Drop Dead The Cabin hands-on: Synthwave zombies are more fun with a friend
Can you escape the cabin?
Among the many horror tropes, two tend to reign supreme when zombies are involved: the mall, and a cabin in the woods. Drop Dead: The Cabin fits in the second category and ushers in a new era for the VR veteran series that was the single-best-selling game on the Oculus Go.
Instead of being on-rails and shooting anything that gets in your way, Drop Dead: The Cabin puts you and another friend in a cabin in the middle of the woods and tasks you with surviving waves of the horde. Each kill awards you points which you'll use to unlock doors throughout the cabin and deep in the woods, but you'll need to be careful to keep the generator and beacon in good working order while exploring.
It's that latter mechanic that makes Drop Dead: The Cabin so much fun to return to. With random enemy waves and several enemy types, random weapons, and even random objects scattered around the cabin — like coffee cups, forks, knives, and even plates — that can be used to keep the undead at bay, you're about to have a lot of fun in a pseudo serious, totally fun, and definitely 80s synthwave-inspired zombie shooter.
Waves on waves
Drop Dead: The Cabin isn't scheduled to make its Oculus Quest 2 debut until early 2023, but I got the chance to play it early and tell you all about it. For the playtest, I spent about an hour with the developers of the game, as well as some time on my own using both the Quest 2 and the Meta Quest Pro.
Once I loaded up the game and joined my newfound developer friend, the first thing I noticed was that Drop Dead: The Cabin is using Meta's avatar system. That means you immediately look like yourself without having to configure an in-game avatar. They don't even feel out of place given the game's generally cartoon-like aesthetic.
Like all Drop Dead games, Drop Dead: The Cabin takes a somewhat serious topic — that's undead humans that attack and eat other humans in some sort of apocalyptic scenario — and turns it on its head a bit. It's a bit more family-friendly than your typical VR zombie shooter, and while you can get juicy headshots and chop off limbs, none of it is done in a gruesome way.
Rather, the zombies' purple eyes match their purple blood in an almost fashionable way, and it's not likely you'll think very much of the "gore" factor in this game, even with full gore enabled. You can always disable it if it bothers you.
But that's not to say the game isn't intense. Drop Dead: The Cabin allows a maximum of two players to join forces in an effort to keep the generator and beacon running long enough to get rescued. While two players sound like a small number for a multiplayer game, the cabin's layout is tight enough that more players wouldn't feel good.
That, and the fact that the cabin is filled with goodies to grab and throw at your zombie enemies. The more zombies you kill, the more points you get, and these points are used to open doors throughout the cabin and surrounding areas.
As you might expect, you can find weapons, ammo, and all sorts of other goodies behind any of these doors. Or, as is the nature of a randomized game, you might have just wasted 50 zombie kills on a door that reveals nothing particularly useful. It's all in the cards.
Visually, I thought the game was rather impressive. Objects in the cabin have real physics and weight to them, weapon swings feel weighty without feeling floaty, and character models are detailed and move nicely. The developers told me that the lighting was a bit wonky in this build, and I noticed some other odd visual glitches but, again, this game is still months away from being shipped to customers.
A focus on fun
Zombie shooters like After the Fall are plenty fun, but they can also be frustrating. The Drop Dead series has always been focused on simpler fun, and while Drop Dead: The Cabin introduces proper smooth locomotion and open areas, the developers didn't want to sacrifice the overall feel of the series.
To help with this, many of the game's mechanics are dead simple. Reloading a gun is as easy as grabbing a clip from the ammo bag in front of you — the right type of bullets are automatically grabbed if you've got them — and jamming the bullets in the general direction of the gun. You won't need to cock the trigger or perform some elegant ballet with your hands and the virtual gun.
Likewise, spending your zombie points to unlock doors is as simple as grabbing the console next to each door and holding it for 5 seconds. That transfers your points and opens the door, assuming you have enough.
There's no jumping at all in the game, and you'll only have to worry about sprinting to get away from zombies if you get overwhelmed.
Now, with that said, the grabbing mechanics were definitely more frustrating than intended. This is still an early build so I fully expect this to get patched before release, but I had a hard time grabbing the baseball bats every single time, while smaller objects like the butcher's knife were just fine.
Speaking of melee weapons, Drop Dead: The Cabin has a rather fascinating durability mechanic. As you hit zombies, all melee weapons break down over time. After a few smacks with the baseball bat, you'll notice the end is now a frayed piece of wood. Continue to use the bat and you'll eventually end up with just a handle that can be used to stab into zombies' torsos.
It's really cool looking and it's so much better than trying to find a weapon's "health bar" or another mechanic. It also feels a lot more natural and, once again, fits well in with the game's simplified mechanics.
I'm super, super excited to play the final version of the game when it launches in early 2023
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