Xbox Live Arcade Title
Co-op: 4-Player, Local Only.
(Thanks to DoubleSix for providing a copy of this game for review)
There’s hardly a shortage of the walking undead in today’s world. They’ve now moved from being something very cool to being something downright bloody irritating as they appear in absolutely everything, with a particular penchant for turning up in games where we must combat them with tooth, nail and really big guns. But even though the world in general is starting to get tired of the brain craving dead-men, DoubleSix decided that making a game about was a damn good idea. It’s also a twin-stick shooter that heavily features guns, because we don’t have enough of those, either.
The game takes place in the well named town of Deadhill where zombies have taken over and are in the process of killing everybody, because that’s what zombies do, dammit! And so starts a quest of survival starring four survivors and practically no storyline. The survivors are composed of Jack, a hardcore gamer whose certain that they’re all just in the latest zombie game, and goes to great lengths to prove it; Rachel, Jacks moody ex-girlfriend; Bryan, a slightly strange scientist, and Luxo, a Rastafarian alien who likes to swear profusely. While the story may be non-existent, the games humour is at least pretty solid, with Jack providing the most entertainment thanks to his belief that he and the group are inside a game. At one point he even quotes the clunky dialogue as proof of his theory and even points out that the zombies drop powerups when killed, all to try to persuade Rachel that he’s right. There’s a cheeky sense of humour pervading the entire game, with a couple of nice little references to be enjoyed, such as a loading menu pointing out that there’s no bonuses for manual reloads. It’s hardly a game full of comic genius, but there’s no denying that it made me smile a couple of times. And the humour does at least partially disguise the fact that there’s really very little storyline here, bar a few little sub-plots. But then, zombie films don’t seem to need a plot, so why do games?
You might have guessed it already from the mention of four characters but co-op is a major selling point of all Zombies Must Die!, allowing you and three friends to team up and get your zombie killing game on. I know I say this a lot but being able to team up with friends makes practically any game immediately more fun to play, simply because of the hilarity that can ensue when chasing said friends across the map screaming blue-murder while wielding a katana. Seriously, it’s good to have friends. Or at least it is when they’re not getting in the way of gaming. Bastards. However, DoubleSix seem to have missed a beat because All Zombies Must Die! is a couch co-op game only, so you can’t just jump online, grab a friend and get playing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my couch co-op, but in todays online dominated world this is a missed opportunity as four-play online co-op action would have been a major selling point for this title. But if you do happen to have three friends lying around the place, dig them out, stick a beer in their hand and get playing!
As previously mentioned, All Zombies Must Die! is a twin-stick shooter, so character movement is controlled via the left stick while blasting and bashing brain-suckers is a case of aiming with the left stick and pulling the trigger. Sadly, while there is fun to be had from shooting zombies in the face, the execution of this zombie blasting is rather clumsy at times. The assault rifle and SMG are practically useless compared to the almighty shotgun whose awe-inspiring power could probably melt a god’s face, and the pistol suffers from being a bit tricky to actually aim. The games melee weapons are also a bit of a bugger to use thanks to some dodgy hit-detection that requires you to get in really damn close, at which point the zombie eats your face off. It is also disappointing that none of the characters have a move which lets them push aside or barge through zombies as getting swarmed under by the sheer number of walking corpses that the game throws at your is a common occurrence, and when it happens there’s rarely a way out from it. You could of course argue that a skilled player wouldn’t allow that to happen, and while it’s true to a degree there are still moments when it becomes unavoidable and highly frustrating. This is mostly thanks to the fact that the game does not auto-balance itself based on how many people are playing, so even if you’re on your own the game still seems to throw enough zombies at you for four players, making the life of a solo adventurer feel like torture of a sorts. The problem is further compounded by the games love of tunnelling you into tight areas where those brain-munching baddies can surround you with even greater ease and the fact that dying while playing solo forces you to restart the entire zone with any progress in it wiped. Luckily the zones aren’t very big, but having to replay a zone a few times in quick succession is downright annoying. Still, once you get into the rhythm of zombie blasting the flaws fade in to the background and it becomes a dance of sorts as you weave patterns of death through the horde.
As you make your way throw the undead throng, dispensing pain, you’ll fill a special bar which grants you a major power-boost when it’s filled for a short time, as well as a handy smart bomb which, when used, blows the hell out of anything in your immediate vicinity, so it’s best to keep one of those bad-boys on you at all times for some crowd control. As powerful as the smart-bomb is, though, it also comes with a glitch: occasionally after activating it my character would become frozen to the spot, unable to move or do anything for several seconds or longer. But filling that bar requires some quick killing, and so the airstrikes might be a little more to your liking: just kill thirty zombies and bombs will fall from the sky, annihilating some zombies. And I do stress some zombies, because despite it being an airstrike it doesn’t actually do that much, but hey, I’ll take whatever help I can get and it does drop a few pick-ups as well.
