Shoot ’em in the head! A lot.
Zombie Apocalypse should have everything going for it, bringing together two of video game’s most beloved things: zombies and twin-stick shooters. Sadly, it just doesn’t quite crawl up to the high rankings of epic shooters, bumping instead into the undead horde of similar games from two years ago.
[image1]Zombie Apocalypse begins in a rather fun way, slowly trickling zombies in one of seven horror movie-inspired closed-off arenas, in a typical twin-stick shooter like Smash TV, giving you a variety of weapons to counteract the zombies that spawn as the levels progress. The problem is that the fun doesn’t keep up with the progressive difficulty and madness of the later levels, and by level 20 (of 50), you will be bored out of your mind.
Oddly, it manages to provoke the opposite reaction I have to most games: It’s too damn long! While there’s nothing wrong with introducing new types of zombies every few levels, the pacing of the game is just plain mind-numbing. The fact that levels constantly repeat themselves doesn’t help. The lack of real variety in the stages is apparently made up by environmental hazards that you can use to destroy zombies more creatively, but after a few kills with them, they start to feel like just another gimmick.
There’s a variety of weapons, each of which have limited ammo and a host of pros and cons. So while many of them feel awesome, you will tend to stick with your standard assault rifle which is powerful on its own. Adding insult to injury, some of the armaments you’d assume would massacre zombies, like molotov cocktails and sniper rifles, are awkward to use due to how the game controls work. In order to shoot weapons, the right analog stick needs to face the targets, but in some of the special guns and alternative arms cases, you’ll have to do an arching motion with the stick, which takes up a vital amount of time that could have otherwise been use avoiding the hordes of flesh eaters.
[image2]Zombie Apocalypse is a good-looking two-stick shooter, considering zombies have no visual variety other the different enemy types. There’s zombie sheriffs with shotguns, granny zombies with throwing knives, and even homicidal, prison garb-wearing, grenade-carrying kamikaze zombies. But even this pile of undead gets stale after the umpteenth level. On some levels, you’ll even face a horde made up of the same single enemy type.
Call me picky, but after playing something like Left4Dead or even Dead Rising, I’d expect at least a Mortal Kombat ninja-style palette swap. Can’t say the sound design is much better than the visual presentation – each character has only a few lines of dialogue and animation when they die, so it’ll get repetitive quickly.
You can jump online and find other lucky (and up to four) survivors to cooperatively play through all of the fifty levels in a standard online mode that is surely welcome but not particularly exciting. Some game modes are added as certain tasks are completed, like staying alive for more than 7 levels, or "days" like the game likes to call them, ranging from an added difficulty mode to a survival-type scenario. These add a bit to the content of the game, but are generally buried way too deep into the main game mode. By the time you’ll unlock these, you will probably have had enough of Zombie Apocalypse.
Zombie Apocalypse is not a particularly hard game, since you receive an apparently infinite number of continues (I died a bunch of times and never got a "game over – boot to the intro screen"). The main challenge is actually having the will to keep playing until the end. The downloadable gaming space is already saturated with twin-stick shooters, and while Zombie Apocalypse tries to stir up the formula by adding the already decaying – no pun intended – cliché of zombies into the pot, it ends up being just another shooter. Going for ten dollars on both XBLA and PSN, Zombie Apocalypse tries its best but should just get a bullet to the head.