For the second year in a row, I walked out of Gamescom excited to play Drop Dead: The Cabin again, except this time in mixed reality.
In 2022, the Soul Assembly gamescom demo of Drop Dead: The Cabin was one of our favorites from the show. Unfortunately, the game launched a few months later to a rocky start: not only was some of its spotlight stolen by the release of PSVR 2 in the same week, but there were player reports of bugs and other issues hampering the experience .
A year later, Soul Assembly returned to Gamescom 2023 with a new update to show. The team claims that they have not only fixed the issues players experienced when the main game launched, but are also working on a new update that could eventually grant the title a second chance.
This new update for The Cabin will focus attention on the mixed reality features Meta is pushing alongside the Quest 3 headset, which will debut this fall. A new mixed reality game mode titled Home Invasion will launch in October as a free update for The Cabin. It’s clear that Soul Assembly hopes the new mode will allow players to re-evaluate the wider experience.
For new Quest 3 owners later this year, Home Invasion feels like one of the few mixed reality experiences that actually puts the entire playspace to good use, becoming a dynamic and integral part of the experience. While other experiences like Cubism or Demeo will bring a game board or puzzle into your room, The Cabin’s Home Invasion wants to take it a step further, turning your environment into a battlefield.
First teased in a video from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg showing the potential of mixed reality on Quest 3, Home Invasion reverses the premise of the original version: instead of slowly venturing out of the cabin to fight zombies and defend the equipment, zombies will come at you, invading your play space and forcing you to defend yourself from within.
Zombies will come through virtual windows and doors as well as giant virtual holes that will open in later waves. You’ll use a familiar selection of guns and melee weapons to fend them off, defending the real-life room you’re playing in.
Our Gamescom demo used Quest Pro and took place in a fairly small area, with the actual room door transformed into a Drop Dead-style virtual one, while a virtual window was placed on an adjacent wall. These virtual scenes give you a glimpse into the virtual forest from which zombies will emerge and stumble towards you, then jump in and attack you.
There’s also a transmitter device in the room, which features a minigame that will make the satellite visible to the outdoors through the virtual windows up and running. This starts a 10-minute countdown before mining, but if zombies attack the satellite, you’ll need to complete the minigame again to reset the timer.
Unlike the co-op-focused main mode, Home Invasion is a single-player experience. At first glance, the mode seems more like a fun arcade mixed reality experience that you could easily demonstrate to friends and family rather than a challenge equivalent to the main offering.
With the advent of the full reveal of Quest 3 later this month and its subsequent launch, we’ve yet to see evidence of mixed reality experiences truly selling the feature as a must-have. Home Invasion will undoubtedly prove to be entertaining, equivalent to Resolution Games’ Spatial Ops in its commitment to integrating with a physical space to create a new category of experience. That said, that’s hardly the case for a headset upgrade or a new purchase based on mixed reality. Sure, that’s clearly not intended, but it’s still interesting to note as we get closer to Connect. We’re still looking for the mixed reality experience that sells headsets.
That said, it’s also hard to see Home Invasion thriving beyond the “hey look what my new headset can do” status. Anyone who wants something more in-depth and challenging will likely end up playing the standard VR mode. While the aforementioned Spatial Ops experience had its quirks (mostly related to room and play area setup), it also had a concept that will only be truly valuable in mixed reality. Taking the mechanics of The Cabin and playing it in mixed reality will be fun, but hardly essential. The clear advantage it has over previous experience is that it is single-player and can fit into any room, large or small. Spatial Ops really shines only with the high number of players present in a giant and empty playing space.
There are other caveats to consider with Home Invasion as well. While it’s great to see a virtual window placed on a real wall, you’ll find yourself trying to extend your arm through the window, to give your weapon a better angle on an approaching zombie. The result? A hand crashing into a real wall, instead of going through the virtual opening you see in the headset.
The Soul Assembly team have understandably dismissed this as a test of immersion, which it is, but at the same time it also breaks the immersion by being reminded of the limitations set by the technology. Maybe punching holes in drywall will become the mixed reality equivalent of room-scale VR users who broke TVs by jumping off Ritchie’s Plank?
That said, this might not be a big deal in a less confined space. Our demo took place in a fairly small room, which didn’t leave much room to move around or place more windows and doors. It would be interesting to see the mode in a large living room with more furniture and areas to move around. Soul Assembly also told me that if your couch is cordoned off, zombies will interact with it and even stand on it. Personally, I’d like to see them sit down.
On Quest Pro, virtual elements, such as the Drop Dead door and window, are manually placed in the room by users before starting, as the headset lacks automatic room detection and setup. The Quest 3 will apparently be able to more intelligently understand a play space using its depth sensor. Home Invasion is likely to be able to auto-generate a mixed reality battlefield in Quest 3, but Soul Assembly understandably played coy with these details at Gamescom.
The demo we played wasn’t free from bugs either. Soul Assembly was keen to point out that the Gamescom demo was a pre-release build, which will be refined and tweaked before launch. That said, there was a known issue with weapon spawn locations during my demo, and a surprise issue in my colleague Henry’s where zombies would stop spawning mid-round. Again, these issues may be fixed before October, but they’re still worth mentioning given the base game’s buggy initial launch in February.
Home Invasion will be available in October on all supported Quest headsets (including Quest 2, but with black and white passthrough only), included as a free update to The Cabin and accessible from your existing game.
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