A mobile game that completely surpassed my expectations.
When I was searching the Play Store for free to play games in 2013, I came across Dead Effect. Since I was much younger at the time and had limited access to consoles, I was surprised to see a 3D game that I could play on my tablet, as most free to plays at the time were 2D. The game was fun, but when I was done with it, that was it. Jump to 2019, I was browsing steam I found this game on sale for only one euro. I had to get it, as I wanted to experience this game again and see how it fairs on a PC. Here is my review of Dead Effect.
Setting and Plot
Note: minor spoilers ahead.
Dead Effect is a sci-fi game set in 2045 on the colonization spaceship ESS Meridian. The protagonist, either Gunnar Davis or Jane Grey, a member from the elite security team, Unit 13, is awoken early from their Cryostasis. You set out to figure out why the computer woke you early.
After discovering the crew in the ship has turned into monsters called zombies, you continue through the ship to activate your suit's comlink to contact any survivors, you are contacted by Dr. Wagner, a member from the research division. He informs you that you are infected too and that you must reach the detox zone immediately for treatment
Once you receive the treatment, Wagner informs you that the side effects of the treatment contains an ability called bullet time, which was developed with the dead effect project, the virus that infected the crew.
With the absence of the pilots, the ship's autopilot has ordered a return to Earth. You must stop it before the infection spreads to the planet.
The narrative of the game isn't exactly it's strong point, but if it interests you can also discover tablets that give you additional backstory and character development, as there is very little of that in the main game. The story is serviceable however, just isn't the focus, and it does have some neat moments. The ending however is really abrupt and a bit bizarre, it seems like the game is self aware of it's generic plot.
The game doesn't waste much time getting you into the action. After picking your character, and having a brief tutorial, within a minute you'll be killing zombies. This is definitely the game's strong point, it knows what the player is here for and gives it in abundance. Levels are filled to the brim with huge hordes of zombies. Another amazing feature about this game is a health bar, remember when we used to have those? This adds a level of challenge and tension, and you can only replenish your health at scarcely placed medi-stations. The game has that old school arcade vibe to it. I'm now going to break down the components of the gameplay, so I can describe them more in-depth and keep it organised.
The level design is surprisingly good. Each mission mostly has it's unique location and visuals, there is very little re-used areas and backtracking in the game. You will have to scavenge for ammo as you make your way through the ship. While the game is linear, you can find other areas off the path with their own secrets. If you also enjoy light exploration, this game has tablets, secret orbs, suit upgrades and extra credits that you can hunt for, however the levels aren't exactly huge so you won't spend too much time exploring. As I touched on above, there is a ton of zombies in the levels, so there is rarely a dull moment in the game. There is a lot of corridors however, which can make levels feel more repetitive than they actually are.
The gunplay in this game is solid. Guns sound punchy, their interaction with the environment is noticeable and you can see where your shots landed on a zombie, along with proper gore such as breaking limbs or exploding heads. It feels satisfying to shoot things, which you will do a lot of. However, the Iron sights in this game just feel, off. It's not a deal breaker, but it's noticeable. It feels really stiff, but then again, this was a mobile game. You also have the ability to slow down time with bullet time, which works similarly as it does in Fear. Your reload speed and movement remain the same, tracers are added to your bullets and the zombies are slowed down to a huge effect. Your fire rate is significantly slower also.
While Dead Effect is a horror game, it doesn't bog down your movement speed like most horror games would. While sprint is in the game, you'll barely use it as the meter runs down so quick and takes long to recharge. The movement is very arcade like, nothing slows you down and you move at the same speed with every weapon. You're encouraged to keep moving back and side to side to avoid spitter and grenade zombie projectiles. While ADS does slow you down, firing from the hip is just as effective as ADS. You can't jump in this game, probably due to it being a mobile game but it isn't necessary.
