Developer / Publisher – Soul Assembly
Price – US $24.99 / CA $28.99 / EU €24.99 / UK £18.99
Release Date – February 16th, 2023
Input – 2 x Touch Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – Meta
Reviewed on – Quest 2
Welcome to Drop Dead: The Cabin, where you and a friend must defend yourselves against hordes of zombies and mutants that have escaped from a nearby lab. It’s up to you to arm up, complete objectives and unlock new areas to find the resources you need to survive. Is this the next VR zombie survival game or something else entirely…let’s find out!
I’ve played a few of these ‘survive the zombie horde type’ games in and out of VR and while this isn’t my favorite genre, when playing with others, they can make for some absolutely harrowing times as waves get harder and resources deplete. The Cabin is exactly that and has been designed with 2 players in mind though you can tackle this solo, but the difficulty remains largely intact meaning you’re going to die a lot more times a lot faster until you level up which will take longer than having at it as a duo. The premise here is simple as you have stumbled upon a strange cabin and must survive long enough to escape while unlocking new areas containing more dangers and rewards. A quick tutorial takes you through the absolute basics, explaining the main objective of calling for evacuation which requires maintaining a nearby generator and battery, the former of which requires fuel and both, when active, will be targeted by the enemies and if damaged will need a fix. At each games onset there will be some pistols, ammo, a few melee weapons and milk to refill health scattered around the cabin, but those meagre supplies won’t last so, using the Research Points earned from each kill, you can unlock new areas and supply boxes. For those of you familiar with Call of Duty’s Zombie game, this is very much akin to that, though the scale of the single map at play takes you well beyond the cabin and there aren’t actually any defences to maintain or rebuild; it’s just you (and a friend) vs. the horde.
The tutorial does the minimum when it comes to explaining mechanics and even though learning all the nuances of the game is a large part of the game loop, I can’t help but feel like pivotal information has been left out making my initial few runs even more challenging than they should’ve been…and they are already quite hard. Much of that needed info is in here but may only appear during loading screens or by scrolling through all the unlockable perks. These include smaller things like picking up ammo by just walking over it, melee weapons having durability, the fact you can climb and a host more gameplay elements that you’ll have to discover on your own. Not game breaking by any stretch and once you know, you know but when you discover a vital gameplay element after playing a few runs, it can be a little frustrating. That’s not to say that every realization isn’t rewarding and every failed attempt typically unlocks some sort of new information be it how you choose your next path, deciding on opening a door or an supply box or any other strategies that may help you get a little further. All your progress is tracked by a few different online leaderboards so for those that care about such things, they are here.
Standard FPS controls are at play here with a belt at your waist that can hold 2 items on either side and an ammo pouch in front of you. You can also store 1 item over your left shoulder which should be used for larger melee weapons, larger guns or batteries. You can toggle blinders and choose click or smooth turning though smooth turning only has 1 speed which is a little slow. You can also adjust the dimensions and height of you and your belt which I appreciated. Each new game won’t have the enemies or items in the same places meaning a needed fuel cell may not be where you found it on your last run or supply crates may be switched up. This also goes for additional weapons found behind locked doors which are actually quite hard to find given there seemingly random and rare spawns. Once you’re situated, you can start the 1st wave and proceed to survive until rescue or, if you’re looking to see just how much The Cabin has to offer, you can venture off to the various test sites that reveal substantially larger areas with various challenges. The gunplay here is at best, alright and at worst unsatisfying as guns feel like they have little weight or power behind them and some bullet impacts seem to do little to the undead horde. That gunplay is further hampered by some jankiness as gunshots clearly pass through enemies, headshots don’t always register and reloading can be troublesome with you needing to grab ammo from your belt and place it in the weapon, which does automatically eject a clip or open up, but on occasion placed ammo wouldn’t register and would fall to the ground costing me precious seconds and even precious bullets if it disappeared into the environment. There’s also the issue of starting weapons as you only have a choice between a pistol or magnum, the former of which uses twice the rounds to take out a single zombie so when playing 2 players, 1 is immediately handicapped as both weapons use the same type of ammo pickup and depending upon the run, random ammo drops could be unfairly scarce. Using any weapon will level it up but this process can be painfully slow meaning that there’s no other recourse but for 1 player constantly be running out of ammo and relying on melee weapons which unfortunately are also very unreliable and for those looking for any types of grenades or explosives, there’s none to be found here.
