I would refer to myself as a legacy horror gaming fan. What do I mean by that? Fair question. What I mean is that within the arena of horror games, I find myself constantly yearning for horror games of old from the golden era populated with Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, Project Zero, F.E.A.R., and many others
I pine for them, but still continue to relentlessly play any horror game going, all in the hope of being terrified just a fraction as much as I was by P.T. I’ve done retrospectives detailing how Dead Space was the last bastion of horror gaming in a dying genre, I’ve cynically ridiculed just about every game that has milked the insane asylum setting dry, and if I replace another flashlight battery, I might get sponsored by Duracell.
Yet here I am in 2023, playing a game that is set in an insane asylum, where you constantly scour each room in the darkness for stray batteries. Why? Well, because hope is all I have, folks. I’m being a little dramatic here, as we penmen are known to be, helps with engagement.
In reality, the horror scene has seen an uptick in quality of late. Resident Evil has returned to form, we are getting very competent remakes regularly, and Silent Hill is finally making a comeback. Maybe all the time in the trenches playing indie horrors was worth it, after all.
However, until then, I need some spooks to tide me over, and VR is just about the only thing that can get a rise out of my cold, dead heart these days. So with that in mind, we are checking out Afterlife VR, a September 2022 VR title that is just making its way over to PSVR2.
It’s a title that promises a short, shocking, and atmospheric VR nightmare, and will be the first horror title to grace the new hardware. However, the question remains, does it warrant being first in line? Here is Ready VR One’s Afterlife VR Review, conducted on PSVR2.
Devoted to the Deranged
Let’s jump into yet another insane asylum. I could be very cynical and downbeat about this setting choice, but taking it at face value, it’s actually a pretty well-designed setting, albeit a little generic. Looking at the visuals alone, it has to be said that they are pretty run-of-the-mill, even in the world of VR.
Textures are hit-and-miss, the world feels more like a museum dedicated to horror rather than a world you can interact with, there aren’t a tonne of set pieces, and some assets don’t behave as they should do, leading to some odd moments like clipping through walls and crows vanishing in thin air. Plus, I was also a little miffed that the flashlight couldn’t be used to light up in-game notes.
The graphics toe-the-line in terms of quality, and remain serviceable for the most part, but you will find some moments, like the jump scares, where what’s in front of you inspires laughter rather than terror.
That being said, the sound quality within this game makes up for a lot of the visual shortcomings, with set-pieces, ambient noise, and a signature horror low-hum that keeps the tension high. But equally, the game knows when to drop the volume to a minimum and have you walk the dark and dingy asylum halls with the only audible noise being your footsteps.
That’s what makes a door slamming, or a blurry figure zooming around up ahead all the more shocking. I will concede that the vocal performances are a little pedestrian, but as a whole, the game nails audio, and that’s half the battle when it comes to horror.
Outlast, But VR
So let’s talk about the storyline here, which is about as cookie-cutter as you can get when it comes to spooky paranormal horror. You are a police officer working your beat, and are asked to head up to the local asylum, as there is a hostage situation you need to take care of. Now, a sensible police officer would take a squad with him, or, better yet, head up there in the morning.
But oh, not you; you’re too smart. Instead, you race up there, because your sister Alison is in there, and you need to save her. Thus begins your adventure as you delve deep into the asylum and begin to unravel the paranormal mysteries that await you inside.
It’s a generic plot that has been done to death, and has been done much better. I would point directly to Outlast if you want a prime example of this. So don’t expect any profound and outlandish plot points here. The plot twists won’t shock you; the characters are essentially tropes of bygone eras of horror, and the story unravels toward the end, tying your player character to the surreal events in a very predictable way.
On the positive side, the game’s story is bite-sized, offering a 2-hour runtime which is about as long as a good horror movie. Plus, the pacing is actually pretty good, so you can easily burn through this in one sitting. The Shining, this is not, but even the corny horrors out there have a place.
As I mentioned, all the game’s core mechanics are functional, but by no means are they staggeringly well done. I’ll focus on the better aspects first, starting with the VR functionality such as movement and interaction with the world. When it comes to navigation, the game makes use of the analog stick to turn your field of view on the spot, and then you can use the other to walk, or run. It’s similar to Call of the Mountain in this regard.
While it can be a little immersion-breaking to have to snap the camera around, I personally thought it was fine. However, I was less impressed with the interactive aspects of the game. I was already a little miffed that certain objects that really seem like they should be able to be picked up and tossed like a frisbee are merely for decoration.
However, when I realised that those you could grab would lock on even if you were somewhat close to them and triggered grab, I was a little disappointed. I like the tactile aspect of accurately grabbing and pushing/pulling objects, and afterlife VR took that out of my hands. It’s a small gripe, but it took me out of it.