The weapon variety in this game is incredible. You have access to assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, bows, crossbows with explosive arrows, a minigun and a chainsaw. Every weapon is viable, but the most expensive weapons will have advantages. You can upgrade your weapon's damage, magazine size, accuracy, piercing and reload speed. The upgrade system is straight forward and a little underwhelming to be honest. Zombies can sometimes drop weapon upgrades, gold bars and credits upon death, which is a nice touch and makes progression that bit easier.
Mission variety is this game's weakness. You don't feel like you're accomplishing all that much. Other than some mini hacking games, there isn't much to do. There is two bosses in the game, but they feel lack-luster. You really just go around killing zombies and accessing terminals. There is two side modes, bio-hazard and survival, but they take place in the same area and are essentially the same thing, one is timed and the other isn't. Bio-hazard has the better rewards of the two, and also has an extra area not found in the main game.
The zombies you fight have a surprising amount of variety too. There is; regular zombies, security zombies, bio-hazard zombies, spitter zombies, grenade zombies, mutants, chainsaw zombies and a zombie with a mini-gun, who unfortunately only appears once in the campaign, but does make regular appearances in bio-hazard missions. Most of the zombies are fun to fight, thanks to the great gunplay and the sheer amount of zombies thrown at you. However, there is one zombie type that makes the game frustrating beyond belief and they are the Grenade zombies. They kill you in one hit if their grenade hits you, and while you can shoot their grenades out of the air, they move too fast and are too small to hit consistently. Other than that, the zombies are a joy to fight. They can be unpredictable, one second they're slowly walking towards you and the next second they're lunging quickly at you and crawling on the ground.
The graphics in Dead Effect are quite good, even looking great on mobile. The lightning is phenomenal and adds to the horror factor. Seeing the shadows of zombies on the other side of the corridor or your gunfire lighting up a dark area is great. The special effects are also spot on.
Sure this isn't the best looking game, but originally being a mobile game and the face-lift they have given it, the game does look pretty well. Zombies look grotesque, weapon models and the areas of the ESS Meridian are detailed and diverse.
Sound and Music
The audio in this game is pretty well done and really adds to the atmosphere. Hearing the ship's computer listing through errors as this bombastic soundtrack plays while you're putting down hordes of zombies is a great feeling, the music really adds to the tension with it's intensity and unrelenting nature.
The voice acting however isn't good. Gunnar Davis conveys the most emotion but he sounds too calm. Jane Grey sounds uninterested and Wagner has a comedic German accent. This does take away the seriousness of the game, which is unfortunate but it isn't a deal breaker. The character voices are oddly quiet, meaning if they speak when you're in combat you won't be able to hear them.
The soundtrack also could have used some variety, tracks do sound really similar apart from a few standout ones, but it serves it's purpose on getting you in the tense action mood just fine, and the game is only 4-8 hours long depending on your rate of progression, so you won't get tired of it if you're playing the game only once.
The developers behind Dead Effect clearly have put effort and passion into this game. It's obvious inDevBrain wanted to make a kick-ass zombie game, and they did. They also created a very impressive game by mobile standards, which is a big accomplishment. Hopefully this review shines more light on them, they deserve the attention. I wish inDevBrain the best of luck, video games like these remind me of a time when gaming was just about having a fun time and not being ruined by greedy publishers wanting to exploit you.
If you are a big fan of sci-fi, first person shooters or games about zombies, I strongly recommend Dead Effect. The game has very little obstacles in the way and let's you just play. If you are looking for a game with a lot of variety gameplay wise, Dead Effect is going to let you down. Despite it's superb diversity of weapons and zombies, if you don't like it's arcade like gameplay, then you will be dissapointed. Dead Effect only has one gameplay loop, while you can scavenge and search for secrets, it isn't as fleshed out to make it the main appeal.
Dead Effect's style is all about shooting zombies, and there is nothing wrong with that. It executes that concept very well, but doesn't exactly have too much else to offer.
If you are looking for a game to kill a few hours with and is cheap (4.99 euro), I would recommend Dead Effect. This game excels at what it wants to do, but it's lack of mission variety, gameplay changes and lackluster story does bring it down. If this game is your cup of tea, you will have a blast with it.