E3 2015: Frozen With Fear in Starbreeze’s The Walking Dead VR
I’m sitting in a wheelchair in a dimly lit hospital. In a room across the hall, two mysterious strangers argue about whether or not I’m going to be a liability. My hands are bandaged. My legs, not quite all there. The female stands up for me, promising not to leave me behind. The male begrudgingly agrees, and sets off down the hall to find us an exit.
As the woman grabs the handles of my wheelchair, I take in my surroundings, even going so far as to notice my amputated leg lying still on the operating table beside me. There’s blood everywhere, and I’m not convinced it’s all mine. Papers litter the halls, while broken glass and upturned gurneys make quiet traversal a challenge. The hospital has seen better days, but it’s clear those days are long gone. Besides the three of us, there doesn’t appear to be anyone else left alive. It’s not the living people you should be worried about though, it’s the undead, and they are everywhere.
We creep slowly through the cramped corridors in the medical center, hoping to find some path that will lead us to an exit. At the moment, I’m helpless. All I can do is watch, listen and hope that death isn’t hiding around the next corner. Making our way to the reception desk, I can hear something grumbling just ahead. There’s a zombie feasting on the corpse of a dog. I’d feel bad for the animal, but it could just as easily be me beneath that monster. If the dog were walking past, he wouldn’t give me a second glance as he ran as fast as he could in the other direction. Unfortunately for me, I’m confined to this chair and the whims of my reluctant saviors.
The male fires a few shots into the zombie’s chest, which draws the ire of the woman behind me, and likely all the other undead in the immediate area. Luckily, we’ve found some keys and a shotgun, which should come in handy trying to find another way of egress. He passes me the weapon, and sure enough, I feel the weight of the pump shotgun in my hands. Though I’m almost fully immobile, I can still aim and fire a weapon, so I’m riding de facto shotgun on this journey through the depths of a hellish world I’ve found myself in. The male spots another exit, and we’re quickly pushing forward, hoping against hope our presence hasn’t been noticed.
It isn’t long until we have to stop lying to ourselves. One zombie bursts through a nearby window, but before it can do much beyond flailing at me, I rack the pump and fire a clean mass of buckshot right into its decaying face. Whatever slim hope we had of silent passage has now definitively been ruined. The male is annoyed, but the woman sticks with me, slowly guiding me towards the exit. More zombies lurch from places unknown, and I pop a few shots off, winging some and decapitating others. An emergency exit door kicks open, and we’re outside. The bad news is, so are hordes of rotting husks hoping to taste our flesh.
The female’s pace quickens as a pack of the roamers smashes through a gate behind us. I pump and fire as fast as I can, but their numbers are vast, and though my aim is true, I just can’t whittle them down quickly enough to make a difference. Before long, the woman is overtaken. My feeble attempts to free her with the aid of my weapon are met with her screams as the undead rip into her. Suddenly I’m moving again, and it’s the male pushing me along the backstreet, trying to outrun whatever connection he had with the woman before the reality of the situation set in. Out on the street there was more room to move, but the horde was surging, and we would soon be cut off.
With little warning, I had expended my last shell on what used to be a woman not far from the hospitals doors. Though we’d found fresh air, freedom was still nowhere to be seen. No matter how many times I pump the grip, no ammunition loads into the chamber. Since I’ve no ammo left to defend my aide, the man quickly abandons me. “Sorry,” he feigns while scurrying away. “You’re on your own.” The zombies creep closer, and the woman I’d just dismembered is pulling herself slowly towards me. Despite being dead and debilitated, her will is infinitely more powerful than mine. I merely sit in my chair and await my fate. She reaches for my knee, and I feel her touch before everything fades to black.
I’m sitting in a wheelchair in a brightly lit convention center. In the room with me are a handful of Starbreeze developers showing me how the plastic shotgun works, and asking me if the StarVR headset is comfortable. Before placing headphones over my ears, one of the developers asks me if I’m ready to begin. I nod, and a different dev grabs the back of the wheelchair, readying me to enter another world. It’s a world where zombies run rampant, and being a survivalist is no longer a weekend hobby for the elite. It’s the world of Overkill's The Walking Dead, and I didn’t stand a chance.
The Walking Dead VR is currently a tech demo for StarVR, Starbreeze’s proprietary virtual reality headset. While it may release someday, there are no concrete plans at this time.