A game nearly as dead as the zombies themselves...
+ Zombies, zombies and more zombies!
+ Melon shots!
- Horrible A.I.
- Graphics are way below what the XBox is capable of
- Weapon actions seem bogged down
- Not enough variety in zombie models
- Shoddy hit detection
Oddly enough, this is my first review on a zombie game since opening enterthezombiegod.com. I was under the assumption that if my first game review on the site was a zombie game, no one would continue to check out the site. Now, on my fourth week in reviews, I'm going to post a zombie game review. This week we're going to spotlight George A. Romero's Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green. Needless to say, this game has been met with a VERY mixed reaction . George Romero is the reason that zombies are still around today in movie form. It's very sad to see reviews online where people bash George for this game when he had nothing to do with it. Everyone that is into gaming should know by now that MOVIE-BASED videogames never quite equal up to what their movie counterparts do. Fantastic Four is a perfect example of this... but that's for another day. One review I have read in particular claims: "george remaro this is the worst work youve ever created and i am highly dissapointed.and you dont belong in the game making company only the movie making." (Yes, spelling errors and all.)
In Road to Fiddler's Green, you take on the role of Jack, a simple farmer living on the outskirts of Fiddler's Green and it's surrounding city walls. Jack notices and stranger standing in his yard just a few hours after a power outage. Thus, our story begins... Jack attempts to make his way to Fiddler's Green - the only place in the area with other living people trying to lead normal lives away from the outbreak of the living dead. Along the way, you'll mow down the shambling corpses with various firearms and melee weapons throughout 20+ levels.
Looking at gameplay from a control standpoint, Land of the Dead's buttons are mapped out just about like any other First Person Shooter ever released on the XBox console. The Left trigger lets Jack sprint while the Right trigger is used for your melee attacks and gunfire. The Y button lets you reload your current weapon while the B button causes you to perform a secondary attack with your given weapon. The X button allows you to perform certain actions throughout the game, such as opening doors or turning valves. Jumping is executed by a simple press of the A button. Cycling through your available weapons can be done by the 4 buttons on the Directional pad: Left and Right for firearms, Up and Down for melee weapons/explosives. Current Objectives can be viewed by pressing Back. As you may have already guessed, The Left analog stick executes movement and crouching while the Right analog stick allows for Freelooking and Aiming.
All control aspects aside, Land of the Dead isn't the easiest game to jump right into and play. As has been stated before, Groove Games and Brainbox went to great lengths to give us realistic motions while using weaponry... what we're left with is a very annoying pause with attacking. It seems as if almost every attack has a short delay before following through. Neither company apparently did their homework on the zombie character very well, as simple shots to the head on one zombie may cause a splattering head effect while another instance may have you firing 5 or more dead-on shots to a corpse's head with no results. This game boasted location-specific damage on the zombies... aparently the horrible hit detection was never noticed before the game was shipped. Anothing thing that really marred the gameplay of Land of the Dead is the enemy A.I. Zombies were always known to be sluggish and somewhat weak, but no one ever said they couldn't sense their primary food source. Zombies tend to get stuck on environmental objects such as rocks or haystacks, causing them to bounce around in place or stand perfectly still, allowing you to make your way past them unscathed. The game also tries to limit you on gun-usage, seeing as how you only find ammo on rare occasions. This will give you the impression that you'll quickly be outnumbered and outmatched with no ammo. Sadly, this is rarely the case due to near disasterous A.I.
Visually, Land of the Dead lacks in environment detail, but makes up for it, for the most part, in zombie detail. On your way to Fiddler's Green, you will come across some of the most atrocious landscapes and environments in any XBox game up until this point. It's almost as if the developers made one bail of hay and duplicated it a million times over... there's no attention to fine detail. Houses lack detail in wallpaper and flooring. No pictures cover the walls. One has to wonder what Brainbox and Groove Games were thinking when they developed these environments. Zombie detail, however, is significantly better by far. The minions of hell shamble along quite nicely at times, but look rather ridiculous in far more instances... especially when it comes to the 'spider-zombies', who scuttle around on the floor at a very fast pace. A lot more zombie models would have been nice, as by the end of the 5th level you will have seen every style of zombie the game has to offer at least two-dozen times over. Overall, it seems that the graphics portion of this game was not a major concern to the folks over at Brainbox and Groove Games.
Great, suspenseful moments would have been ideal for this game... that is, if the sound quality wasn't as bad as it is. In the past, I have brought attention to the lack of good quality sound in games, and trust me when I say this; Land of the Dead ranks up there with some of the worst. Themes in every level appear to just be simple 20 or 30 second loops with no real depth or draw to them. The music aspect in today's world can make or break any game, depending on the quality of it. Unfortunately for Land of the Dead, the music made it seem like less of a horror-themed game and more like a boring ride out in the country with the radio off and the windows down. Sound effects are also dealt a deathblow as none of the firearms sound like their real life counterparts. It's hard to give a game a realistic feel when so much of it has been dumbed down and generically stitched in, possibly to save time and money. The zombies, also known for their trademark moaning and wailing are also ruined by the terrible sound in this game.
Limited ammo, horrible A.I., very little attention to detail, and worst of all... the previously unmentioned (up until this point) game freeze makes replay value very low. I figured this would be the best time to mention the freezing issue, as it will certainly disappoint you and likely cause you to not want to play through the game to see how it ends. If the game freezes mid-level, or even at the end of a particular level, the only option you have is to shut down your XBox and restart it. This leads you to complete the level again from the start and it will more often than not have you gritting your teeth, hoping that the game doesn't freeze again.
When it comes right down to it, Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green falls short on so many levels that is is ridiculous. The game had great potential, but in the end it failed to deliver anything even remotely memorable. If you're a fan of George A. Romero and his 'Dead' films, then you may want to pick this game up and try it out, just because it's a zombie game. But, if you're just a fan of First Person Shooter titles, this game is definitely one you want to overlook.
SCORECARD: (via www.enterthezombiegod.com)
FINAL SCORE - 4.8
(Please visit www.enterthezombiegod.com for all my videogame reviews!)