Every year I say I'm done with zombie fiction. After so many movies, books, video games and TV shows, I have finally had enough with these stinky, rotting, ugly brain-eaters. And yet, almost immediately after making that bold proclamation, I discover that I still love The Walking Dead, watch Pontypool every Halloween and enjoy playing games like All Zombies Must Die. Maybe one day I'll truly be done with zombie entertainment, but that day is not today.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Zombies have overrun the city and it's up to you to kill them all, find shelter and stop this horrifying nightmare. This will require finding other survivors and becoming a quick study on the how to handle a bunch of familiar firearms. Okay, so the set-up isn't very original, but that's not going to keep anybody from digging into Douiblesix's surprisingly deep action/role-playing game.
This isn't Doublesix's first foray into the world of zombies. Years before demanding that All Zombies Must Die, the UK-based company released Burn Zombie Burn
. While there's no continuity between the two games, their spirit is very much in line with one another. Here we have an over-the-top world filled with odd ball characters trying to outlast a bunch of goofy zombies. Much like Burn Zombie Burn, All Zombies Must Die opts for Saturday Morning cartoon-style action over any serious scares. Anybody expecting chills and thrills should take a trip to Raccoon City or Dead Island.
All Zombies Must Die opens with Jake, a nebbish teenager who is convinced that he's the star in a video game filled with brain-eating zombies. Early on his task is to track down Rachel, a bitter ex-girlfriend who isn't ready to believe Jake's cockamamie talk about zombies and games. Before long these two meet up with Brian the scientist and a supernatural character that that goes way beyond the realm of a simple zombie infestation.
Tracking down these characters will require Jake and Rachel to take an exhaustive search of their home town. Players will fight through the town square, TV station, mall, police station and hospital in their quest to fetch items and find safe passage out of the city. The game requires a lot of back and forth through the different areas, so expect to revisit the same parts of the game multiple times on the way to the ending.
Thankfully All Zombies Must Die offers a lot of, well, zombies that must die. You start out with the standard lumbering zombies, but before long you'll have to dodge crazy zombies in straightjackets, speedy zombies with jogging shoes, armored police zombies and more. It's easy to tell one from the other thanks to their hilariously exaggerated animations.
You'll use a standard set of weapons to fight the zombie horde off. The most effective are the shotgun and chainsaw, it's a lethal combination that does the job better than anything else. The rest of the weapons -- hand gun, assault rifle, cricket bat, etc. -- are barely effective and are should only be used if you've run out of shotgun ammo. It's worth noting that players can throw down their weapons and use their fists to knock out zombies. This is not advised.
The gameplay is a slight variation on the standard dual-stick shooter. You run around in a mostly overhead perspective using the left analog stick, all while you aim the gun with the right stick. But don't let the action game trappings confuse you, this is still an adventure game that involves you completing missions and satisfying certain obligations. For example, some levels will require players to kill a certain amount of electrified zombies or pick up three hamburgers before they can progress. There's always something for you to do, something that keeps All Zombies Must Die lively.
The problem is, too many of these missions require little more than following the icons and dodging bad guys. There are a few interesting puzzles towards the end of the game, but most of the game requires little more than fetch quests and zombie killing. Things are made worse when you realize that some of the more aggressive baddies will block your movement, leading to more than a few frustrating deaths.
Collision detection ended up being a big problem in the game. With so much loose debris on the ground, it's far too easy to get stuck in a situation you can't get out of. This is especially true if you accidentally pick up one of the useless mini guns. It's also easy for Jake and Rachel to get completely obscured by a wall, hedge or burning car. The fact that I was unable to see where I was some of the time led to even more annoying deaths. There were missions I had to walk away from out of pure rage.
Thankfully the game looks better than it plays. Doublesix has found a way to make rotting zombies look adorable. Even when they're agitated, the zombies are full character and charm. The four main characters aren't bad either. The different locations are full of detail and it really feels like I get to know this destroyed city by the end of the game.
Although the game allows for up to four-players to play at once, All Zombies Must Die does not support online multiplayer. This is a curious omission that feels like a missed opportunity. The game works well as a single-player experience, thanks in large part to its role-playing game roots. This allows the developers to slowly rollout the main characters, something they might not have been able to do had the emphasis was on four-player online action.
This is a game full of peaks and valleys. There were times when I absolutely loved my time chopping up zombies around time, while at other times I couldn't stand going on. There's enough fresh content here to warrant the play through, even if so much of it gets bogged down in frustrating repetition and lame comedy. Apparently setting out to kill all zombies is easier said than done.