Propagation: Paradise Hotel is a survival horror adventure out now for Quest and PC VR. This spine-chilling tale dials the fear to maximum, delivering one of the most petrifying VR games of the year – here’s our full Propagation: Paradise Hotel review.
A mysterious disease has ravaged Paradise Hotel, turning most of its inhabitants into an assortment of mutated monstrosities and flesh-eating undead. Like any good zombie trope, the disease is highly contagious and can be spread rapidly through so much as a scratch. The game begins weeks after the infection takes hold and you play as Emily Diaz, one of the few survivors left. Thankfully, you’re also accompanied by fellow survivor Owen, a police officer who comes equipped with a pistol for some limited protection.
Being barricaded in the hotel kitchen keeps you safe to start, but with dwindling supplies and the undead horde on your doorstep, the situation begins to look dire. To make matters worse, your sister is also trapped in the hotel. After a broadcast confirms that she is alive somewhere on the seventh floor, you decide to venture out from your temporary sanctuary to attempt a perilous rescue mission.
Platforms: PC VR, Quest (Review conducted on Quest 2)
Release Date: Out now
Resident Evil Vibes
Fans of the classic survival horror series Resident Evil will immediately feel at home with the mechanics of Propagation: Paradise Hotel. In the menu, you have an inventory system, a journal to track objectives, a place to store important written notes, and a map that auto-populates with each area you discover. Equipped on your person at all times for easy access is a med spray, a pocket torch, and whatever arms you have available.
On the subject of weapons, players start with a pistol and encounter a shotgun later in the game. While the weapon selection is limited, the firearms have a realistic look with authentic reloading and firing mechanics, making them altogether satisfying to handle and shoot. Using the shotgun to take a zombie's head clean off and then pulling the sliding handguard back to eject the spent shell is especially enjoyable.
Supplies are in ready supply on easy and normal modes if you are willing to search for them, but ammo can be made more limited by switching to hard mode, which also increases the speed of enemies. For the most hardcore players, there is also a nightmare mode that gives enemies another bump in speed and removes the ammo count and autosave feature.
The game cranks up the challenge as you progress and combat is balanced for the most part. Enemies are surprisingly fast but not overpowered and can be dispatched with good aim and timely use of the dash mechanics. The exception to this is near the end, where it’s best to just run away from some of the tougher creatures.
You’ll spend time exploring the hotel, dealing with enemies, and rifling around for resources and quest items. There are also some simple puzzles to solve along the way, with most involving codes and switches that shouldn’t leave you scratching your head for too long. However, the core appeal lies not in Propagation: Paradise Hotel’s puzzle design, but in how it masterfully cultivates a sense of horror.
When it comes to dialing up the fear, Propagation: Paradise Hotel pulls out all the stops. A mix of psychological terror, gore, and jump scares are used to deliver a potent cocktail of fear and dread to keep you anxiously teetering on the edge of your seat.
The decomposing bodies and debris littering the hotel convey the chaos that befell the place and creates a wholly disturbing atmosphere. The dimly lit environments mean that you’ll need to rely frequently on your pocket torch’s narrow beam of light, which can only be used sparingly given its limited battery life. Audio is used to equally disturbing effect with creaks, groans, and inhumane noises emanating from all around. There’s also an ambient horror soundtrack, alongside a distorted high-pitched violin at key moments to ratchet up the tension.
Jump scares are in plentiful supply but what makes Propagation: Paradise Hotel so terrifying is the way it builds apprehension and plays on the mind. As you move through the hotel, you will be put in unsettling situations where you fully expect something dreadful to happen… but it doesn’t. For example, at one point I had no choice but to pass through a heap of mutilated bodies complete with flies enjoying a grizzly feast. As I began to gingerly step over the corpses, a jarring violin composition began to play and got my heart racing. I steeled myself for something horrifying to happen, only to pass through without incident.
This uncertainty makes the suspense coil up inside you like a spring, with your mind going into overdrive knowing something will happen but not knowing exactly when or how. At times it almost comes as a relief when something terrifying does rear its ugly head so you don’t have to deal with the crippling anticipation.
Another excellent aspect of the horror in Propagation: Paradise Hotel is the way it forces you into vulnerable situations that you would rather avoid. More than once I had to brace myself as I squeezed into a dark claustrophobic service duct, hoping for the best. These moments make you feel completely at the mercy of the hotel – it’s what true survival horror is all about.
Propagation: Paradise Hotel Review – Comfort
Propagation: Paradise Hotel has both smooth locomotion and blink teleportation options. Players can also select between smooth and snap turning, depending on preference. This should make the game a comfortable enough experience for most. However, some mechanics like the sideways dash ability will have the potential to trigger motion sickness.
A basic plot is provided to carry the game but not much more. The backgrounds of the characters aren’t fleshed out and it’s even hard to recall details about the main protagonist Emily beyond her motivation to find her sister. On a wider level, there’s no real unexpected developments or twists in the story – certainly none that surprised or engaged me.
The game also ends rather abruptly after around four hours of playtime, with the promise of a second part to come but with little resolution to the main story. It ultimately left me feeling a bit cheated. A few additional hours of gameplay to let the game reach a more definite conclusion would have been welcome.
The standard horror storyline is also topped off with some rather stilted dialogue and sketchy voice acting. It’s passable at times, but on other occasions it became unintentional comic relief and completely immersion-breaking. While searching a zombie-infested locale, Emily would sometimes deliver a few lines out loud without a trace of fear or concern reflected in her voice. The incongruence between the terrifying situation at hand and her casual tone sometimes diffused the game’s carefully-crafted tension.
Propagation: Paradise Hotel Review - Final Verdict
Propagation: Paradise Hotel shows just how powerful VR horror can be when done right. It nails the claustrophobic and oppressive feeling of being penned up in a building filled with creatures straight out of your worst nightmares. Slowly making your way through a dark, creaky hotel whilst being stalked by its horrifying inhabitants makes for an exceptionally creepy and hair-raising experience. The game is on the shorter side and yet also leaves the main story largely unresolved, while featuring some dialogue that leaves a lot to be desired. That said, it still holds its own as one of the best VR horror games of this year.
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