Review: Zombie Apocalypse (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Zombie Apocalypse
Developer: Nihilistic Software
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment Inc.
Genre: Run N’ Gun Shooter
Release Date: 9/23/2009

The zombies are coming! The zombies are everywhere! Ah, how I love this time of year. Most people spend this time of year wondering what they will be for Halloween. Not me. I wonder what sort of undead I will be for the Zombie Pub Crawl. It is an annual event held here in Minneapolis and has doubled in size every year. This year on October 10th, there should be over 5,000 drunken undead shambling around the streets of Minneapolis for its fifth annual occurrence. As this event approaches, I become more obsessed with all things zombies. Since I have lifetime obsession with video games it is only natural that when I see a game called Zombie Apocalypse pop on XBLA, I would get excited to play it. At $10(800 MSP) you really can’t go wrong with a zombie shooter. This game is also priced the same for PSN. Will this game satisfy my need for zombie killing until Left 4 Dead 2?

Let’s Review

Story/Modes

Zombie Apocalypse is a mindless top down dual stick shooter so there is not much to the story. So the story is that a zombie epidemic is going on and there are four heroes set out to stop it. The heroes are Harlan the doctor, Natalie the athlete, Jimmy the video gamer, and Ed the wannabe military man. Your only goal is to survive 55 days of zombie hordes. The full 55 days took me about two and half hours with two of my friends on multiplayer. Every day you pass will unlock more weapons and different special infected. Your weapons include everything from chainsaws to flame throwers. There are seven different types of zombies in this game; the basic shambler, the puker whose puke will slow you down, the big boy whose grasp can’t be broken, the kitchen knife throwing granny, the shotgun wielding sheriff, the explosive kamikaze, and lastly flying baby making queen. Eventually they become radioactive which makes them glow green and have higher hit points. There is also a stationary boss that pops up about midway through the 55 days and several times after that. I won’t give away to much more than that as I don’t want to spoil it for you.

As you progress through the days you can unlock different modes of play besides the default one. This is where game gets bonus points in my eyes. The modes you can unlock are Chainsaw Only, Blackout, Hardcore, Turbo, All Weapons, and 7 Days in Hell. Chainsaw Only is pretty self explanatory with its title. Blackout makes all of stages nighttime which limits your range of sight. Hardcore is well… harder. Turbo speeds up the game. The gameplay is greatly changed and is quite enjoyable. All weapons allow you to utilize any weapon from the games arsenal. You can switch them by pushing right or left on the D-pad. Imagine it is the end of the world. Zombies are all around you. Don’t you want a weapon that never needs a reload? Of course you do! In this mode, all special weapons never need a reload unlike the other modes. I found myself favoring barbecuing the zombies over shooting them. The last mode, and by far my favorite on multiplayer, is the 7 Days in Hell mode. This mode only uses the first 7 days of the campaign but throws just about as much undead at you as the whole 55 days in the default level. I lost count because I played it in two sittings but roughly about 14,000 undead are sent to feast on your brains. This mode took a couple of hours and a lot of continues. So despite this games lack of story, the variety of mindless game modes more than make up for it.

Store/Modes Rating: Good

Graphics

Zombie Apocalypse graphics are up to par with other games on XBLA. There are only seven level designs and they are repeated over and over throughout your 55 day jaunt through the apocalypse. The only other sense of variety is when they black out the level like the black out mode I mentioned earlier. Each level has environmental hazards which look pretty cool. Nothing like watching a zombie get sucked into a jet engine or thrown into a wood chipper. When shooting at the zombie horde, you will get to see the beauty of them being dismembered before they become a blood stain on the ground. You really get a good sense of your kill zones in this game as this is the area with the most blood on the ground.

There is also enough detail put into the characters that you can discern what weapons they are holding as well as some goofy moves that they will pull after you survive a day. The different zombies are very easy to tell apart despite the masses you will find on the screen. There are times when there is what seems like a hundred zombies on screen without any slow down. One cool visual effect is that when you switch to the 7 Days in Hell mode, it gives the whole color scheme of the game a makeover with a 70’s retro movie feel.

Graphics Rating: Above Average

Sound

The music in Zombie Apocalypse fits the game well enough. It has a very eerie but edgy sound to it, but it is quite repetitive and there is not a whole lot of variety to it. With a game like this I don’t think that the score is very important as the music gets buried by the noise of your weapons and groans of the undead.

