Therein lies the rub. When you’re doing the purported emphasis of the game – basically, dealing with hordes of zombies in a mall – the game is a heck of a lot of fun. If you, like me, really want to try to follow the main storyline and “solve” the mystery of the zombies, it quickly becomes what we in the game review industry call “Not Fun”.
First, though, let’s cover the basics.
You play a freelance photographer. You’ve gotten a hint about mysterious goings-on in a town in Colorado. Hiring a daring chopper pilot, you fly into the town. And it’s a good thing he’s both daring and a chopper pilot – as all the roads in and out of the town are blocked by the Army, and you’re soon confronted by helicopter gunships after getting a chance to take some possibly horrific photographs.
You see, the town’s been overrun by zombies.
After arriving at the mall, and an encounter with a mysterious man, you end up meeting with some gathered survivors. They quickly become non-survivors (in one of those oh-so-predictable ways to anyone who has even understood the concept of a zombie movie) and you escape, having met a mysterious old man, and hook up with two mysterious DHS agents.
Mysterious is the name of the game!
You’re looking to do a few things over the course of the game. Most of the these involve running around the mall (and, occasionally, outside of it) and dealing with the zombies. You’ll want to take photographs of what’s going on – after all, you are a photographer. Getting good photos will help you level up and gain new abilities, as does killing zombies and finishing missions. Occasionally you also have to deal with human psychos such as convicts. Otis, the friendly janitor, will give you pointers as to where there are survivors hiding, or needed supplies. There are also a series of storyline missions, time dependent (as your helicopter will be arriving again in 72 hours), that you can follow – fail to succeed at one, or simply not be around at the right time, and the rest are closed off.
And there’s part of the frustration. If you want to do the storyline missions, you need to do them at the right time – which means missing out on other missions. On the other hand, some of the most powerful weapons are gained by doing the other missions, which makes it harder to finish the storyline missions if you missed them, or simply don’t know which ones to do.
Many of the human enemies will have firearms, and that also makes the game frustrating. Getting shot or hit by a jeep will knock you down – and often the enemy will follow that up by doing it again, and again, and again. That’ll quickly send you to your save point…
…which may be hours back. You see, there are only a couple of places you can save the game, which means if you die, you’ll be spending a lot of time retracing your steps.
There’s the bad.
The good is – boy, this game is fun when you’re dealing with zombies.
Got a sickle? Catch the zombie by the neck, kick his chest and off pops his head. Got a shotgun? Lay down a swath of fire against them. Got a novelty mask? Pop it over their head and beat them down. Some abilities will help you, too – such as the fun jump kick.
Heck, stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs and watch them tumble down after you!
The camera does a pretty good job of staying on track. Weapons don’t last long, which means you’ll be swapping them up regularly. They also respawn whenever you leave and re-enter an area, meaning you can keep grabbing that katana on a regular basis.
The story is – well – cheesy. But it’s a zombie game based off zombie movies, and they’ve never quite been considered the epitome of drama and intrigue. The graphics are good, and there are more than a few laugh out loud parts (at least, there were for me).
So is the game worth it?
Reluctantly, I have to say yes, and here’s why it’s reluctant: the core of the game is VERY fun. The mission system is rather broke (oh, and did I mention that when answering the radio from Otis, you can’t do ANYTHING else but move? Yeah, it sucks.). The save system could definitely be much better.
But when the game is good, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. And there sure isn’t anything better than killing zombies. Just remember that you may have to play the game all the way through a couple of times (you can only have one game running at a time as saved games) in order to get the “whole” story.