Posts Tagged ‘zombies’

Dead Rising 2 Review

Finally, after four long years of waiting, after all the teasing videos and images, after that excellent taster in the shape of Case Zero, the sequel to one of the greatest launch games of all time is here. To say that Dead Rising 2 has a hell of lot of expectation on its shoulders is a bit of an understatement. Dead Rising 2 has so much expectation on its shoulders that anything less than a solid gold slice of zombie-based sandbox mayhem will be a complete waste of those four years. Happily, Capcom have risen to the challenge and delivered what might be the best game of the year.

It’s been a couple of years since Frank West and Isabella Keyes escaped the Willamette mall with the truth of what happened there. Zombie outbreaks have occurred in isolated pockets and have been more or less contained. The world has moved on and zombies have become a part of it.

Former Motocross champion Chuck Green managed to escape the Las Vegas outbreak with his daughter Katey and went on the run to Fortune City. Unfortunately, Katey managed to receive a bite on her arm. In order to keep the infection at bay, Chuck must give her regular injections of Zombrex every twenty four hours. To pay these expensive medical bills, he takes part in the extreme sports game show ‘Terror Is Reality, where zombies are brutally slaughtered for entertainment. After another victory, Chuck is knocked unconscious in an elevator shaft. When he wakes, he finds that the zombies have gotten free and taken over Fortune City. To make matters worse, a tape has been leaked to the press showing someone in his bike outfit releasing the zombies. With a military rescue arriving in seventy two hours, Chuck’s time is short: can he survive for long enough to prove his innocence?

If that plot summary sounds a little bit familiar, that’s because it is. In truth, Dead Rising 2 is so similar to its predecessor that you could be forgiven for thinking that Capcom accidentally released the same game twice. You still have a tight time limit. You still get around via a vent shaft. You still rescue survivors. You still defeat psychopaths. Items still break after a while. You still have to manage your time efficiently to survive. Even most of the achievements are identical! Half of this review could easily be a cut-and-paste job and there wouldn’t be a problem.

But where the game really comes alive is in those tiny differences, those few new features and adjustments that were sorely lacking from the unrefined first game. The most obvious new addition is the much-discussed ability to create new weapons out of old ones. It’s a fantastic idea that is introduced brilliantly, too – you’re shown the maintenance room, which has a bat and a box of nails. Everything that can be combined with something else has a tell-tale blue icon above it to help you. Not only are the new weapons far more durable than normal, many of them turn useless items into hysterical ways to make the dead deader.

Take the humble plate. Pathetic on its own, but mix it with a cement spinner and you have a destructive plate launcher, capable of clearing a room at a hundred paces. A bag of gems turns into a shotgun when combined with a leaf blower. The comedy hat becomes a death mask with a little battery power. The list is simply staggering.

Backing up the new weapons are the ‘combo cards’, special items that double the amount of experience points (PP) you get with each kill. They can be found anywhere – by levelling up Chuck, rescuing survivors, defeating psychopaths, even by looking at film posters around the mall. You’re rewarded for creativity and for trying out ridiculous ideas by levelling up faster, although you probably won’t want to use any other weapons after you create a new item called the ‘Defiler’.

Perhaps the biggest difference between this game and the first one is the amount of extra breathing room you’re given. There are only seven ‘cases’ (story missions) on offer, with breaks between every two to let you give Katey her Zombrex. With good time management, it’s possible to save over fifty survivors and complete the entire story in your first run – compared to the frantic dashes that occurred in the first game, the pace is nearly relaxing.

The best – and most subtle – difference between the two games is the notable improvements to the NPC survivor’s AI. Where before a perfect run could be scuppered by a lone plant pot, this time survivors can move, climb, navigate and dodge with Chuck. They also no longer go sprinting into a horde of zombies while unarmed. There’s even a new symbol that flashes to let you know when a survivor is close enough to travel to the next area with you. It actually turns the rescue operation into a fun activity, as opposed to a chore, although some of the survivor’s demands before they’ll come with are absurd – one semi-naked woman asks that your be in your pants too, while another forces you to take part in her painfully boring button-matching mini-game.

Being in a city just outside of Vegas, there’s also an obsession with money. It can be found littering the floor inside casinos, won from slot machines, gained from rescuing survivors, beaten out of ATMs (or withdrawn, with the correct tool) and the cash goes a long way to helping you. It can buy vital doses of Zombrex for people who need it, be given to survivor as a bribe, or buy a variety of colourful weapons from the rip-off merchants (sorry, looters) who set up shop in key locations around the city. While it’s initially a worry, you’ll soon have more than you know what to do with.