As I said, any melee weapons will break and early on, they break so fast they almost aren’t worth using except when things are easier or when you run out of ammo. The things is, hit detection is can be nothing short of awful and on numerous occasions swinging with a bat or stabbing with a pitchfork did absolutely nothing but pass through foes who then proceeded to get so close that a waggle fest ensued and I prayed for a lucky break. Those lucky breaks can happen as when enemies get close, it seems like there luck can be just as bad as yours as they also can’t seem to land every strike though usually in these moments, I was being swarmed so what they lack in accuracy, they make up for in numbers and I typically died anyways. All of this is compounded by other issues I learned to avoid like the enemies being able to hit you through walls, dropped items disappearing into the geometry, that picking things up can also be frustrating as it works by pointing at items to pull them to your hand but highlighting what your looking at just doesn’t consistently work and that climbing ladders or grabbing at those door locks can be hit and miss BUT when it works, it’s a fair bit of fun.
That initial tutorial doesn’t explain to full scope of The Cabin and that scope just can’t be realized without grinding, as they games warns ‘you will die a lot’. Every run will get you closer to your next unlock be it a new perk or weapon upgrade and while those do help, it’s figuring out all the do’s and don’ts that allow you to hopefully progress further on each run. It’s in choosing when to run the generator, when to use the EMP, which doors or shacks to open or paths to follow and making sure you have what you need before committing to that exploration as every new discovery usually ended in death, but the lessons learned prepared me a little better for the next attempt. After the 3rd wave, the enemies can be unrelenting and you NEED a buddy to travel along with you as not only are 2 heads, and guns, better than one, but you can also revive each other should one of you fall via a hit or missed high five, though if both players die, it’s a game over. When situations are getting dire, ammo is getting low and you are only a few kills away from unlocking that next room or test area, it’s frantic fun but it’s in that near chaos when all those issues I mentioned typically show up to hamper those potential good times.
If you’ve played a Drop Dead game in the past than what’s here will look familiar with zombies of various color running at you with their glowing eyes while more monstrous creatures show up hurling explosives from a distance, lumbering after you or exploding upon death. There’s enough variety in these creatures to make things not look to redundant and as each foe does have its own behaviors, strengths and weaknesses, it’s best to get familiar with them quickly. That same jank that permeates the game affects the monsters as they almost teleport through doors and windows or move so fast it looks like they are skipping frames rather than being speedy but is made up for by the amount of horrors you could be facing at any given time as being overwhelmed is always a concern. There is only 1 level to explore with much it being blocked off by those research point gates and everything in here has a more cartoonish look hidden behind the relatively dark atmosphere. There’s a substantial fog in the distance and with the nighttime setting, many far away objects appear as little more than silhouettes and getting close reveals simple textures though I did find the details in the cabin and on a few other select elements to look surprisingly good. A choice that I still find odd, even after hours of play is the use of Meta’s Avatars as your in-game ones as their overly friendly look just didn’t quite match the game’s style though it is a minor nitpick as I did enjoy playing with friends who did sort of look like their actual real selves. Some nice details in the lighting effects of you muzzle flash on enemies and the environment are a great inclusion and it all makes for a game that might not look amazing, but still gets the job done with the presentation being enjoyable despite its flaws.
As this is designed around co-op, in-game voice chat is in here and works fairly well though on one occasion my partner and I couldn’t hear each other, but outside of that, talking worked and you 2 are always in contact regardless of how far apart you are, as if you both on a radio. The soundtrack is nothing short of hilarious as there appears to be only one John-Carpenter-esque 80’s synth track and while I do really enjoy the vibes it gives, hearing one song over and over in a game that demands extensive replay might not have been the best choice. 3D audio is on point and for the most part works great save for when enemies may be above you as the spacial audio seems to be relegated to the same plane making for moments around the cabin to be confusing as it can be hard to tell where exactly enemies were coming from though much of the map outside of the house is flat and more open making this less of an issue.
I really enjoy the cabin when playing with a friend and when everything is working as it should, it’s good fun. That rarely is the case and with the upgrade grind demanding tons of replay, it can be taxing. No matter how good or bad of a run you have, there’s always progress being made, and I think, as long as I have someone to play his with, I’d be happy to hop back in for a round or two just to kill some monsters while chatting with a pal. It does have a host of kinks that need to be ironed out and some balancing issues that should be addressed but even with all the problems I mentioned, the drive for just one more go to see how far you can get, what else you can discover and maybe get to that next upgrade is here. It just needs some fine tuning.
Soul Assembly provided press codes for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!