Reality Labs

‘After the Fall’—How Vertigo Games made the post-apocalypse more fun with friends

By David Jagneaux
December 17, 2021
Welcome to After the Fall VR— a post-apocalyptic frozen LA nightmare full of ferocious mutated undead. Fight through the hordes and colossal bosses with your squad of 4 or say screw it and slay 'em all on your own.

There are few things in life as constant as zombies in video games, and at this point we’ve all killed our fair share. Across decades of gaming and dozens of consoles and platforms, it’s impossible to truly quantify how many undead corpses I’ve relieved of their heads and limbs. And through it all, it’s always been more fun with a couple of friends by my side.

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That’s a secret sauce that Vertigo Games locked onto very quickly. Back in 2016, when they released Arizona Sunshine on PC VR alongside the launch of the Touch controllers for the original Rift, it was a groundbreaking game. Realistic physics, a variety of weapons, large levels to explore, and dozens of zombies to fight off either solo or with friends is what made that game shine. Now, with After the Fall, Vertigo Games returns to the “fighting off tons of creepy zombie monsters” genre with a bigger, badder, and better adventure than ever before.

Zombies, but not zombies

After the Fall takes place a few decades after the end of the modern world. A deadly outbreak has already ravaged the planet and in the snow-covered remains of what was once Los Angeles, you’re tasked with scavenging for supplies and gear as you do your best to fight back and survive. Only this time, unlike a lot of games in this genre, you’re not actually fighting zombies — at least, not technically.

To learn more about After the Fall, we spoke with TamTu Bui, the game’s Community Manager, for the debut episode of our new podcast, That Other Gaming Podcast. You can listen now on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and more for the full interview.

"We thought, how would a zombie or an undead mutate or evolve into something more fierce in our world?"

TamTu Bui, Community Manager

“We didn’t want to use just a regular zombie like we had in Arizona Sunshine,” said Bui. “What we did in Arizona Sunshine was that they were a bit more aggressive and some of them actually ran at you, which didn’t really happen often. And we just wanted to really push further on that and have like different enemy types and we couldn’t really explore that further in Arizona Sunshine, so we took After the Fall as the opportunity to really go crazy on the enemies. So taking the world into account, that’s how we just essentially evolved a zombie. We thought, how would a zombie or an undead mutate or evolve into something more fierce in our world? And that’s how we ended up with the Snowbreed.”

Despite similarities to their previous zombie game, this isn’t a sequel. It’s a clean slate without any narrative ties, so it’s approachable for both new and experienced VR zombie slayers. That doesn’t mean there aren’t subtle references and call-backs for existing fans, though, so keep an eye out for those.

If you’ve ever played Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood, or other similar squad-based cooperative survival shooter games outside of VR, then you have a good baseline of what to expect here. There will be lots of blood, lots of guns, and lots of loot.

“You’ll be going into the missions equipped with guns that you get to upgrade throughout the game and just take on hordes, hordes, and more hordes of Snowbreed,” said Bui. “And different from typical zombie games, you are the one that they should be afraid of and not the other way around. You’re the badass — that’s the power fantasy that we want to introduce. So it’s you and your squad and a lot of guns. It’s been 20 years since the apocalypse, and the survivors of that time have developed tools to actually fight back and they’ve got some form of civilization back on track in a certain way. And that’s what we’re really trying to sell with After the Fall, that you and your squad are going to these slaughterhouses and you go in and farm the Snowbreed. Of course, they are still super dangerous, but you have the tools to fight back.”

Party up for mayhem

The first time I played After the Fall, I did so by myself with a crew of AI-controlled characters. Instead of labeling them generic titles like Bot A or Scavenger, Vertigo gives them real, human names instead. I really appreciate that touch.

Eventually, I grouped up with some strangers I met in the communal lobby area and played some missions with actual friends as well. Despite the AI certainly qualifying as very capable, having people to coordinate with and talk to definitely enhances things and makes the game even better.

“We marketed it heavily to bring your friends and be a squad of badasses together, but when you don’t have the capacity to fill out a full squad of four, then we fill out the rest of the squad with AI companions,” said Bui. “It felt like a natural evolution to really bring an experience that wasn’t there in VR quite yet. It was also a technical challenge for us, to make sure there will always be people to matchmake with so they can have fun in After the Fall together, and that’s why we went for the cross-platform approach.”

Regardless of whether you’re playing on Quest, PSVR, Rift, or Steam, you’re in the exact same universe as everyone else with full cross-play. It’s super seamless and easy to find people to play with because the central hub automatically populates with other players between every mission. You can link up quickly, and since most every VR headset on the market has a built-in microphone, it’s dead-simple to kick off conversations and meet your fellow Snowbreed slayers.

“Post-launch support is definitely something we’re supporting,” added Bui. “The launch of After the Fall is only the beginning of the journey for the player as a harvest runner. So, the team just has so many ideas that we wanted to implement. The main focus was to make sure that the infrastructure of the game supported cross-play, so that everyone could connect to each other and play with each other properly. Once we had that sandbox ready, that’s when we started to think, ‘Okay, now we can focus on developing more content for it.’ What we have at launch is already pretty meaty, but post-launch it’s going to grow further and further.”

Frozen apocalypse

After the Fall is off to a good start since launch and has a ton of room to keep growing and expanding. Vertigo Games has been actively working on VR titles for over five years now and has two acclaimed and popular zombie-focused co-op shooters under its belt that both allow you to slay zombies with your friends.

“The team put their heads together and talked about, ‘What are we missing in VR and what’s a game that we want to make and that we would enjoy playing ourselves,’” said Bui. “So they took the gunplay from Arizona Sunshine, which came out five years ago, and we learned a lot from that, like developing for the PC platform, the PlayStation VR platform, the Quest platform, and putting it all together really helped them fine-tune everything. They really evolved the gunplay to where it’s more fun. Over the years, we’ve seen VR evolve as well, right? You see people getting more used to being able to play in VR, but the onboarding on VR in recent years has exploded, so there’s a lot of new VR players as well.”

After the Fall is out now for the Oculus Quest 2 and Rift platform with plans to release on Quest in early 2022. You can meet up with friends and take down Snowbreed together right now for $39.99 USD, and don’t miss the debut episode of That Other Gaming Podcast over on Spotify, YouTube, Google, Apple, and wherever else you get your podcasts to hear the full interview.