The save system has also been vastly improved, allowing you to recover from accidentally wrecking your run with ease. You can also port over any progress made in Case Zero and begin the game with a level five Chuck and several valuable combo cards. Of all the new features, the improved save system is the one that is the most vital and it should not be underestimated.

The other major differences to the single-player experience are small, subtle, and completely brilliant. Vital items (money, keys, etc) come with you when you restart the game (not Zombrex, unfortunately), you can kick while carrying people and deliver wrestling moves to a downed zombie. The visuals have been given a shot of adrenaline and the game looks like a proper next-gen game, with crisp textures, facial expressions and some excellent attention to detail throughout. There’s also more music pumped out through the many casinos, making the experience much less quiet than before. There’s also a last-minute plot twist that transforms this gory comedy into a genuinely terrifying horror game. Even Fortune City feels somehow more alive – despite being dead – than the mall in Willamette, heaving with things to do, see and explore. The scope of the place is staggering, easily housing a space at least three times the size of the first game.

The other new features added to the game are all online. Two players can now team up and take on the dead together in a co-op game, although, weirdly, you’ll both be playing as Chuck. While it’s a great new feature that adds to the variety of the experience, it is perhaps a bit disappointing that you both have to be doing the same thing at the same time – you can’t split up to seek out different objectives. Bizarrely, if one player is experiencing lag, the cutscenes seem to play out without the character models in them, which somewhat damages the experience.

You can also take part in the Terror Is Reality games and go head-to-head against three other players for the prize money. It’s a great way of earning extra cash – anything you make can be put into your save file immediately – but the games themselves veer wildly between fun and dull. Target shooting game Bounty Hunter can be fairly entertaining, as is the excellent finale SliceCycles, but most of them are incredibly boring. Zomboni, for instance, sees you all squirting crushed zombies into a container, while Master Shafter has a multiplayer quick time event sequence that is almost painful to endure. Terror Is Reality also suffers from the same flaws as the Resident Evil 5 multiplayer, in that it can take ages to set up a game, leaving you forced to watch the same cutscene over and over every single time you want to play. There’s no option for playing again with the same group either, while the lack of computer-controlled bots mean that you simply have to wait or other humans to join your game.

While there are some flaws with the multiplayer aspects of the game, the single-player experience is practically flawless. It actually feels more like a true ‘go anywhere, do anything’ title than any other sandbox game. You could spend your run attempting to use the myriad of new weapons, seeking out the survivors or just sticking to the main plot – it’s entirely up to you and the game will constantly put a smile on your face with the sheer lunacy of the design. From the hilarity of the electric wheelchair to the sight of a fat virgin in dominatrix gear, you definitely won’t forget your short stay in Fortune City.

What is there left to say about Dead Rising 2? If you didn’t like the first game, you won’t like this one either. However, the many fans will be more than satisfied by the improvements, no matter how small and subtle they are. Were the four years worth the wait? Absolutely. No doubt about it, Dead Rising 2 is the ultimate zombie game.

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Zombieland Review

Horror-comedies are the hardest films to get right. You can either rely on the comedy to get you through the first two acts (Shaun of the Dead) or you can go too far down the horror route and just have the occasional gag (Severance). Well, take heed, because this is one film that manages to achieve that golden statue and have horror and comedy taking place in the same scene at the same time.

A few weeks have passed since the first zombie bit his first victim and now the entire world has turned in a nightmare hellscape – lucky for survivor Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg on top form). Columbus was a loner before the zombie outbreak, and now he’s just as happy as always – only now he’s got a fantastic set of survival rules to which he’s planning on keeping. Heading out to find his parents, Columbus meets up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson with the dial set to eleven), a man with an almost insane hatred of zombies and a love of carnage. On the long, deserted road towards home, the two encounter devious and likeable female con artists Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin), both of whom are on their own journey to Pacific Playground in Los Angeles. Along the way, they murder zombies, hang out with the superb Bill Murray and attempt to enjoy the little things that remain open to them in the new world.

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It’s a rare film indeed that can bring out deep, hearty belly laughs as you watch the world being destroyed. Normally something only achieved by Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay, the names of director Ruben Fleischer and writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese can now be added to this prestigious list. Within the opening ten minutes the number of inventive ways to show an apocalypse has hit an all-time high, while the huge array of loud, hard laughs on offer may see you struggling to breathe amid all the genuinely horrific violence.

