Zombies are still quite popular in video games, as is leveling up and getting massive amounts of loot. All Zombies Must Die tries to capitalize on these trends by mashing them together into a game that, while fun at times, ultimately fails to reach its potential. While there are the familiar mechanics that provide simple fun like gathering better and crazier loot there are also many problems with the game, like its dialogue and actual controls, which hamper the experience.
It felt like at every turn there was a crazy new weapon to make zombie killing a bit more fun, but then there'd also be a dumb new joke or a pointless quest. This constant back and forth with AZMD stayed with me throughout the entire experience and made me really question if I had fun or not. There are definitely positive parts of AZMD but at the same time there are many negatives as well.
It’s the zombie apocalypse and you’re the only one who can save the world by gathering more impressive loot and murdering every zombie you see! If you just thought about five different games that’s because this is becoming a very typical storyline in games, or at least parts of it are. Having a zombie apocalypse, not explaining the zombies right off the bat, having main characters who love killing zombies because they must be social outcasts with nothing better to do than plan for zombie apocalypses. It’s all been done before and All Zombies Must Die does it in a way that blends dual joystick shooters with isometric RPGs like Diablo and Torchlight.
Dual joystick shooters are nothing new in today’s world. You move with the left analog stick and attack with the right analog stick. If this concept is somehow new to you go download Geometry Wars and play it for a bit, I’ll wait.
Ok, great! So dual joystick shooters are a fun and simple way to provide lots of action to even the most inexperienced gamers and AZMD pretty much follows that formula. The only exception is that AZMD also has players pull the right trigger to shoot or attack while aiming their character with the right analog stick. It’s not much of a deviation from the scheme but it does give more of a controlling feel over the character’s murderous glory.
There’s just one problem with said glory, the controls are very wobbly feeling. While that may not be the choice word there is no other that describes the problem in AZMD. There were many times where it felt like I was aiming one way and the character was either aiming another or being bogged down by weird collision detection or blind spots. Often times the zombies would crowd around me and make it impossible to move anywhere and shooting seemed to be ineffective. Other times I’d be caught under an overhang and have no sense where my character was in relation to zombies except for little icons that did little to help my situation.
The controls can be a pain but once you work around them there is a typical RPG atmosphere waiting on the other side. As Jack, the fearless zombie killer whose girlfriend is the typical “I hate you because you play games” type, you run around the world killing zombies. Of course Jack needs a reason to kill the zombies, a challenge, a task, or perhaps…a quest.
As Jack you run into zombie containment gates, small green gates that arbitrarily want Jack to kill X amount of zombies or do Y before they open up for him. Eventually you move on to other quests such as reaching his girlfriend Rachel in time, finding a new weapon, and so on. The quests are very typical and hold almost no value other than moving along the story. After a few hours the gate quests become tedious as they don’t let you leave an area unless you complete the assigned task. It’s never the most complicated thing in the world but often times it will hinder progress for five or ten minutes.
Now, let’s get to the important thing, killing zombies and killing them good. After a few hours of gameplay you get the four main characters of the game and each has different specialties when it comes to stats. Jack is a well rounded character; Rachel is very fast, and so on. By dumping points into each character you can specialize each one any way you please. Of course, these stats don’t mean anything if there isn’t some great weapon to tote around and blow zombies away with.
This is perhaps what AZMD does best, allowing players to craft and utilize fun weaponry in meaningful ways. Instead of the typical crafting via raw materials you find in the world mechanic AZMD has a more brutal approach. If you need firewood, go kill 30 zombies that are on fire, if you need a megaphone go murder 30 sonic zombies and so on. It’s a neat little way to make resource gathering much more simplified and fun. Rather than searching around for objects you just murder the necessary zombies and move on. After you get the pieces you need, say firewood and a shotgun, you can go back to your home base and craft a new weapon, a shotgun that spits fire!
The absurd weapons are a great part of AZMD; fire spiting shotguns, irradiated SMGs, shocking assault rifles, they’re all very fun. In fact, a lot of the humor in AZMD is that style of absurdist humor that is often very hit or miss. Sometimes the humor, mainly from the containment gates, is laugh out loud funny. Yet other times, mainly when the main characters speak, it’s almost cringingly bad. Jack is convinced he is in a video game and spends the whole game talking about quests, missions, gameplay, dialogue, and so on. It’s a good gag at first but by the end of the first hour it feels so overdone that every time the characters talk you just want to move on. It’s a gag that has been done before to a better degree and just doesn’t fit in well in AZMD.
All Zombies Must Die goes for a very cartoon like and humorous approach when it comes to graphics. While everything looks decent and the frame rate never chugs there are no real bells and whistles to speak of. The characters run around and shoot things, guns look simple even when upgraded, and blood splatters look fine.
Perhaps the only real standout amongst the visuals is the animation work for the zombies. There are several different zombie classes that come after you and each one has silly and outrageous animations. From the jogger who sprints after you to the standard zombie that freaks when he is lit aflame it all looks particularly silly and well done.
While the graphics are certainly nothing to write home about the music is actually quite enjoyable. The menu music evokes the feel of a 50’s sci-fi movie as does the rest of the game’s audio. At times you’ll hear high pitched noises that evoke the thought of a Theremin and the sci-fi tunes mixed with the zombies groaning is a great sound indeed.
All Zombies Must Die was made for co-op, there is no doubt about it. Having 4 well equipped characters running around murdering zombies wholesale would be a great time, if it were possible. Not that it isn’t but there is no internet play in AZMD it’s all local co-op. Yes the game is story based and having characters at certain points of the game wouldn’t make sense but this game doesn’t care about making sense to begin with. When there is so much demand for games like Torchlight to be multiplayer and when Diablo spawned a whole different world of multiplayer from its style it feels unforgivable that AZMD doesn’t have any online co-op whatsoever.
Instead you’ll have to get a few friends together and have them sit down with you old school style as you play through the story. Needless to say this feels like a sorely missed opportunity as the craziness of friends and zombies is always a good time. With that said, the game is still a decent time on its own merits. Killing zombies in creative ways and with creative weapons is fun for a few hours but eventually it gets to be stale and tiresome. Quests become typical and recycled and the whole game takes on the feel of something that just misses the boat in too many ways.
All Zombies Must Die is a $10 downloadable game that fails to reach the bar it sets by its own absurdity. After a few hours you’re killing zombies with flaming shotguns and chainsaws and its pure craziness. But, the humor in the game from the characters never reaches that same level of craziness. Instead it feels like the characters are trying too hard to make you laugh. The dialogue becomes that awkward co-worker who makes jokes no one laughs at even though they know it would be funny out of someone else’s mouth.
It’s a real shame too, because a top down RPG with zombies and insanity could be totally awesome. Overall though AZMD misses its mark too many times and creates a stagnant game that is just like the enemies that populate the world; brainless fodder that is only mildly funny a small percentage of the time.