Like the shuffling zombies that populate this quirky post-apocalyptic adventure, Death Road to Canada is on the rise. After impressing plenty of people following its original launch on PC back in 2016, the creators of this well-received title started to focus their attention on bringing the game to consoles, namely PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
When it does make the jump to console later this spring, a zany, often absurd road trip awaits. As alluded to before, the dead have risen and civilisation as we know it is over. Deciding to take a trip from Miami to Ontario, the player must recruit NPCs and make their way up the highways of America, stopping to grab supplies and smash zombies in the head whenever the opportunity arises. The characters are flawed and a bit silly, the atmosphere is grim yet playful, and the presentation is retro yet fresh. Imagine the lovechild of FTL: Faster Than Light and Dead Rising raised in a family of classic Lucasarts point and click adventures and you'd be somewhere in the right ballpark.
It's a unique proposition, then, and zombie fans on PS4, Switch, and Xbox should definitely keep an eye on the game as it nears its console debut. We sat down and played it on PC for the first time recently, and we enjoyed what we saw, and so when we were offered the chance to fire some questions over to creator Kepa Auwae from Rocketcat Games, we jumped at the chance. And so, without further ado, here is that Q&A, complete with a bunch of screens that show off the PC version of the game.
Let's open with the elevator pitch. What is Death Road to Canada?
Death Road to Canada is a randomly generated road trip game about getting a car full of jerks from Florida to Canada, the last nation on Earth. You make and find weird characters with their own skills and personalities, then have your group explore procedurally generated locations for ammo, weapons, and cans of food until they get eaten by massive, massive hordes of slow zombies. You also make tough moral decisions, like what button to press on a futuristic toilet or if one of your characters should get their head replaced with a dog's head.
So you've been out on PC and mobile for a while now. As you head towards the launch of the game on console, what would you say is the biggest thing you've taken away from people's reactions to it?
People have been asking for console ports for a long time, practically since the launch of the game. For the game in general, people really like all the rare and random things that can happen, and how they can play it over and over again. They also really like using the character maker to make friends, family, and popular characters.
Are you making any changes to the game based on feedback, and in the same vein, are you making any changes to enhance the experience on the different consoles?
We constantly listen to feedback and make updates for the game based on requests and suggestions. We like to put a steady stream of new content and features into the updates, which we've been doing for over a year. Mostly the tweaks for consoles were to fit and run on each platform, as the game was already built to support all game controllers.
What about content? Is it going to be exactly the same on console as it is on PC, or have you been adding new things for players to do?
I wouldn't mind doing console-specific content post-launch! We'd need to get character cameo permissions from platform holders, though. On release, the console versions will be similar to the PC versions. As of now I'm working on a new content update that will launch soon, and a content update just launched a week ago. Console will be getting these updates, too.
You've gone for a very tongue-in-cheek tone, from the name of the game down to some fun personalities. What can you tell us about this and was it your intention to make a absurd zombie game, or did you make a zombie game that turned absurd over time?
I think the original intent, way early in the design process, may have been to make a serious zombie game. This changed as soon as I saw the episode of The Walking Dead where the main character screamed CORAL for 20 minutes. It really made me think of unintentionally goofy moments in the zombie genre, which made the game get really absurd real quick. After that switch flipped we decided to make the game as goofy as possible, which also lead to ideas to make it a lighthearted, vaguely optimistic zombie apocalypse.
So what was it inspired you to make the game in the first place?
We wanted to do "slow zombies" properly. I think most games gave up on this concept. There's not a lot of games that do slow zombies correctly, at least that I know of. The Dead Rising series tried but the zombies in that were mostly punching bags. The human bosses were dangerous, but the zombies weren't.
The slow zombies design problem eventually lead to the fast zombies + fat zombies that explode + the one tongue zombie design that became the popular thing to do for videogames. So we wanted to do one zombie type, slow and weak, but they're in crowds that can become so big they cover the screen. Then 200 of them can be active and track you at once, follow your scent, grab you, break barricades down, wear you down, tire you out.
Slow zombies are the best zombie.
The characters all have a very particular feel in terms of their movement and when in combat. Why did you design it that way?
The other part of the "slow zombie design" is having player characters feel more human. They can't just mow down 200 zombies with a baseball bat or machete. The zombies have to be dangerous in groups, so you're afraid of them.
Characters were designed to encourage trying to sneak through hordes of zombies before they get too upset or numerous, and flee when they can. Players can get cornered by sheer numbers, they get tired and weak from melee attacks, and they can have difficulty snap-aiming firearms. This can change some if you get your characters really great weapons and maxed out shooting/strength/fitness stats, but even then you need to hoard ammo, explosives, and gas for the worst situations.
You can also get around character weakness with smart play, such as running and breaking through grabs, or using the environment by throwing chairs at zombies. If you're strong enough, you can rip out toilets off their pipes and throw those. Throwable furniture is a really strong weapon, as something that's big and heavy enough can crush a group of zombies or at least knock them down.
Tell us about the soundtrack; there are some catchy little hooks in there.
Joey Grady made the soundtrack, he also did the music for our game Wayward Souls (check out joeygrady.bandcamp.com to listen to them). He made the title music first, and I think my suggestion was to go for "zombie apocalypse + surf music". After that he made more tracks as the game's tone became more defined, like when we added the grunting bodybuilder that can't use any weapons but can throw cars. The music matches the tone of the game perfectly, by not matching the tone of the genre much.
Finally, time for a shameless plug. When is the game coming to console and what should players be looking forward to the most.
Death Road To Canada is coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this spring - we'll be announcing a specific date soon. I can't wait for people to get into the local co-op mode. Players should be looking forward to finding the Toilet Genie. He grants wishes.
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