Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Amazing Zombie Defense Review

Amazing Zombie Defense, developed and published by Marcin Draszczuk.
The Good: Action packed, defense construction, custom turrets, online score list, inexpensive
The Not So Good: Imprecise aiming, lacks level variety, basic AI, can't rebind keys, no cooperative play, pedestrian graphics and sound
What say you? This zombie combat game offers somewhat unexpected, if repetitive, thrills for $3: 6/8

Zombies! Yeah, I know, we’re starting to get a little tired of the undead, with this being the third zombie-inspired game review in a row. But, clearly, zombies are the new World War II (as dinosaurs are the next zombies) of computer gaming, so much so that I’m struggling coming up with unique, hilarious comments for the beginning of this particular review. So, yes, Amazing Zombie Defense: it went to the land of consoles first, and has now come to the PC for the low, low price of $3. This game takes a cue from the tower defense genre, giving you the tools required to fend off the incoming horde. Does this budget-oriented offering actually deliver amazing zombie defense?

For the price, you might not expect much to come out of Amazing Zombie Defense in terms of graphics and sound design, and you'd be right. The game takes place in an empty gray surface populated by you, zombies, and one streetlight. The zombies use the same model with different shirts and pants, and while detailed, offer simple animations. Weapons are easily identifiable and fire bullets and fire (some of the effects are well done for the higher-end weapons), and the gore is present but not overwhelming. And that's about it for the graphics. As for the sound, you get repetitive, subdued effects for the weapons (the shotgun sounds like somebody farted) and no noticeable zombie sounds. The music during combat I found to be annoying, but the purchase menu song is haunting and far less grating. In short: it's $3.

In Amazing Zombie Defense, you are defending against zombies. Who knew?! This is a single-player only affair, where it’s just you against the horde. The game does feature an online high score list where your efforts are automatically uploaded and compared against other players so everyone can laugh at your incompetence. The game is divided into nights, and each evening the zombies increase in toughness, speed, and damage. The game escalates quickly (especially between levels one and two), though I found the balance between their capabilities and the weapons you can afford to wield to be well done. Amazing Zombie Defense features the same level layout (a single streetlight) each time, though it is subject to user-made defenses. There are some control issues: you can’t remap the controls and can’t reload your weapons manually (though reload times are generally quick and unnoticeable). Also, aiming is a bit off: you must place the red targeting reticule directly on the zombies’ heads, as aiming for their body results in a miss. It took me a couple of levels to figure this out, and it think it’s due to the third-person perspective of the game. Overall, though, Amazing Zombie Defense has an expected roster of features for a cheap game.

Money is earned by killing zombies: each murder gets you a small amount of cash, while the occasional zombie drops a significant amount of money (or ammunition) that must be manually picked up. These funds are used between levels to purchase weapons and ammunition for those weapons, and Amazing Zombie Defense features a good selection: pistols, uzis, shotguns, flame throwers, miniguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and even tesla coils and freakin’ laser beams (no sharks, though). The game also features random sales on items, which offer significant discounts. You’ll need to keep ammunition stocks for all of your weapons except for the pistol, but since the zombies usually drop significant amounts of extra ammo, you’ll only need to maintain about twenty rounds for each weapon you employ. Any weapon can be mounted on a stationary turret; this is a really cool feature that allows you to customize your defenses much like a tower defense game. Turrets fire automatically, allowing you to concentrate on areas of concern while your flame and shotgun turrets deal with less pesky foes. Turrets use your supply of ammo, so you must make sure you purchase enough beforehand. In addition, you can surround yourself with walls that will slow down the advancing horde so you and your turrets can pick them off. Walls cannot be removed, so make sure you don’t completely enclose yourself, as then you can’t venture out and get those cash and ammo pick-ups (I speak from experience). Walls are surprisingly effective, funneling the enemy and allowing you to create some neat forced paths past your turrets. I would like to have an indication (visual or a health bar) of barricade damage so I know which areas to fortify between levels, and having more traps (like mines or pits) would also be a good additional feature.

The AI is bland, running directly towards you at all times and offering no special abilities or attacks. Their simplicity allows you to manipulate their movements, hopefully right towards your turrets. The game only gets tough when there are a lot to deal with and you will die if surrounded, so it is quite scary to venture outside your carefully placed walls to pick up the ammo and cash needed to keep pace with the incoming horde. There are no medic packs, but your health automatically fully regenerates once each level is over. The game does get very repetitive since the enemies and levels are all the same from the beginning to the end, but once you discover all of your options (about the third time through), Amazing Zombie Defense delivers some good action with customizable options that fulfill its $3 price tag.

Amazing Zombie Defense has a couple of notable features that set it apart from the horde (pun intended) of zombie games available for the personal computer. The strong sense of customization the game provides makes each time through a unique experience (if you allow it): the ability to place barricades (despite their limited capabilities and square nature) lets you try out different arrangements and funnel mindless zombies to their deaths. Customizing the turrets, by attaching any weapon that you have purchased, is another cool feature. I did have some issues with aiming (go for the head!) and you can't customize the controls. Also, there is no cooperative play, but Amazing Zombie Defense does feature an online score list. The graphics and sound aren't the best, but the tense periods of time where you venture outside your stronghold to gather cash and ammunition, away from the light and power of turrets, easily rival any other zombie game. Yes, the game is repetitive since you play the same empty level and encounter the same limited zombies every time, but the foundation for a good time is certainly here. I would like to see more varied walls and traps, but overall Amazing Zombie Defense offers surprising value for the price, and I found the game far more interesting than a linear story-driven title. It's not quite amazing, but Amazing Zombie Defense is certainly a competent action title and a good choice for zombie hunters on a very tight budget.