The poor, much maligned zombie has a hard life. All they really want to do is eat brains and meander about aimlessly. That's all they've ever wanted to do. These are simple creatures with simple hopes and dreams. They just want to get on with their lives.
Sadly for the average zombie, life isn't fair. Chances are, if you're a bumbling, flesh eating creature, you're going to end your brief existence staring down the barrel of a shotgun, or someones going to set you on fire, our someones going to fill you so full of bullets from an uzi that your poor, tired, aching body will fall to the floor, dead for a second time.
It seems that everybody loves shooting zombies. It's become an internationally acceptable past-time. And people don't just shoot them like they used to in the old days, killing the undead has become an art form. A brief tour of the various zombie survival simulators available to buy on the modern marketplace reveals a gloriously varied selection of gory ways in which to kill the unrelenting masses of the undead.
Maybe you enjoy setting zombies on fire with the gleeful toss of a molotov cocktail, as is often done in Left 4 Dead 2? There are purists out there who like to keep it simple and go at it with just a gun or a machete, for them games like Dead Island appeal. There are those among us who like to take on historical zombies, a la Black Ops. Or maybe you're the extravagant sort who likes to really push the boat out, strapping chainsaws to paddles so you can go wading through whole swarms of putrid, undead beasties like many did in Dead Rising 2.
In short; fans of zombie death are well catered for. There is an ever expanding, constantly evolving pool of titles from which gamers can take their pick. With that in mind then, if you're going to release a zombie game, you've got to make sure that it's up to scratch. You've got to be able to kill lots of the undead - that's a given. You've got to be able to do it in interesting and creative ways. And from time to time, you've got to scare the crap out of your audience; have them on the run from a never-ending horde of zombies, hunting desperately for ammo and/or health, just on the edge of death, dodging the blows in order to survive just that little bit longer.
Happily, All Zombies Must Die! has enough of these essential ingredients to be worth playing.
It is a deceptively large game. Initial inspection reveals a fun top-down twin-stick shooter. And you might, for the first couple of hours at least, think that was all there was to it; but luckily this is not the case. The character progression and the constantly evolving selection of weapons keeps things interesting, adding a touch of depth to an already enjoyable game.
The premise of AZMD! is simple, though pretty irrelevant to be honest. I gave up on the story very early on when Jack's ex-girlfriend, Rachel, demanded that I go and get her mobile phone for her, and to make matters worse, she casually told me that it had been eaten by a zombie. Off I dutifully trudged, grumbling as I went on what would prove to be one of many search and retrieval missions the game set. This simple mechanic is the foundation on which the game is built, so if that doesn't sound appealing then maybe this is one to stay clear of.
For those who don't mind a bit of repetitive gameplay, and for those who take pleasure in the massacre of countless zombies, there is definitely fun to be had here. However, to get at the fun, you will need to conform to the games slightly annoying level design. If you can see past the sentient robotic gatekeepers, and the futile fetch missions, then there is plenty of destructive arcade action to be enjoyed.
I spent much of my time with the game wandering through well trodden maps, searching furiously in cupboards and in chests for arbitrary household items to use in the crafting of new weapons. It didn't take long for this to start wearing thin, especially as some of the sections were really tough, but even that didn't stop me finding moments within each attempt to really enjoy.
Running around, setting groups of zombies on fire, then dispatching them with my shotgun, remained entertaining throughout. When you get into the groove you can dispatch large hordes of the undead using a combination of weapons, elemental attacks (such as fire or the sonic gun) and clever use of the surrounding environment. This element of the game is where AZMD! really stands out. It really heats up when the game announces the titular "All Zombies Must Die!"; it's up to you to clear out the surrounding area of all things undead and at times it cant get very frantic.
The twin-stick controls are easy to use and responsive, and they allow you plenty of freedom to move around the world laid out for you to explore by doublesix. You really appreciate the level of control you have over your character, especially when it gets you out of a tight spot.
There are four different characters to play with (Jack: The Gamer, Rachel: The Girl, Brian: The Geek and Luxo: The Alien), each with different elemental attacks. Each character leans towards a skill-set and can be upgraded, but the RPG-lite approach doesn't make a significant impact on proceedings as changes are too gradual. That said, it's always nice to tinker, and the option is a welcome addition, even if it could have been taken further.
The soundtrack is quirky, but it didn't set my world on fire. In future I'll be playing the game to my own tunes, but it's not a major gripe. The real question is whether you can look past the repetitive level design? If you can, there is an enjoyable shooter here. It's good value for money too, considering the potential length of a full play-through and, when you chuck in the four player co-op mode, this package starts to look more appealing.
When it works, this is a really fun game. It's just a shame that getting to the fun can sometimes be a bit of a chore. If blasting the undead is your thing, then it's well worth considering, but only if your not put off by the idea of playing fetch. A lot.