The film’s real strength is the completely believable and totally loveable characters. The smart decision to focus on only four survivors leaves the writers with an incredible amount of depth to play with – hard man Tallahassee hides a disarming secret while the possibly virginal Columbus manages the impossible task of never once being an irritating Warcraft-playing nerd. Wichita and Little Rock even come across as likeable, despite every opportunity for the characters to be annoying – almost a miracle considering that Little Rock is a young girl in a horror movie. Massive props, too, to Bill Murray, whose short time on screen easily counts towards being one of the best roles of the year, if not the greatest cameo in horror history.

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In short, this manages the impossible. Horror fans, zombie fans, comedy fans and even romance fans will all find something to like here. Absolutely, hands down, the funniest, most gruesome and jaw-dropping film of the year so far. Nut up or shut up – this must be seen.

5 stars

Left 4 Dead

From the creators of Half-Life, CounterStrike, Portal and Team Fortress comes a first-person running zombie survive-‘em-up with what Valve claims has unlimited replayability.

The secret is the Director, an AI program that identifies how well you’re doing, the amount of ammo you have and the number of health kits you carry. The result is that zombie carnage can be unleashed upon you at any one time at any place, depending on how you’re playing.

The game boils down to just this: you pick a character from the four available (old guy, grumpy guy, black guy and girl), you load a map (city, woods, airport, fields) and you run from A to B. That’s all. But you need to make sure that your team mates are less than six feet away from you at all times because the many various ‘boss’ zombies like to interfere with the run as much as possible. There’s the frustrating Boomer that showers the team in zombie-attracting bile, the irritating Smoker that grabs one player and pulls them far away, the aggravating Hunter that jumps and mauls one person, the bitchy Witch that punishes people for not looking around in the shadows and the utterly annoying Tank that strolls in and tears shit up. You can guarantee that you’ll never be more than five minutes away from getting screwed over by a game that doesn’t like to be beaten.

And that’s only half of the problem. Valve have designed Left 4 Dead as a four-player co-op game, forcing you to rely on your living team mates to get through the levels. To cut a long rant relatively short, you can’t play the game without taking it on Xbox Live and playing with three other humans. You can play it in two-player split-screen (but not four – a bizarre choice considering the numbers), but your AI assistants become liabilities when you realise that you can’t give any commands at all.

Playing in single-player is even worse. You can only play it on easy or normal difficulties, as any attempt to play on hard or expert will result in the AI survivors turning into giggling retards by the final part of the level, becoming unwilling to do something as simple as follow you, choosing instead to run away and get killed so the others will run out to save them and get killed, thus screwing you over completely because you can’t win this game by yourself.

As previously stated, the only way to play this game properly is to take it online, but even then, the only way to get a proper go out of Left 4 Dead is to play on the incredibly unfun expert difficulty, because it’s the only place where the game is taken seriously by players who won’t run on ahead. Just like the movies it tries to replicate, relying on other people only leads to humanity’s downfall.

The levels themselves are a mixed batch, with only a handful standing out as memorable or interesting. The four scenarios – amusingly presented as movies – only have two settings: inside a city or outside one, with each scenario containing five maps, the final mission seeing you fight off the zombies while waiting for rescue. And once you’re rescued that’s it – the game ends and you pick a new level and start again. No closure, no reward, nothing to unlock or earn. Everything is open at the start and no scenario is any harder than the next. Replayable? Not really.

The idea behind the zombies is actually really good: they are attracted to sound. So such things as car alarms, activating lifts in deserted buildings, opening creaky shutters and metal detectors will send a horde of screaming zombies to tear off your face. However, the dynamic fails to hold up under close interrogation, because zombies will swarm because of a fuel gauge being turned on, but not a plane crashing. They’ll swarm because a Boomer vomits on you, but not because a petrol station explodes. Zombies swarm because a man three miles down river is on his way to you by boat, but not because you’ve detonated an explosive canister.

And another problem with the zombies is that they’re not scary in the slightest. Do anything to activate the swarm and you’ll get huge white text hampering your view and warning you that in a few moments you will be scared. Even the Director’s random swarms have a bugle cry several seconds before the attack, to give you enough time to prepare.

Of course, ‘preparing’ means simply backing into a corner and firing straight ahead. The zombies aren’t smart enough like, say, Resident Evil 5’s Majini, to attack in other way than by running in a group and making themselves ridiculously easy targets. Also, the Director can be fooled fairly easily, simply by getting hurt very early on and not taking any health kits.

