This game was played on the Xbox 360
All Zombies Must Die is an odd case of modern game design-tropes working to a game’s detriment. The oft-celebrated model of fusing RPG-structure with action-gameplay is spread a little too thick here, hurting what is an otherwise solid title.
As with most zombie-related titles nowadays, AZMD is very tongue-in-cheek about its story. This is something I’m often skeptical of, as certain games seem to use it only to escape the effort of a serious narrative. Luckily, the plot, which sees four comedy characters assemble to survive an unexplained zombie apocalypse, doles out sincere chuckles on a consistent basis. Specifically, the sub-plot involving the main characters’ conviction that he is in a videogame provides good laughs. Throw in some strong pop-culture references and you have a one of the funniest games to come along in a while.
As for the gameplay, anyone familiar with dual-stick shooters will quickly be at home with the controls – Top-down perspective, left stick to move, right stick to aim. Zombies will home in on you and you’ll navigate around them, lining up shots and collecting pickups. Where the game differs from the basic formula is mainly in structure. Instead of a linear series of levels, the game is set in a mostly open world segregated into arena-like zones. To progress, you’ll complete a series of standard kill/fetch-quests, upgrading your stats and crafting new weapons on the way.
For a while, this spattering of RPG design has the desired effect; the carrot-on-a-stick of new weapons and better murdering-capabilities will motivate you to continue, making what is in reality well-trodden gameplay ground sparkle with new life. But it’s only after a few hours that fatigue kicks in: When running through the same 8 arenas, carrying out what is only a slight variation on an objective you’ll have done 15 times beforehand, the appeal starts to wither. It becomes a grind.
It’s a shame, because the moment-to-moment gameplay in AZMD is actually rather good: There’s a great, tactile feel to mowing down the zombie hordes, much thanks to some nifty and suitably cartoony animation. The weapons are all distinct enough in function and feel to warrant changing your inventory regularly. There’s a cool mechanic of zombies being affected by elements like fire, electricity or radiation, each with different effects, which also transfers to the crafting system, where you can modify weapons to apply those effects when fired.
The problem arises when this solid yet quite by-the-numbers gameplay is tasked with supporting the RPG-like structure. There’s simply not enough substance to it for it stay meaningful in the face of the six-hour series of treks through the same few environments the game has you endure. Playing the game in four-player co-op mode (local multiplayer only) or in shorter bursts remedies this problem somewhat, but still does not remove it outright: AZMD is simply too repetitive.
All Zombies Must Die asks too much of the basic dual-stick shooter formula and suffers for it, but it’s still a well-crafted game that will please fans of its genre. Play it in Co-op and pay attention to the jokes for maximum enjoyment.
- Good feel and some depth to the gameplay
- Charming presentation
- Becomes far too monotonous
- Occasional glitches
3 out of 5