Zombie ApocalypseReview (X360)
Zombies: those irrepressible foes of man. As endless as the horde of brain suckers themselves is the line of horror filled videogames portraying their world domination. Regardless of the fact that these lumbering nasties may be born of the imaginations of writers and dramatists frightful of social uprising and a torrent of plebs amassing with a single goal, usually the most important thing to remember about zombies is that they need a good shot to the cranium to put down. The other thing about zombie uprisings in either film or games is that they are nearly always set after the fact. Invariably mankind has all but been put down spare for a few well armed zombie despising survivors. Such is the case with Nihilistic Software’s multidirectional shoot ‘em up Zombie Apocalypse (henceforth ZA). As the game’s title would suggest, it takes place as after the fact as you can get. Undaunted, the game’s group of oddball protagonists are not all that upset about the grizzly fate of humanity; they are an eclectic rabble and relish the forthcoming fight with an almost light hearted competitiveness.
The aim of ZA’s main game mode is to progress level after level by surviving a number of waves of zombies and rescuing up to two randomly appearing survivors for bonus points. Not being grabbed by the zombies and surviving all waves on that level without being killed also bring extra points as does building up the score multiplier for killing zombies in streaks. On each play through, accruing a certain number of points will grant you bonus lives and eventually unlock extra game modes such as seven days of hell (an endurance mode where each level has hundreds of more zombies), blackout (levels take place in near complete darkness), turbo (gameplay occurs at an increased pace), and chainsaws only. The list of unlock modes all amount to a decent slice of gameplay variety and adds some longevity to what otherwise is a pretty basic shooter.
The player can move his zombie killer about with the left analogue stick. The action is viewed from an overhead camera which is rotated slightly in perspective to foreshorten the level in a way similar to a pinball machine table. Using the right analogue stick pushed in any direction allows them to fire their weapon at the zombies in that direction. And the zombies do appear in any direction. In classic zombie style waves of enemies sprout out of the ground on all sides and it requires a mixture of dextrous player movement and concentrated firepower to see you through. Evening the odds in your favour are special weapon pickups which appear around the level including Molotov cocktails that obviously burn groups of zombies, sniper rifles which can cut through multiple zombies in a line, and submachine guns which boast a high rate of fire. Heavy weapons such as flamethrowers, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, miniguns, and a smack talking teddy bear packed full with plastic explosives complete the pick and mix. Hearing the pink bear shouting “I’m packed with love and C4” in the heat of battle will bring a smile to your face for the first few times you hear it and then become annoying like no thing has ever become annoying before as you continue to play the game.
ZA’s seven environments are detailed and varied, if a little short in number as you would expect from an arcade blaster, and will cycle repeatedly with new load outs of enemies in the game’s longer game modes. The late night graveyard, complete with flaming crematorium, a grave digging heavy digger, and dozens of mossy graves, is the perfect setting for the game’s first battle with the zombie horde. The spooky fairground is always standard horror film fair while the scrap yard in bright daylight and its car crusher are a nice change of pace. Each level features contextual hazards which can be used by the player to add to the zombie killing carnage. On the airport level, for example, the rotor blades of a crashed helicopter will cut advancing zombies in half while luring zombies near the engine turbine of one of the jets will turn them into a cloud of red mist. Speaking of enemies, the zombies don’t just come in one flavour. The basic zombie aside, the pick of the others include knife throwing grandmother zombies, kamikaze jumpsuit wearing dynamite zombies, shotgun wielding body armour wearing law enforcement zombies, and flexible bullet dodging zombies.
Aside from the other positive things this game does, the multiplayer options in ZA are impressive. Once in the menus a total of four players, online or locally, can play any one of the extensive list of game modes although as you would expect from this type of game the gameplay can get a little boring after a while. The cooperative modes, level hazards, weapon power ups, and varying enemies do much to avert this but the game has a limited shelf life once you have ground out the harder achievements and your buddies have moved on to other games. That won’t stop the game being fairly addictive when you start playing. The audio is pretty standard; zombie film inspired droning and groaning abound. The repeating dialogue and for the most part annoying voice work doesn’t help this at all as you tire of hearing the same celebratory lines at the end of the level and end up cheering the zombies on as they tear the annoying psychotic teddy bear or the squealing survivor limb from limb.
Eight hundred Microsoft points are easily wasted on the xbox live arcade. For that price, Zombie Apocalypse is one of the games seriously worth its salt.
Graphics: 7 Sound: 4 Gameplay: 8 Lasting Appeal: 6 Overall: 7.5