Developer: Big Rook Games
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Mode: Local or Online (2-4 players)
Price: 80 MS Points ($1)
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: Yes
Amongst all of the Xbox Live Indie Game offerings, a fair amount of them play off some form of slaying zombies/aliens/monsters in a co-operative fashion. While they do have some degree of co-operative gameplay involved, Undead Empire is one of the first offerings I’ve played where the co-op aspect is readily apparent from just the character selection screen.
Each of the six playable characters, which pretty much cover the spectrum of zomb-ocalypse survivors of nurses/policemen/military personnel/businessmen, bring a special group ability with them, such as everyone doing more damage, or being able to heal party members. This diverse cast of characters means that putting a party together for some good ole undead horror massacring is something of a strategic negotiation. Do you go with more overall health and higher damage over a healer or more cash? There are plenty of combinations to consider and while each wave of enemies is fairly set, the way you approach them with your choice of characters will allow for some re-playability and fun co-op moments.
Once your party’s been set, which can be done as either a local or online group, the actual slaying of zombies comes down a few twin-stick shooter standards; specifically, using one stick to move, another to aim, and the trigger to fire your weapon of choice. You also have a limited supply of grenades to lob at the swarms to help thin them out, though you do restock one at the start of each round so you’ll always have at least one to use when most needed. You start off with an unlimited ammo pistol but can add to your arsenal of weapons in between the waves of foes at your local friendly neighborhood creepy weapons dealer that will gladly accept the piles of cash that are randomly dropped. Additionally, the dealer will restock ammo or upgrade your weapons so you fire quicker or deal more damage. Finally, you can also purchase turrets from the dealer that will help provide an additional gun on the battlefield.
Choose from one of the six characters, each with his or her own group bonus that will help your party last a little longer
Play through the story campaign and you can try your luck at the game’s survival mode. Essentially, you’re given an upgraded weapon with unlimited ammo before having every enemy in the game thrown at you non-stop. This can also be played co-operatively and adds a nice challenge/change of pace from the campaign mode once you’ve cleared it. Despite all this, the game isn’t without its flaws. While graphics aren’t an aspect of a game I particularly care about, in this case the sprites that are used for the characters can get a little lost amidst all of the background/zombie hordes, making it difficult sometimes to know exactly where you are and what’s going on. This becomes especially true when you start getting further away from your co-op partners and the screen zooms out so everyone can see. Finally, the online portion of the game currently has some issues with connectivity and slow down, though Big Rook is aware of this and has already submitted a patch that is pending approval.
Update: Thanks to LadySwans for pointing this out. If your partner dies, they do have a chance at revival in between rounds provided they have the cash to buy a health pack from the store.
Undead Empire could easily be overlooked as just another co-op twin-stick shooter with zombies amidst all the other entries, but it shouldn’t be. It isn’t perfect, but it definitely does a lot of things right and actually left me reminiscing about another great co-op shooter with cash and prizes…
Undead Empire is Geared Towards: Gamers that can never kill enough zombies with a friend and also may enjoy big money and big prizes
The Co-Op Experience: Each player chooses from one of six playable characters, each of which brings his or her own special abilities to the group as a whole; slay zombies, earn money, and purchase upgrades as you fight off wave after wave of the shambling undead