Voice acting in this game is pretty limited. The four main characters really don’t say much during the gameplay except scream when they get grappled. At the end of the day whoever’s character gets the most kills says some silly phrase along with celebratory movement. One of the funniest things in the game are the teddy bears grenades. You get one of these at the start of every level and when you rescue survivors. Whenever you toss one these it says the silliest stuff in a very Tickle Me Elmo like way. “I’m stuffed with love… and C4.” There are a few more and they are all pretty hilarious. The survivors don’t do much but scream for help until they get rescued. They will occasionally pop out of the environment on some stages, and then you have touch them and protect them until a helicopter rescues them.

Sound Rating: Enjoyable

Control/Gameplay

Zombie Apocalypse is a dual stick shooter so you use one toggle for movement the other for shooting. The game is very simple to just pick up play. When playing on XBOX Live with my friends, we had the freedom to move anywhere on stage and we didn’t have to see each other on the screen. It was an amazing gameplay experience. It was not as great playing locally due to the shared screen space. When playing locally, there were many times if we didn’t stick together one of us would get hung up on an object and die. Now I only played with two other people locally but this game allows up to four players on one console which could get pretty sticky at times. I don’t think it is that big of an issue as we quickly learned to adapt our gameplay strategy. Did I say strategy? Yes, I did. Even in a game with simple game play like this, there exists potential for strategy. One example is leading zombies into objects in the environment that can hinder their path. That allows you to group them up and slaughter them. So much fun! Of course after doing that, the undead immediately rise from the ground all around you. With the amount of undead that rises from the ground you would think these stages were built on top of mass graves. I guess for the cemetery that is okay. Overall the gameplay in the game is mindless and that is what makes it great. The ability to just start the game, invite a friend, crack open a beer, and blast some zombies amazingly simple and fun.

Control/Gameplay: Great

Replayability

With the seven different modes, Zombie Apocalypse has enough to offer in terms of replayablility. I have tried all of them and they each change the gameplay quite a bit. This will be one of those games I will probably play in future with my friends from time to time. There are leaderboards where you can compare your scores with your friends as well, so if you are into that kind of thing you can come back again to one up your friends score.

Replayability: Great

Balance

Zombie Apocalypse gets pretty hard pretty darn quick. You get a limited amount lives to start, but you can earn more by scoring well. Once all of the players die, true to arcade fashion, you have to continue. The good thing is that you have unlimited continues. The flip side is your high score for the leaderboard will end as soon as you use your first one. I couldn’t count how many continues it took to get to day 55, but it was a lot. The last day I believe we were using a continue every minute or so. It was insanely hard.

Balance Rating: Good

Originality

With all of the zombie style games out there, it is hard to call any of them original. What separates Zombie Apocalypse from all of the rest is that it is an affordable arcade game. However there is a similarly styled game in indie games section of XBOX live called I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1. It also utilizes dual stick controls but ZA definitely has superior graphics and level design to this game. It is not as in depth of game as Left 4 Dead or Nazi Zombies in World at War but with its top down gameplay style it is different than those titles.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

Addictiveness

Zombie Apocalypse is the only game I have played over the last few days. This is not just because I am reviewing it, but because it is fun. It is really easy to get the max gamerscore of 200, as I think I achieved this in three sittings. So the achievements might not keep you coming back for more but the gameplay will. This is an easy game to just pick up and play for an hour and put down. The marathon runs can get pretty repetitive and even boring if you are playing alone. Multiplayer is the only way I think it can maintain your addiction. So if your friends don’t have this you may have to deal with randoms. When someone drops out of your game however a new player can’t just drop in you will have to go back to the lobby and get some more players. You can start at the same day though.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

Appeal Factor

I am kind of biased when it comes to Zombie Apocalypse because as I have said before, I love all things zombies. I don’t think I am alone as it is the top download on XBLA this week. So if you are not a huge horror or zombie fan, this game might not be for you. At $10, it is hard to pass up a game that is this mindless and fun at the same time.

Appeal Factor Rating: Great

Miscellaneous

Do you remember back in the day when the old school console controllers made your thumbs hurt? I have never really encountered this on the next generation consoles until I played this game. At least until now. Even as I type, my thumbs still hurt from this game. Maybe it is just because I am getting older, but I am leaning more to the non-stop movement of the dual sticks in this game. To me a sign of a good game is when you play it until it hurts.

Miscellaneous Rating: Good

The Scores:
Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Above Average
Sound: Enjoyable
Gameplay/Control: Great
Replayability: Great
Balance: Good
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Good
Final Score: Good Game!

Short Attention Span Summary:
Zombie Apocalypse is a great game for those of you who love the zombie genre style of games. With a $10 price tag, it is hard not to justify buying it. While it may not bring a lot of new stuff to the genre, it is definitely mindless fun. If you’re not a fan of this genre it may not be right for you but is still a solid dual stick shooter. If you are still unsure download the trial and give it whirl.

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