E3 2011: Impressions of Zombie Apocalypse 2 (Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3)

Today I went to a meeting with Konami were they showed off the sequel to the twin stick Zombie shooting game Zombie Apocalypse. I liked the original title, though since that game was released there have been a glut of both zombie game and twin stick shooters, so this sequel really needed to do something more to stand out from the crowd. Luckily for us, the developers thought the same and Zombie Apocalypse 2 is in many ways a different game altogether.

The first ZA was an arena-based twin stick shooter with multiple enemy types where you tried to survive through a series of days. ZA2 is a four player twin stick shooter that has a central narrative, and the levels range from long corridors to large arenas that are much larger than in the original game. There are always four characters, each armed with character specific weapons and class abilities. While playing single player, you can swap between the players, something that is pretty much a requirement if you end up runnign through the game by yourself, or with just one other player since one of the classes is a Priest who can heal the team and a Engineer who can build a turret that you need for dealing with large hoards of enemies. The AI controls these classes well enough, but in order to really be able to quickly manage enemies you’ll need to take them over.

In addition to the classes, there is also an experience point system, you can level your characters up with a cap set at level 100. In order to do this you’ll need to play the game a few times to be able to max out your stats. As a way to balance the increasing abilities of the players there are now larger, and far more difficult enemy types known as The Damned. While playing a demo of the game I saw two of these enemy types, one giant zombie who belches clouds of poison gas into a large area, and another that can race across the screen, grab and toss your character before you can think twice about it. These provide additional challenges, and during the demonstration we were told that there would also be level based objectives, like micro achievements, within the game that can be extremely challenging to pull off.

A lot of smaller changes have also been made to the game, with the expanded levels you no longer just defend a survivor until a rescue chopper shows up, now you have to keep them alive until the end of the level. There’s a revive mechanic that plays out in a short CPR style mini-game that allows you to bring fallen characters back to life, though it’s pointless to try to do so while there is a swarm of zombies still hanging around.

While the original title didn’t have much of a story other than to just survival as long as possible, in ZA2 the game stars Jeremy from PureOwnage who helped write the script for the game. What they showed us made the story look extremely light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek, and the characters all had lines that showed individual personalities. The main mode is the story mode for the game, which lasts a couple hours and has reasons to replay through the game, a four player co-op mode, and a Blackout mode that is supposed to play like some of the levels of the first ZA were there was only a small area of light. Additional DLC modes are being planned.

The hands on demo felt solid and was fun to play through. It should be available in October on both Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network, a perfect month for this type of game.

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