If you haven’t noticed this already, the zombie genre is extraordinarily popular these days. The undead have invaded games like Call of Duty: World at War, Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil 5, and Burn Zombies Burn and the trend doesn’t seem to be dying off (forgive the pun) as we anxiously await games like Left 4 Dead 2, Dead Rising 2, and Dead Island. Unfortunately, a booming genre means someone’s going to make a game just to cash in on its popularity, which is what Nihilistic Software seems to have done with Zombie Apocalypse.
If Left 4 Dead and Geometry Wars got together to make sweet baby love, Zombie Apocalypse would be their brain munching offspring. This formula had win written all over it so how could they possibly go wrong? Well, I’m glad you asked as the answer is to throw four characters with interesting backgrounds into a game with really no story and 55 levels
of the exact same gameplay. As I played through each of the game’s 55 levels
I desperately hoped there would be something, anything
introduced to the mix to break up the gameplay. At level 45 my hopes were answered with a fairly cool boss that almost made me forget about the last 45 levels of repetitive zombie slaying I had endured.
Then they did the unthinkable: they recycled that same boss two more times
. The boss was cool the first time, the second time not so much, but the third time was just mean. At that point I desperately want to stop playing and throw my controller at the nearest wall, but I know that I’m only one level
from getting a rather hefty trophy (yes, I am an trophy whore) so I decide to suffer the boss for the third time. It’s not all bad though, as the weapons feel great and there’s a fairly decent selection of them to choose from. However, some of the weapons like the rifle and the Molotov cocktails feel underpowered, so some extra weapon balancing would’ve been great.
There’s also a wide assortment of enemies to take your anger out on, ranging from your typical shuffling zombies to construction workers who kill you instantly if they grapple onto your character. This brings me to my next issue with the game, the instant kills. The construction workers, sheriffs, knife-wielding grandmas, and beetles kill you in one hit. That’s a lot to watch out for in such a small level. For the most part these deadly enemies make sure you never stop moving and that you constantly keep your distance, but it’s the beetles that are the real problem. These flying beetles are shat out of the womb of several pregnant ladies scattered around the map, and each lady can fire multiple beetles so there were times when I had to deal with an army of undead and a couple dozen beetles, each of which kill you instantly. There’s also a level where your only foes are pregnant ladies, and I’m fairly positive my death count on that level alone hit the double digits.
The environments look great, there are seven different arenas total and each has at least one environmental trap (like a still moving plane engine, furnace, and open grave (yes, I get it, you’re being ironic) that can be used to get extra kills. No matter how clever or well designed the locations are, after traversing each multiple times over the game’s 55 levels they get old. How hard would it have been to add a few more locales to the mix so we don’t have to see each one 7-8 times?
When you’re not mowing down hordes of mindless zombies you’ll be saving the random blue chick. If you manage to protect said random blue chick until the helicopter arrives (which doesn’t ever seem o have enough room for you) she drops an explosive-filled teddy bear that can be used exactly like the pipe bomb from Left 4 Dead to vaporize a large group of zombies at once. If you find yourself surrounded by a horde of the flesh-eating undead just whip out your chainsaw and take them down quickly or execution style (though there’s only one execution move available).
The only real saving grace for this game is its multiplayer, which lets you team up with three other survivors to create the true top-down Left 4 Dead experience. There you can fight alongside your comrades, each of you wondering aloud why you just dropped ten bucks on this game when there are better, more creative games like Burn Zombie Burn out there (which is also far from perfect but managed to be fun and have a charming personality).
It seems to me that this game wasn’t tested, that there was no real creativity invested in it, and they just wanted to make a quick buck on a sure thing. I could mention the 7 Days of Hell bonus mode that you unlock after beating the game, but that’s more of the same with a… wait for it… sepia tone! If the game was tested the many balancing issues probably would’ve been corrected, and Nihilistic probably would’ve realized the game they were making wasn’t very fun. For me Zombie Apocalypse proves to be less a game and more an endurance test, so if you’re looking to get your zombie fix I highly recommend you look somewhere else.
It’s easy to compare Zombie Apocalypse to Burn Zombie Burn, but unfortunately the game doesn’t share its witty charm or long-term appeal.
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