Review – Afterlife VR (PSVR2)
Horror is one of the very few genres that being B-tier or crappy-looking is not necessarily a detriment. In fact, it can often turn out to be a benefit. Gone are the shackles of pleasing a corporate focus group, worried only about the bottom line. Afterlife VR is 100% a B-tier horror title, but instead of venturing down its own shadowy path, it plays it safe by giving more of what we come to expect.
A PSVR2 port by Split Light Studio, you play as Office Adam Bernhard. Answering a call of a disturbance at Black Rose Hospital, it is quickly revealed that your sister was sent there, and you are nearby. For no reason, your car breaks down. Grabbing your Fitbit (health meter), flashlight, and radio, you hike through the forest the rest of the way. This is used to introduce you to a couple basics of movement, actions, health, and game play.
Controls are fairly straight forward. You use R1 or L1 to pick up or open objects, then Cross or Square to put items in your inventory. Cross or Square also then bring up your item wheel, using your hand movement to grab the item you want. Nine times out of ten, this will be for your flashlight/batteries, and weapon/ammo. Triangle or Circle will pause the game and take you back to the main menu. Pushing forward on both L3 and R3 will have you run, and it is something I wish more VR titles did.
When entering Black Rose, it is obvious there has been some type of incident. There are objects scattered everywhere, lights are flickering on and off, and patients are loose. Although it looks more abandoned and weathered by time, than it does overrun. Either way, it is here, my friends, that you have the beginning of every horror game ever: finding yourself alone in a mysterious setting (often an asylum), spending the night trying to escape while the story is drip fed to you. It’s here that Afterlife VR chooses to live for its some 2-hour playthrough.
Afterlife VR’s story is mostly told with patient records that you find scattered across the hospital, as well as an occasional video recording. These documents, and moving past puzzles, are the meat of the game. Unfortunately, the puzzles are all pretty basic, with Adam often says out loud what you need, whether it be a key, or a handle, or a code. Oh god, a code. I get it, Adam; I should check the @#$%ing registration desk.
Most times, what you need is either already in your possession, or extremely close. For some completely unknown reason other than to toss in another puzzle mechanic, mid-game, you find out you have telekinetic powers. You don’t actually get them; you just find out you have them. And you can’t use them freely; you can only use them in rare specific blue outlined area and only on the few objects outlined in yellow. Yeah, I don’t know either.
Something I do appreciate about Afterlife VR, is that it is not a Hide & Seek game. After some investigation, some spooks, and some jump scares, you do come across a gun. Enemy variety goes from crows and rats, to now dealing with inmates and faculty. Why is the faculty affected? I don’t know. Aiming with the weapon feels, no pun intended, hit or miss. I can fire two shots and only feel like one hit. I can take my time, aim, and hit nothing. The same shot, same angle, now hits. Sometimes they take two bullets, other times they take three. And when they drop, they evaporate in a mist of red particles.
Afterlife VR is fine to look at. Character models are decent enough, if not entirely underwhelming because it is the same three assets over and over. The environment is properly spooky, it just starts to all feel the same. The same couple right angle hallways, the same rooms with the same desks, chairs, and lockers. I perform the same actions, find the same objects, and hear the same dialog throughout the game. The same nurse, bald yellow shirted aggressive inmate, or bald blue/white shirted harmless inmate.
If any horror title is going to be worth anything, the sound has to be on point, and Afterlife VR does a very good job with its ambient sounds. There is always some noise pulling your attention and having you check behind you. A creak here and a loud bang there keep you on your toes. The voice acting? Ok, I can’t really give it points there but hey, B Horror, right? Bad acting is kind of a requirement.
Glitches might not be the correct term, but I had more than enough oddities through my game play. My torso seemed to feel like the only physical part of my body, or other peoples. My hands would freely go through objects, as would attackers’ hands as they swiped for me. Even my head would go through objects, but when that did, the screen would turn flat blue. Leaning over to grab an item would often result in teleporting me back a couple feet, unable to get closer. My flashlight would illuminate everything, except readable entries like patient records. None of these were game breaking glitches, just odd development choices.
Afterlife VR is really fantastically comfortable on PSVR2. I never got motion sickness, even playing with full motion in place of stutter movement. You need a 6×6 area, but you can play standing or seated. I played seated and the only issue I would come across would be after pausing it and coming back, it would place me too far to the ground. Reaching lower drawers, or dropped objects, can be annoying but there isn’t really ever a need. Being a horror game that doesn’t make better use of haptics, or any use of eye tracking feels, like a miss but I understand for ports.
Afterlife VR falls nicely into the B-tier Horror niche and does a decent job for doing only that, but is too afraid of being anything more. Unknown protagonist goes to unknown location with an unknown connection to an uninteresting story with an unsurprising twist ending. In the end, I have seen Afterlife VR 100 times, basically when my 6 year old watches a random spooky game playthrough on YouTube.
Decent enough, aided by lack of lighting, but becomes overly familiar with a lot of reused assets.
A handful of oddities happen enough times that it can pull you from your experience.
Excellent use of sound, hitting the right tones and timing beats. Voice acting is sophomoric, at best, but adds to the setting, more than it takes away.
Fun Factor: 4.0
A two-hour experience of “I’ve seen this” horror game 103.
Final Verdict: 5.5
Afterlife VR is available now on PSVR2 and Meta Quest 2.
Reviewed on PSVR2.
A copy of Afterlife VR was provided by the publisher.