glimpse of Vertigo Games’ Arizona Sunshine follow up After the Fall, an action-packed shooter set in the frozen wasteland of Los Angeles. After a few delays, the studio is almost ready to launch the zombie-themed FPS across multiple headsets and VRFocus got another peek at the title and game mode called Harvest.

After the Fall

In actual fact, the demo contained three distinct sections of After the Fall, and as expected offering a different flavour to the proceedings since last we met. Available were the Outlands, and introductory level given players the main gist of the controls, a hub section called The Line where players can meet up and chat before heading out on co-op missions together, which leads us to the Harvest.

If you’ve played Arizona Sunshine you’ll likely have dabbled in the frantic horde mode, a later addition where you have to survive waves of enemies. Harvest is After the Fall’s horde mode of sorts but instead of running around a singular map, players have to work their way through a level, stopping off at occasional safe houses, with the main goal being to collect as much Harvest as possible from dead enemies.

This you can then use in Harvest-o-Matic’s found in safe rooms to purchase useful equipment such as health, pipe bombs and ammunition. It’s a setup most Left 4 Dead or Back 4 Blood players will be familiar with. You all have to work together because inventory space is very limited, choosing between a health pack or a tasty explosive could mean life or death on those frozen streets.

After the Fall

Before getting there The Line is worth an exploration. It’s like a massive arcade with loads of cabinets in the middle, where you can team up with three other friends before going on a Harvest (AI bots are available to make teams up to 4), head to the shooting range or talk to Luna who runs the place. *Spoiler* As an awesome nod to Vertigo Games’ previous title there are Arizona Sunshine cabinets offering a very basic twin-stick shooter for a quick time killer.

Vertigo Games has been sure to include plenty of accessibility options that are always worth a peruse before heading into the action, as you can play seated or standing, teleport or use smooth locomotion and change how reloading works. It’s the latter that VRFocus instantly had issues with which was a worry so close to launch.

Ammo is located right on your chest, with the belt height adjustable to suit each player’s requirements. You then have the choice of Quick or Advanced reloading, the former consisting of merely bringing the gun to your chest whilst the latter is a more traditional manual VR mechanic, ejecting the magazine, grabbing a clip and cocking the gun. However, when it came to fighting that first ravenous horde of Snowbreed it was an absolute fumble fest. The Quick reloading was intermittent at best, constantly jabbing the gun at the ammo belt until something happened. Advanced reloading, on the other hand, was smooth as butter, feeling natural popping clips out and jamming another in. Additionally, there’s a Harvest multiplier if you choose the Advanced option.    

After the Fall

After the Fall also employs and omits several other familiar VR shooter mechanics. Taking a leaf out of Half-Life: Alyx’s book are the wrist pockets, these are your only inventory slots for things like health and explosives. This becomes even more of a juggle once you start locating Floppy Disks, these unlock new equipment by taking them to the Harvest-o-Matic and then completing the run. You can hold up to four weapons if you so wish, one on each hip and one in each hand for that proper gun-toting Rambo look. But you can’t put anything over your shoulder, even the bigger two-handed weapons go on your hip which seems a bit strange. There wasn’t a chance to test how two rifles on each hip and one hand-held would look although we’d imagine the visual clutter might be a bit much. Also, there wasn’t a chance to test the weapon upgrade system which was a shame, that’ll just have to wait for the full review.

Even with those grumbles, the gameplay was exactly as hoped, fast and at times unrelenting, with Snowbreed clambering through walls, across ceilings or just plain smashing through stuff like a bulldozer. It was arcade action at its best, ziplining across buildings, gunning down corridors or monsters then in those moments where you could take a breather exploring rooms to find useful loot and collectables. Aside from the base slow and fast Snowbreed there were four more specialised foes that would pop up occasionally, Juggernaut, Eater, Brute and Smasher. They’re all tanks in their own right with the Juggernaut able to pick you up, the Eater explodes, the Brute is a super speedy fella whilst the Smasher was the final huge opponent to overcome. Certainly impressive and tough in the first run, how well they work across multiple Harvest remains to be seen.

