Chaos, thy name be All Zombies Must Die
Zombie, Zombie, Zombie. There are so many zombie games out there I suspect someone to open up a shop called “Just Zombies”. The download market has already seen a few notable attempts at the genre; Dead Nation, Zombie Apocalypse 1 and 2, and less successfully, Burn Zombie Burn. It would appear that all your over the top 4 player co-op zombie killing needs are catered for already, but Doublesix believe differently and that All Zombies Must Die! (AZMD) delivers something a little different. But is the game Dead On Arrival? The fact that AZMD is a spiritual successor to the poorest Zombie game, Burn Zombie Burn, may be some indication.
There are so many elements of AZMD that are caught between two camps; cutesy or horrific, action or RPG, funny or not. In terms of graphics Doublesix have gone down the Burn Zombie Burn route of overly large character builds and zombies that could have come from Plants vs. Zombies. This is a reasonable choice, perhaps they planned to encourage younger gamers into the zombie genre? However, the amount of destruction and zombie death in the game means that this is still a mature title. A mature game with a juvenile color palette.
The second confusing element is whether the game is a RPG or a twin stick shooter. The core gameplay is the same as any other zombie killing download game; left stick move, right stick shoot. However, AZMD has a unique selling point with its RPG elements that add depth. Over time you gain experience to improve your characters and upgrade their weaponry. There is a story and relationship between the various allies, meaning there is more reason to complete the game than simply 50 arcade levels.
As refreshing as it is to see added depth in an arcade game, the story elements are also one of the biggest bugbear with AZMD. The game is set in a city which is essentially several maps connected together by a central hub. The story has you backtracking around these maps in an endless loop, looking for a lighter or mobile phone. Not the most exciting use of your time. Throw in some cheesy writing that continually breaks the 4th wall and the game can soon prove tiresome.
Oh great, the screen is tinged red AGAIN
AZMD has its faults, but like most games, a bit of co-op should paper over the cracks. Unfortunately, for AZMD for every issue the co-op hides, another problem rises in its place. Firstly, the game is local co-op only. This is great for when 4 people are around your house, but seeing as the similar Zombie Apocalypse provides both online and offline 4 player co-op, I think this is now the minimum in the genre.
Even if you do get people to play AZMD it does not take long to realise there are many better co-op experience you could be sharing. 4 players on screen at once can be chaotic in most games, but a screen containing 30 zombies, 4 players and 3D buildings is a nightmare. It was far too easy to lose your character in the melee. The lack of split screen means that players have to stay in the same area as one another, we often ended up running in opposite directions trying to escape, only to bump into an invisible wall.
One co-op element that is welcome is the ability to revive your friends when they are dead. You must stand next to their grave stone and take a battering as you hold down A to revive. On their resurrection a smart bomb is released, killing all the nearby zombies; this became one of our main tactics in the game - we used each other’s deaths to an advantage. Unfortunately, the screen starts to grow red when one player is near death. This becomes a real drag, as the chaotic gameplay conspires so that at least one of you is always near death – basically the game is tinged red during most combat situations.
Another confusing element when playing co-op is finding the objectives. You can switch on radar that sits on top of the action pointing to various places. This is disconcerting when playing on your own, but as a foursome it is yet more screen clutter to annoy.
All Zombie Must Die is a game that fails to entertain consistently and is too chaotic for the co-op to really be appreciated. Doublesix should be praised for trying to add depth with a story and RPG elements, but they should also be criticised for the offline only co-op, strange graphical choices and cluttered display. In the well-populated world of twin stick shooters, AZMD fails to stand out.
Editor's Note: The Co-Optimus Co-Op Review of All Zombies Must Die was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.