Monday, October 12, 2009

Demo Monday: Zombie Apocalypse

we mean it this time You might be tempted to think this post’s headline is something of a joke – a game called Zombie Apocalypse? Surely, I’m just writing a post spoofing the wider Zombie Apocalypse subgenre?

No, that is not what is going on, I’m afraid. Zombie Apocalypse is a downloadable game by Konami and Nihilistic Software for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, and it is pretty much just what it sounds like. While it’s not a bad game, its grade (such as it is) is going to suffer because my brain is beginning to lash out against Zombie Apocalypse games post-Resident Evil 5 and Left 4 Dead, just like it lashes out at the nineteen vampire movies due in theaters between now and the end of the year.

It’s not that zombies and vampires don’t have their merits, but there has to be something more artistically satisfying for these developers to churn out. Except, oh, wait, they’re not trying to satisfy themselves artistically, they’re trying to cash in. Cha-ching.

Zombie Apocalypse recalls Left 4 Dead aesthetically, as well as in its characters – there is a black guy, a grizzled guy, a big white guy, and a girl. However, the similarities end there. The rest of it draws from the same well that zombie games have been drawing from since time immemorial, mostly the Night of the Living Dead canon with a couple pinches of 28 Days Later for flavor. Stop looking for originality here, because there’s not a scrap of it to be found.

Zombie Apocalypse is pretty much just Gauntlet meets zombies. From a top down perspective, you control your avatar and shoot zombies. Left stick moves you around, right stick shoots. Think Geometry Wars. Sometimes there are weapon drops that replace your standard SMG with a grenade launcher or a flamethrower or minigun, weapons that add a little spice to the gameplay but don’t fundamentally change anything.

Like Gauntlet or Geometry Wars, most of your time will be spent running around mowing down endless waves of enemies. There’s some variety here – you have your run-of-the-mill grunt zombies, some larger zombies that are harder to take down, some zombies that have guns. The environments, similarly, offer up some token variation. One could, if one were so inclined, lure zombies into trash compactors and jet intakes to kill them, though shooting them with your gun is about a million times more efficient.

The best part of this game will probably be the multiplayer, though with the demo limited to local multiplayer and my locality conspicuously devoid of fellow game-enthusiasts, I have no way of confirming whether this is true. Normally in gaming more people equals more fun, and I don’t see why that equation should be changed.

This game seems solid enough, but the fact remains that if you’re in the market for a dual-stick shooter or a zombie game you have about a million other options. Also, in the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I’m just so over zombie games right now.

Zombie Apocalypse is a solid enough game, but it’s pure cash-in on the part of its developer and publisher. The question I should be asking myself is “should I buy this game or not?” The question I find myself asking is “will we ever get over this zombie thing and make a game about something else?”

Coming soon to a gaming boutique near you: Zombie Rock Band, Super Mario Zombie, and Zombie Lego Rock Band: Def Leppard.

Nihilistic Software and Konami’s Zombie Apocalypse is currently available via download for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 game consoles. Played single-player demo to completion.