Zombie Apocalypse Micro-Review: Paint the Town Red

Nonstop carnage is on the menu in Konami's Zombie Apocalypse, which brings games' undying affinity for the undead to a top-down, multidirectional shooter. Does it also hold the same appeal when it's one - or four - against a thousand?

Loved
Senseless Slaughter: Who wouldn't want to go up against an undead horde with unlimited ammo? No matter how bad it gets, you may still battle this game from that expectation - shooting the limbs off a staggering, growling mob that obligingly stands there and takes it. As a top-down shooter, you run around firing Robotron-style with your right analog. It's like putting out a fire, really. Zombie Apocalypse quickly ramps up the difficulty by throwing different zombie classes at you whose behavior make your task a little less straightforward. You'll definitely come to hate the mewling dodgers, those fat-ass construction men, who pancake you with no chance to break free, and those pragnent zombie ladies shitting out fruit-fly spawn that can rip out your spine. Let me reserve a special word of hate for the crazed, dynamite-carrying kamikazes. Still, no matter what you're facing, when you think about Zombie Apocalypse there's always a nagging thought you can do better the next time.

Hated
Singleminded Singleplayer: This is a game built for multiplayer and if you play it primarily for that reason, it'll be a satisfying and even delightful experience. But if you bought it and have no one to play with - or, as I found, have repeated matchmaking problems - it will grow very old and repetitive after the first time you confront the Flesh Pile, which I think is around day 30. (The Flesh Pile is giant bleeding placenta-looking thing that shoots death rays and barfs out zombies.) You only get four different boards to play, and when that variety runs out, then you can play them in blackout mode, and when that variety runs out, then the normal zombies you face become superpowered nukeular zombies, and you progress through their ranks much as you did during your first tour of the undead. It's very repetitive if you're going it alone. The good news is you have unlimited continues. But Day 54 is just utterly interminable (you'll need to kill more than 1,500 zombies, proceeding through waves of every single type, and then their atomic flavors) and for the conclusion it provides, Day 55 is a total waste of time if you're fighting the final Flesh Pile alone.

Weapons Balance: It's bad when you avoid some specialty weapons because your base weapon, the assault rifle, is more effective. The rocket launcher and the sniper rifle had poor areas of affect, considering what you were dealing with, and atrocious rates of fire. The molotovs weren't much better. The grenade launcher was surprisingly effective, mostly because of an amped-up rate of fire, even if the grenades had a delayed burst effect. By far the best weapon is the flamethrower - which is even better than the gatling gun. But every time you're praying for one to drop you always get the goddamn sniper, or maybe the dual wield submachine guns if you're less unlucky. You only get one grenade attack per board - which can be replaced if you rescue a civilian. But deploying it, a teddy bear strapped with explosives, is grating to the extreme because of the conspicuous, Barney-parody dialogue ("I'm stuffed with love! - and C4 ...") it insists on reciting every time it's on the ground. Finally, Zombie Apocalypse bragged about its environmental kills, but I found them to be more cosmetic than useful. Zombies won't stagger or shamble into the woodchipper, you have to shove them there with gunfire, which is more trouble than it is worth. Even the exploding barrels are too sparse to really help you in your job as an undead pest control technician.

Zombie Apocalypse absolutely delivers in the carnage apartment department (Jesus, Owen ...) but I would have loved to see the environment more involved. Alone against the amoeba-like horde, I tried to use the board's obstacles to funnel the undead into killzones. But really any plan to use the environment to your advantage is going to break down after three seconds of standing in the same place. You just need to shoot everything and run, and in most cases that won't be enough without backup. Definitely fun when you're playing with more than one. Alone, it's not worth it after about 20 levels.

Zombie Apocalypse was developed by Nihilistic Software and published by Konami for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Available on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 points and PlayStation Network for $9.99. The game was provided to Kotaku for reviewing purposes. Played all game types in singleplayer, completing the 55-day campaign, and tested multiplayer mode.

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