After the Fall is gearing up to be one of VR’s biggest winter 2021 launches thanks to the wall-to-wall combat. There’s also the impressive feat of co-op, cross-platform gameplay between all supported headsets, which should ensure player numbers for full Harvest runs. Considering how some VR videogames have struggled with this feature, having it available from day one could mean all the difference. After the Fall is coming to Oculus Quest 2, PlayStation VR and PC VR headsets on 9th December, so there’s not long to wait to see if it’s been worth those delays.

Preview: RC Rush – Mini Motoring Mayhem

RC Rush

Franchises like DiRT Rally, Forza ­and Gran Turismo might be all about realism and hardcore racing but there’s something to be said for the cheekier, plucky racing titles out there designed just to be fun. How better to encapsulate that than with diddy racing cars hurtling around compact challenging courses. There are several pint-sized racers for virtual reality (VR) players with the latest aiming to make its mark in the genre coming from Tea Monster Games, RC Rush.

As the name implies RC Rush isn’t about miniaturising cars but racing remote-controlled vehicles around tracks, with all the chaos and bumper to bumper fighting you’d expect. Designed primarily for VR but with a non-VR component ensuring everyone can play, RC Rush puts a range of micro monster trucks at your disposal with more to unlock as you progress through the career mode.

Initially, RC Rush gives you three trucks to choose from, each with the usual stat variances such as speed, grip and off-road handling. There are no customisation options – not even for liveries at the moment – so if you want a greater selection then it’s all about working through the 100 levels that make up the career, a mixture of race, time trial and elimination events. There are 30 track designs, with later levels offering different tweaks on previous courses.

If you’re playing in VR – as you should be – the controls are split between both controllers so in-game you actually have two remotes which looks a little weird but isn’t off-putting. Usual triggers for braking and reversing, and sticks or thumb pads for steering, so the controls are super simple to pick up. In VR you do lose one option though, the ability to switch viewpoints. Playing on a screen you get three to choose from (standing, behind the truck or top-down cameras) whereas in VR you’re at the sideline the entire time. This does mean that while RC Rush can be played seated, it’s easier to play standing for that better viewpoint. Hopefully, Tea Monster Games will add some more accessibility options during early access, allowing the height to be adjusted or possibly offering alternative viewpoints.

RC Rush

There are some options currently available depending on your skill level. Younger players can switch on automatic steering so all they need to worry about is acceleration and braking. Whilst the full “Pro mode” gives you full control over the vehicle. There’s even a brake helper should you need it.

Out on the courses the RC cars really do feel like you’d imagine, not taught racing machines but bouncy and very lively machines. So the courses make full use of this toy-like realism with jumps and bumps aplenty, as well as obstacles galore to knock out the way or get stuck behind. The very first level is a great example of this, racing around an oval swimming pool, and what do pools have…loads of balls laying around. Going from first to last place because your car is now trying to mount a beach ball is both comical and frustrating. The notable downside with the single VR position was that busier courses were more difficult to gauge obstacles, easily clipping a post or building. Much less likely to happen if you’re directly behind the car.

Get stuck on career mode and you can always head on over to Quick Race for a few laps around the courses you’ve unlocked. Or, there’s Free Roam where you just wander the levels as you please. Tucked away here are some specific obstacle courses that’ll really test those driving skills. A multiplayer mode is planned but that wasn’t available at this time.

RC Rush

Currently, RC Rush is shaping up very nicely considering it’s a two-man team developing the videogame. All the cars and tracks look really good, nicely detailed with plenty going on. The mechanics and physics all seem on point, making it very easy to flip a vehicle if you fudge a jump. RC Rush is expected to launch as a Steam Early Access title on 20th October 2021. As development continues VRFocus will keep you updated on its progress.