But just blasting zombies doesn’t really cut it, and so you’ll have to undertake a considerable number of quests to advance the game, as well as character quests which are seemingly optional at first but turn out to be required later on. Even the electronic gates whose job is to contain the zombie horde demand that you complete a small quest every time you wish to pass through them to the next zone, which you’ll have to do quite a bit. At first these continuous quests help to ensure almost constant zombie blasting doesn’t become too much of a drag, but sadly it quickly becomes apparent that there isn’t going to be a whole lot of creativity in them. Most quests simply ask you to either fetch an item, go to a location, kill zombies or a mixture of all three. And then the gates ask you to do pretty much the same thing every time you wish to travel to another location, which is a lot. Lovely. However, an interesting idea is added via status effects, which essentially means using elemental effects to change zombies. For example a quest might require you to kill zombies that are on fire, which makes them move quicker. Another quest might call for you to take down a mutant sonic zombie which requires you to mix status effects to create the desired monster. It’s a pretty cool concept, but even it doesn’t manage to stop the quests becoming a drag pretty quickly – a problem that the zombie blasting suffers from as well.
Of course I should really also mention the quests from which the game gets its namesake. During the game you can capture bases which act as safe zones for you to level up, swap characters, craft weapons and generally relax in. To capture a base you must undertake a mission called, you guessed it, All Zombies Must Die! As the name suggests, ever brain-muncher in the level must die by whatever means you have at your disposal. In short then, it’s more zombie killing, but without the disguise.
To help try to combat the repetitive nature of the game there’s two other elements that have been stitched in. There’s a rudimentary crafting system that allows you to combine two items, assuming you’ve got the cash to do so, to create something new and hopefully far more dangerous, whether it be from simple experimentation or by following set recipes that you discover along the way. To attain the ingredients required to make more awesome(r) weapons you’ll often need to venture forth and kill a set amount of zombies in a set way in a set location, which again is just a little too repetitive for its own good, but still, it’s worth it so you can craft an M16 that shoots fiery death. There’s a decent amount of items to craft, but really it doesn’t add a whole heap to the game – it’s just too simplistic. Likewise the games RPG mechanics are running a little light on depth. By killing zombies, finding items and completing quests your character can level up, granting you points to spend on improving attributes. Sadly you’re going to have to do a considerable amount of zombie killing because levelling up is a strangely infrequent event for such a short game . Throw enough of those hard-earned points into an attribute, such as damage or speed, and it goes up a level making your character more effective, or at least that’s the theory. In practice adding points to your character doesn’t feel like it’s making any tangible difference to how well they perform. Of course some characters level up certain stats quicker than others and vice versa, but it really is a pretty barebones system.
When it comes to presentation All Zombies pretty much hits the “average” and sticks there. The graphical style is cartoony and likable enough but really isn’t pushing the boundaries of what we’ve seen on XBLA in any way, shape or form. The game’s audio is rather disappointing, featuring absolutely zero voice acting, bog-standard sound effects and instantly forgettable music. In fact there’s really little else I can say in regards to the presentation of the game; it does its job, looks decent enough, sounds okay at best, but never manages to do anything more with itself. But I will say that it’s a nice change to see zombies portrayed in this style, rather than the usual blood, guts and gore manner which we usually see.
All Zombies Must Die! is a hard game for me to judge. On the one hand there’s no denying that I did have some fun with time in Deadhill, yet there’s also no denying that the games execution leaves quite a bit to be desired. It doesn’t actually do anything bad, it’s just shallow and it’s filled with things we’ve seen before that aren’t done that well, either. The inclusion of online co-op could have kept the game above being purely decent at best, but instead it’s local only, which just doesn’t make any sense. The game does have one ace up its sleeve, though; it only costs 800MSP, and so it’s worth a punt of you’re just looking for a quick blast or have really run out of things to play in the Christmas lull, but there’s other titles out there worth your time, unless you happen to have three friends and some beer, in which case you should be able to have a good laugh with it.
+ If only they knew you were right, Jack.
+ Zombies might be overdone, but they’re still fun to shoot!
+ Couch co-op!
– Getting swarmed.
– No online co-op.
A cartoon style brings the zombie hordes to life, but it’s really not that much of a looker.
There’s zero voice acting, the sound effects are decent and the music is bland. What else is there to say?
Zombies have taken over, and so you must survive until you can get out of there. That’s pretty much it.
All Zombies Must Die! sits right in the middle of “okay” land and is refusing to move. It’s fun for the first half of the game, and then it just becomes old.
Around five hours with little replay value, apart from co-op.
The Verdict: 6
Zombies and guns meet yet again to create this decent twin-stick shooter, but while it’s fun for the first while the game quickly becomes tiresome. Worth a look at the price, but don’t expect much.