Creepy mansions, asylums, hospitals, there are plenty of good locations to host a horror game. But could the top of that list be hotels? They’re not inherently scary but most of us are probably far more familiar with the seemingly endless, multi-door corridors of a hotel than some giant mansion. VR has already seen the likes of A Wake Inn utilise the setting – with mixed results. Now it’s time for Wanadev Studio’s Propagation: Paradise Hotel, a zombie-filled nightmare for Meta Quest 2 and Steam headsets.
Set in the same universe as the studios’ Propagation VR where the world has gone all the hell, in comparison Propagation: Paradise Hotel is frankly tranquil. You play Emily Diaz, a staff member of the hotel who’s been holed up in the kitchen with several others trying in vain to survive this apocalypse. Little is known about the outside world, but with rations running low Diaz learns that her sister is still alive. Naturally, that sets the scene to venture out and discover the horrors lurking in the hallways.
Propagation: Paradise Hotel sticks to classic tropes. You need to get the upper floors and the elevators are out and half the stairwells are blocked or caved in. So you need to meander through the hotel, accessing doors via keycards or bolt cutting padlocks where people have tried to keep the monsters out.
But to get anywhere you need to search, and search thoroughly. A good chunk of Propagation: Paradise Hotel’s early gameplay is merely trying doors, opening cupboards and making sure you’ve left nothing undiscovered. You’re looking for ammo for your gun, batteries for the flashlight and antiseptic bottles to heal yourself. All vitally important especially those batteries as good chunks of the hotel are in darkness or very dimly lit.
And this builds an atmosphere which is quite possibly the best reason to play Propagation: Paradise Hotel in the first place. Wanadev Studio has done an exceedingly excellent job of creating tension and fear, building it up slowly and methodically. You’re not thrown into the action, you walk past bodies which you’d think might move but don’t. Doors continually creak and close behind you, the flashlight will flicker as the batteries drain and the storm outside rattles as the rain taps on the windows.
Fight for survival
However, this dead atmosphere doesn’t last forever. The bodies of staff and residents do begin to move and soon take an interest in you. Should they spot you some will stumble closer whilst others will move a lot faster, so quick precision headshots are required. Most go down in three shots. But they do need to be headshots, anywhere else didn’t seem to work which made each encounter more fraught.
Unfortunately, there was no melee option. No way to push one back to get that last shot in. In the close confines of some of the rooms, encounters led to being grabbed and trying to shoot frantically. It would’ve been nice to have that physical ability to wriggle free, creating some breathing room to reload.
Even so, actually using the tools at your disposal is quick, clean and hassle-free. A pouch on your waist holds all the main resources, health is on the left hip, gun on the right and flashlight on the chest. Usually, in these sorts of setups trying to grab your holstered gun whilst seated is a nightmare but there was no such issue. Of course, Propagation: Paradise Hotel works at its best standing but there are plenty of comfort options to suit most players.
Worth mentioning is how Wanadev Studio managed to really get the little things right. Opening draws and cupboards were seamless, with no hands getting caught in the environment. The same goes for the gun. Manual reloading wasn’t a chore. Additionally, this might be all the years of reviewing VR games but the inventory aesthetic and functionality were perfect. Easy to read whether looking up journal entries or viewing the map, it was a joy to use.
Even pressing the buttons on the safe and door keypads felt accurate. No fiddling around having to line up your finger.
It was also refreshing to see the zombie AI do something more than run straight at me. As long as you’re not standing on top of them or directly in their line of sight, these reanimated corpses will amble around. They’ll wander into a room so the ability to sneak past is there, so long as you don’t make a sound. Run or fire a shot and they’ll quickly become interested, even just a couple can cause issues.
Propagation VR showed that Wanadev can do horror, with Propagation: Paradise Hotel confirming it. It’s a thrilling experience that continually keeps you on your toes at all times. When you’re not being scared or shooting monsters there are puzzles to solve so it’s not all mindless gameplay. Evoking original Resident Evil vibes, Propagation: Paradise Hotel has the chills and gameplay VR horror fans will love. The scenery isn’t fully interactive, you can’t smash plates or trash the place, but for a single-player game that doesn’t detract too much from the experience. If you’re looking for a new VR horror to play Propagation: Paradise Hotel is an easy recommendation.