|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Nihilistic Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 23, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Playing off the phenomenal success of Valve's Left 4 Dead, Nihilistic and Konami created a multiplayer shmup that's wholly reminiscent of that title. While the level of complexity and intensity can't come close to what's on offer in Valve's offering, Zombie Apocalypse is an arcade gem that will garner a loyal fan following. That being said, the game is woefully repetitive - the tedium that enters after an hour or so ends up tainting the overall experience. Still, the solid graphics, precise controls and feel, varied enemies and weapons, and co-op component make this game a keeper in spite of its shortcomings.
Like a multitude of other arcade shmups currently available, the game is presented from a third-person, isometric perspective, and you control your selected survivor by running around with the left stick and unleashing gunfire with the right stick. Unlike some other arcade shmups out there, Zombie Apocalypse controls very precisely. Whether your executing devil-spawn with your chainsaw, unleashing a wall of lead from a mini-gun, or shaking off clinging zombies, the game just feels right.
Gameplay in Zombie Apocalypse consists of accruing high scores by wading through wave after shambling wave of brain-hungry zombies. Whether playing alone or with up to three other friends, players will accrue points by stringing kills together, saving uninfected survivors, and killing in style. If you take out enough of the rotting corpses, you'll eventually pass to the next level, or day, as is the case in Zombie Apocalypse. Each day presents slightly different challenges such as throwing an unusual amount of zombies at you or having you save lots of uninfected. Regardless of what you have to deal with, killing your way to the next day with the most points possible is the only strategy you'll have to worry about. This game is all about getting high scores, and there are several ways to boost your point tally.
Points are awarded for individual kills. Some zombie types (more on that later) are worth more than others, as they are more of a challenge to put down. If you string five kills together, you'll add one point to your point multiplier. Get this multiplier up to high double digits and you'll be racking up major points for every kill regardless of zombie type. If you'd like to get that multiplier up even quicker, you can perform an execution kill with your chainsaw by isolating a zombie and holding down on the left trigger. Every zombie that you kill in this way will award you with three points to the multiplier tally. While this is super rewarding, it is also quite risky, because letting zombies get that close to you leaves you vulnerable - I can't tell you how many time I bit the dust because of greed. Worst of all, if you die, your multiplier goes back down to zero.
In order to further mix things up, Zombie Apocalypse puts a big emphasis on using the environment around you. Sure, shooting through dead meat walls will give you points, but blasting a zombie into a jet turbine, a helo's rotor, a scrap metal thresher, or simply igniting explosive barrels at just the right moment is stylish. As such, you'll be awarded big points for using the environment to your advantage. Also, keeping uninfected survivors alive long enough so that a chopper can come and rescue them will give you big points. Successfully doing so will give a C4-loaded teddy bear known as Teddy Bear Bait. Throwing these explosive bears will give you a bit of breathing room, as zombies will flock to the little, pink, Teddy Ruxpin-like toy, eventually ending in a gore-strewn splat. If you can hold on to bears, using them very judiciously, each new bear that is dropped will give you a 100,000 point bonus. What's more, if you managed to not get grabbed by zombies, or if you never died that day, you'll be awarded with even more nice bonuses. Putting all these point-accruing techniques together and getting your name up on the leaderboard is definitely the game's biggest attraction.
At the end of each day you'll be treated to the results screen. The results screen keeps track of your zombie-killing prowess by measuring stats such as total kills, hazard kills, limbs removed, rescues, and bonuses. In this way, it is very easy to see which player is top dog, giving the game some competitive pop in addition to its cooperative bent. While the game is fun and challenging alone, playing with friends on the couch or online is where the title truly shines. Playing with other humans keeps things fresh, longer. If you try to marathon your way through the game alone, you'll likely get burnt out.
I really enjoyed the variety of weaponry in Zombie Apocalypse. As you advance through the game, new armament drops, which last only temporarily, become available to you. Rather than just sticking to the standard assault rifle, Zombie Apocalypse will give players a bunch of death-dealing toys with which to play. From grenade launchers to shotguns and flamethrowers, there are a lot of ways to make the walking dead even more dead. All of these weapons control uniquely, giving the game a bit more character.