The weapons are a disappointing bunch given that Valve created both the Gravity and Portal gun. You have a pistol (can be upgraded to two), a submachine gun, shotgun, assault rifle, assault shotgun and the utterly pointless long-distance hunting rifle.

There are other modes included on Left 4 Dead, notably the co-op (it’s always co-op, say goodbye to having fun on your own) head-to-head humans versus zombies game, but even that is flawed by the difficulty the game is played on, as one shot kills zombies on easier modes and survivors hit the ground like twelve-year-olds at a Jonas Brothers concert on harder modes.

All in all, it’s a valiant attempt to make a horror FPS, but is flawed by the same old problem: FPSes are not scary and never will be because you’ll always outgun those that outnumber. Worth playing a few times in split-screen with a mate, but nothing more – hugely disappointing. As for the unlimited replayability, maybe more time could have gone into designing levels or better partner AI instead of an AI program that makes the game a chore to play.

70%

And so there you have it! According to this one guy on the Internet, Dead Rising is a better zombie horror that Left 4 Dead. Thanks for reading. What’s in store for next week?

With so many zombie horror games about these days, I thought it would be a good idea to take two of the biggest – both exclusives to the 360 – and pit them against each other in a vicious fight to the death. Zombie death. Brains!

Dead Rising

Going to the mall can be hell. A zombie apocalypse can be hell. Combine the two and you have… fantastically fun survival-horror comedy gold.

The objective of the game is simple: you are photojournalist Frank West – he’s covered wars, you know – with three days (six real-time hours) to kill in the mall before your helicopter comes and picks you up. What this leads to is a furiously over-the-top race against time as you rush across the huge arena trying to get all the missions, side quests and fun things done before the game ends.

It’s an incredibly intricate game that rewards multiple playthroughs. Adding to the replayability is the excellent RPG-type stat boosting that allows you to go back into the mall with a much tougher Frank. At the beginning, Frank will be lucky to run from one end of a plaza to another without suffering nigh-mortal wounds. By the time he’s completely maxed out, zombies are little more than an annoyance – heads are kicked off, guts torn out, faces stomped, bodies thrown and zombies generally wiped out before they can groan at you. The major problem with this is that by the time you’re good enough to earn huge amounts of EXP (or ‘PP’ as it’s known here), you don’t need it. Maybe a few more levels above fifty would have been a good idea?

The game’s excellent running time makes it perfect for both casual bursts and long stints, with the game falling neatly into both categories, while only really allowing the truly dedicated to uncover the mystery and escape the mall with all the survivors. The genius of this is that the game can be played in any number of ways – missions, survivors or both – it’s totally your choice.

Throughout the three days, Frank is kept on a pretty tight leash thanks to a fairly irritating character who constantly rings him up to inform him of other survivors that have been spotted across the mall. From that moment on, it’s another race against the clock to find them and bring them back to safety before the zombies eat them. It’s a great idea that works in theory, but is fatally flawed in execution because of one simple fact: the AI in this game is atrocious.

All the NPC survivors (you can escort up to eight at once) have a unique personality, from running on ahead to trying to murder everything to – annoyingly – crawling on hands and knees, but they all share the same problems. The pathfinding in Dead Rising is among the worst in videogame history. Any item of any height – be it an ankle-high plant pot or a wall – becomes a serious obstacle for the NPCs and instead of trying to find another route, they will instead keep blindly running straight into it, unable to figure out what is stopping them from getting to where they need to go.

Another problem is that the final hours of the game (one hour in real-time) is incredibly boring. Whether or not you’ve completed the main missions, there is absolutely nothing to do – it’s even worse if you have because all the obstacles in the game are literally removed for the last fifteen minutes, leading to a really pointless spot of clock-watching. A further point of contention is the terrible handling of all the game’s vehicles. All six of them have the feel of being completely bolted on in the final hours of development, with little thought being done to implement them in a clever way.

However, when Dead Rising is good, it’s very good. One minute you’re dodging zombies and carrying a limping woman across a huge park whilst armed convicts drive past and try to kill you, the next you’re shooting at a deranged chainsaw-juggling clown for the right to switch off a children’s ride.

All in all, this is a truly excellent game with an incredible amount of thought gone into the development, and it shows. With perhaps a few more tweaks, this could have beaten the mighty Resident Evil to the King of the Zombies crown. Worthy of carrying a franchise on its own, this is one shopping trip from hell not to be missed.

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