The inventory system makes up for this somewhat with easy-to-manage UI, which allows players to dual-wield items, and swap between them on the fly. My only issue was that when you needed to change a battery, or reload a gun, you would need to stow away the gun/flashlight for a battery or magazine. However, this actually added to the panic and tension, so I won’t complain too much.
Then it only really goes downhill from there gameplay-wise. It’s a slow, gradual decline, but a drop-off, nevertheless. To rhyme off a few issues, the gunplay is very primitive, with mechanics that will have you aim in the general direction of the creep chasing you and hope the encounter goes your way. Then you have the enemies themselves that, range from bumbling zombies to World War Z zombies with no in-between.
Then towards the end of the game, you also acquire some telekinetic powers, but aside from a few mandatory uses, I doubt they’ll be your natural combat option over a gun. The less said about those, the better.
In short, the game manages to take all the usual tropes of a modern horror title, along with their mechanics, and then succeeds in jury-rigging these to suit a VR setting. The result is a good but unremarkable budget title, but if that’s what they were shooting for, then they did a fine job.
A Little Rudderless
I’ve aired out all my minor complaints regarding Afterlife VR. However, I still have a bigger bone to pick, and that revolves around the progression within the game. I feel that the game tries its best to lower the number of pop-ups and HUD it uses, usually to good effect. The only problem is that the game doesn’t know when to pivot from that approach, leading to a lot of instances where the way forward simply isn’t clear.
There are more than a few examples I could use here, but the most obvious one would be your first encounter with Alison. The player will watch her float down a hallway up ahead, and then if you shine your torch down the hall, she will be standing there, watching, waiting. Now, naturally, that led to me testing if this exorcist reject would attack me, and right on cue, she was up in my face screaming.
What that teaches me as a player is, don’t go that way unless you want another really intense hug from your spooky sister. However, after some time trying to find an alternative route, I then discovered that if I tentatively crept toward her, she would float away, urging me to follow her.
A broad quest market or clue that read ‘follow Alison’ would have solved this issue, and that lack of direction is something you will have to deal with for the entirety of this game’s run. This means trying an endless series of locked doors and backtracking, only to hear dialogue from ages before trigger again. The lesson here is, sometimes it’s okay to guide the player a little.
If this VR horror adventure has you excited to play more VR horror. Or if you are just looking for a similar horror game format, then you will probably love this options below:
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent
- Alien: Isolation
- Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
- Wraith: The Oblivion Afterlife
Overall, I can say that I enjoyed my romp through Black Isle Insane Asylum about as much as I expected. Going in, I had a preconceived idea of what this game would offer, and it pretty much gave me that experience to the letter. I expected serviceable visuals due to the budget nature of the title and a well-delivered setting that’s been done to death, and that’s what I got.
I expected a bunch of functional mechanics that, when put under any level of scrutiny, could be labeled as janky and immersion-breaking. Again, that’s another stamp on my horror bingo card. I also expected a pretty generic story that lost the run of itself by the end, and when the story went all X-men toward the end, I knew I nailed that one too.
The only thing that caught me off guard was the very impressive sound design. While it didn’t always deliver bone-chilling moments, and the voice-acting was a little off too, I was quietly impressed with the game’s commitment to ambient sound and building tension with that quintessential low, heavy hum present in every horror movie.
All in all, for the low price you’ll pay for this title, it’s worth the investment. It offers a great entry-level VR horror adventure, and while it didn’t fill me with dread, anyone who isn’t desensitized to guttural screams and gore will get that uneasy feeling they crave from this one.
- The ambient sound and overall setting within this game are pretty great
- The visuals on offer, while nothing to write home about, are good
- The game’s story is well-paced and doesn’t overstay its welcome
- Pretty much every mechanic, aside from opening doors and the flashlight, feels a little off
- The puzzles offer little to no challenge
- Resources are plentiful, leading to less terrifying gameplay
- The game doesn’t offer enough direction for my liking
Question: How Long is Afterlife VR?
Answer: This game is about 90-minutes long if you play naturally, aiming to get through the story at a reasonable pace. It may stretch to 3-4 hours if you are keen on exploring, but honestly, it’s not all that worthwhile.
Question: Is Afterlife VR Cheap?
Answer: Yes, Afterlife VR is a pretty budget VR title, even adapted from the PSVR2. This game released for a low price of £12.99, and I would imagine that it will be discounted in the near future if you are willing to wait to play this title.
Question: Can You Fight Back In Afterlife VR?
Answer: Yes, there is combat in Afterlife VR. About 30 minutes in, you will get your hands on a pistol, then later in the game you will gain access to some supernatural powers.