October 31, 2011

Review – Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 11:29 pm

Review Zombie Apocalypse Never Die Alone
Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone is the tale of four annoying wankers who join forces to survive the eponymous apocalypse in yet another entry into the top-down horde-blaster genre.

The core concept of the title is simple, and in the end, the core concept is really all there is to it. Mow zombies, keep moving. There’s little nuance and little window dressing, and the title makes no effort to disguise this fact.

The hokey, tongue-in-cheek story features the grown-up equivalent of a 13-year old Call of Duty player, Ned Flanders with a shotgun, the obligatory angry rapper and doubly obligatory hot girl, all making bad jokes as they stroll through the blackened streets of an anonymous city and paste zombies.

Review Zombie Apocalypse Never Die Alone
Each character has a pair of unique tools; a throwable (such as a Molotov or a zombie-baiting boombox), and a special “Pwnage” ability that can be activated when the appropriate meter is full. If there’s anything akin to strategy in this game, that’s where you’ll find it: there’s a degree of interplay between the abilities that can be taken advantage of by intelligent players, but by and large the core tactic here is simply to deploy abilities at the right time.

The characters also have unique melee weapons, though to be honest I could discern no gameplay difference between them, nor any particular usefulness for them.

More interestingly, characters have a number of stats that level up as they’re used—though new levels must be bought after being unlocked. Strangely, character progression (and also story progression) does not carry over between modes; if you level up a character in single-player, you’ll have to do it all over again in multi-player.

Equally, if you are not the host of the multi-player game, don’t expect to be afforded your upgraded characters or story progress. This is made slightly more frustrating by the fact that the only way to guarantee that you’re the host of a game is to invite your friends. If you choose matchmaking, the option to host a game will only appear if no other suitable games are found. The inevitable result is that you’re pretty unlikely to play a game on a map of your choice, lest you select single-player.

Review Zombie Apocalypse Never Die Alone
On the plus side, single-player play (as well as the two-player local co-op and any online game with less than four players) affords you the opportunity to switch between characters on the fly. This is essential, as the AI will simply refuse to use special abilities (or even shoot with reasonable frequency). Playing wither fewer than four players noticeably increases difficulty, and demands more active management of squad powers.

Still, online co-op remains the optimal way to play the game, and despite my assorted criticisms, Never Die Alone is fairly un-terrible. The title carries itself on frantic, four player action, and though four player co-op will lock players into their character choice, it dramatically increases gameplay speed and excitement.

There are—at maximum—three hours of playtime in the campaign, short even for a download title, but levels remain entertaining on subsequent playthroughs by virtue of the simplicity of the core gameplay. That said, with the character progression being largely unnoticeable, there won’t be much incentive to replay, except for those who wish to grind out the games various optional objectives.

Review Zombie Apocalypse Never Die Alone
I found myself comparing NDA to Dead Nation, Housemarque’s own entry into the crowded zombie market. Another top-down shooter, its gameplay goals were decidedly different (providing a slower and more nuanced game), but ultimately it proved to be a more well-rounded and exciting experience. Though both titles are characterized by some similar weaknesses, Dead Nation remains the superior choice—and though Zombie Apocalypse is a fair title in its own right, it’s difficult to recommend while Dead Nation is available (to PS3 owners, anyway).

That said, players searching specifically for a four player download title could do worse.

Backbone Entertainment


Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation 3 (PSN) (XBLA Reviewed)

Singleplayer, Local and Online Co-op

Release Date
October 25, 2011

$9.99, 800 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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