I still had a massive itch to kill zombies when I finished Dead Nation earlier this year. I already owned Burn Zombie Burn and tried playing it again, but it just didn’t quite do the trick. Browsing the Playstation Store, I came across Zombie Apocalypse, a little twin-stick shooter that was published in 2009. I was impressed with the demo, so I bought the game. However, with the deeper gameplay of Dead Nation, I didn’t progress very far in Zombie Apocalypse.
Zombie Apocalypse 2: Never Die Alone was released this Fall, and for some reason my curiosity was piqued. I think it was the driving question of “what made them decide to release a sequel to a flat game?” Well, I am happy to say, they learned at least SOMETHING from similar games, and made a much more fleshed out interpretation of what a proper story should be. I’ll start out by saying I did not get to play online, as everyone is currently playing Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, and Uncharted 3, so I never could find a game even after looking online multiple times.
The game is designed to be a multiplayer experience and the single player suffers because of it. You have four characters, each with their own back-story and unique skills that they bring to the table. Unfortuntately, the back-stories are played out via static images and narration in the beginning, and are anything but deep.
Jeremy is a mouthy gamer who speaks with slang terms like n00b, “gg”, and the like. If this game took itself seriously, this would be a serious problem from the get-go, but I found it mildly entertaining. He has an SMG, the dreaded C4 Teddy Bear, and a quad damage perk. Father Bill is a preacher/religious figure armed with a shotgun, Molotovs, and a healing perk. Alma is the group’s sniper who can throw (and detonate) a propane tank into a crowd of zombies, and has an awesome gun turret perk. Last but definitely not least, Def Money has dual pistols, an awesome boom box that makes zombies dance, and a perk that allows you to imperviously rush up with your cricket bat and take zombies out in one hit.
The wide range of options is great for single player, as I shuffled through them clumsily to take advantage of everyone’s equipment. But I couldn’t imagine being stuck as one character through my playing time with a group. As characters, none of them are enjoyable to play for a long period of time. But you have to use the characters and their various abilities in order to level them up (another new and welcome feature to the sequel). As you progress through the story, your hard-earned cash can be spent to level up five different attributes: Speed, ranged weapons, melee, their zombie bait (C4 Teddy Bear, for example), and their ability. This may require you to replay some levels as different characters in order to progress, as I had to do.
The story is brief and, if you choose to replay a level, you can’t skip the cut scenes. Your characters are trying to make it to Def Money’s yacht, but they have a few pit stops and problems along the way. New variations of zombies, and bosses will also make appearances to keep things from keeping too monotonous. Each of the ten chapters have five different objectives such as “finish in under 5:00 minutes” or “get x amount of environmental kills”; coupled with leveling up your characters, I really enjoyed going back and trying to complete different objectives. It adds a certain replayability [plus that trophy for maxing out all characters, but I digress] if you feel the need to slaughter more zombies.
My biggest problem with playing the single-player was how clunky the UI seemed. Switching characters is mapped to the L1 and R1 buttons but, to me, it seems like it would have been much easier to map them to the D-pad and have everyone’s info laid out on the screen accordingly. Rather than tapping a button twice and hoping it’ll land on who you want to control, you could tap up on the pad and have someone selected. Most of the time I died was because I was wresetling with character selection.
While the difficulty seemed rough in the beginning, even after backtracking and leveling up some more, I breezed through the rest of the game once I learned how to work each characters’ strength.
While the cast annoyed me pretty much the entire time, I did find myself laughing a few times, most notably at the South Park reference when a zombie moaned “chaaaanggee”. The balance between the character abilities and weapons are really the best thing about Zombie Apocalypse 2, and once you learn to use them all efficiently, the game works more in your favor.
After completing the campaign, you unlock Survival mode; both offline and online. There are two variations, Classic and Blackout; Classic is much like the first Zombie Apocalypse game, and Blackout is exactly like Classic only a LOT darker. You face off against waves of zombies, collect cash, and wait for the end of the night. Each wave turns out more zombies, and eventually they start to throw boss zombies at you. When you finally kick the bucket, you’ll expect to be rewarded with the money you collected, but nooooo. Instead, you are greeted with a “Game Over” screen. That’s it. So, outside of simply wanting to play Survival mode or getting a few trophies, there really isn’t much of an incentive to continue playing.
For $9.99, Zombie Apocalypse 2: Never Die Alone is a good fix if you need a new twin-stick shooter to play. While there are better examples on the PSN or XBLA, the strategy ZA2 brings to the table makes it worth playing if it is a genre you enjoy. The story can be annoying whether or not you decide to take it seriously. Don’t expect to find random games online, either, as (at least on the PSN), it’s like wandering through a town hit with the plague itself.
- twin-stick, arcade action
- diverse characters to play
- annoying character dialogue
- short campaign
- clunky UI