By Matt Carey
Smaller versions of big things can sometimes be great. In Florida, there used to be a model village – well, country – based on China. Within said model village are faithful recreations of pretty much every tourist attraction within said country. The Dalai Lama’s Potala Palace, the Leshan Grand Buddha and even the Great Wall of China at half a mile long and containing 6.5 million bricks, was all lovingly recreated in miniature. The likenesses were so accurate that, if you took photographs of each exhibit without a human in shot for size comparison, you could convince your friends that you were at the real thing quite easily.
Smaller versions of big things can sometimes be pretty shoddy though. Case in question this time is Zombie Apocalypse.
Last year, Left 4 Dead set the gaming world alight. It was the first game to truly capture both the black humour and sheer horror of all the classic zombie movies, particularly those made by George Romero. Gamers the world over loved the fast-paced action, as well as the obligatory gore. “Ay oop,” thought Nihilistic. “We could do a bit of a rip off of that.”
And so, thrust forth onto the Live Arcade like a chainsaw through the skull of the living dead, we find Zombie Apocalypse.
The game is as straightforward as straightforward can be. Harking back to the old days of Smash TV, the player finds himself in an environment surrounded by wave upon wave of zombies, all hell bent on chewing your liver, only without the fava beans and Chianti. Up through the ground they pull themselves, find their feet, and then sprint towards you en mass, only to be met by a torrent of bullets from whichever gun you happen to be holding. As the level progresses guns and power-ups appear, enabling you to dish out more zombie death.
Guns are not the only means of turning you foes into worm food. Again. A quick press of a button will see you whip out a chainsaw and soon you will be cutting swathes through the lumbering meat sacks.
You also have some zombie bait, a little device that when tossed will cause masses of them to flock towards it, moaning in unison at the pretty colours and beautiful noises. This may seem to be a way to get yourselves out of sticky situations at first, but you soon realise that precision tossing of said bait in key areas of each map will see your enemy die horrible second deaths as they are sucked into dustbin trucks or be engulfed in flames as they wander haplessly onto incinerators. Cool.
Once a level is cleared you move onto another, much the same as before, but with a different setting. And of course, all this can be done locally or online with a buddy.
The controls are not in the slightest bit complicated, and neither would you want them to be. They wisely decided against copying the old Smash TV, dual analogue effort made popular again in Geometry Wars, and have stuck with the tried and tested ‘one analogue and then a few buttons’ combo that sane game developers use. This made me happy. I never could get used to the two stick theory. And I sucked at Geometry Wars.
To look at, the game is nice enough. Everything is pretty and morbid, all at the same time, which is probably as it should be. The levels have also been clearly influenced by movies such as Night Of The Living Dead, adequately filling in point number one in the How To Make A Zombie Video Game rule book (Rule number one: in some way, shape or form, pay homage to George Romero). The sound too is adequately groany, moany, shooty and bangy for my liking, and that is good, as this is meant to be groany, moany, shooty and bangy.
So, given what I wrote a few hundred words ago in the second paragraph, you are probably wondering by now what is wrong with the game. There must be something as I used the word “shoddy”. Well, in a nutshell, this is far too expensive.
Let me explain. 800 of Microsoft’s points is the equivalent of around £6.80. Now, a quick peruse on EBay will tell you that Smash TV can be picked up for less than that on any number of assorted platforms. OK, this isn’t the same game, and it looks a darn sight prettier, but for what you actually get in the package there is little or no difference. It would all be well and good if there was a smidgeon of variety thrown into the mix, but there isn’t, and enjoyment levels are hampered further still by the fact that there are only 5 or 6 levels that are repeated ad infinitum, and ad nauseum too for that matter. In short, the game becomes a seemingly never ending stream of the same thing, over and over and over. And over.
There is about 5 minutes of fun here, and I’m guessing that a few beers and a mate or two may give a few laughs when you are too plastered to be able to shoot straight in Left 4 Dead. That really though is the only time I could ever see Zombie Apocalypse appealing in any way. Think of it like a glass of blackcurrant cordial and water, only without the blackcurrant. What you are left with is just a glass of water, and that is just boring.