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Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green

Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Groove Games
Developer: Brainbox Games

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Xbox/PC Preview - 'Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green'

by Thomas Wilde on Oct. 9, 2005 @ 1:02 a.m. PDT

Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green is a full-featured, first-person shooter video game setting players in the midst of a gruesome adventure in which they battle to save themselves – and a quickly-diminishing living population - from an army of the dead bent on spreading a zombie plague. Gamers can also join intense, bone-chilling multiplayer battles against the dead on Xbox Live.

Genre : FPS/Horror
Publisher: Groove Games
Developer: Brainbox
Release Date: October 17, 2005

In all the annals of videogaming, there is ordinarily no sadder creature than this: a licensed game that's coming out well after the movie it's based off of. When games like this come out, it's usually a train wreck on the order of Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, a fresh shard of hell compressed on a disc and released to a rousing cry of "why bother?" from the gaming public.

Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green largely dodges this bullet, which is no small feat, because the bullet is the size of Wyoming. It's a zombie-themed FPS using the Unreal engine, set well before the movie and following a single survivor's journey from his country farm to Philip Kaufman's City of the Living.

You begin in your farmhouse, wondering who that guy standing outside is. He is, of course, a zombie, and he requires pummeling. From that initial encounter, you'll follow a trail of bloodshed to the city, and finally, to an ill-fated rescue operation.

The first question on my mind was, of course, whether headshots will work. This is a George Romero-themed FPS, after all. The answer is yes, but it takes some work. Only high-caliber weapons like your revolver can pull off a successful headshot; the varmint cartridges in your starting gun, a .22 rifle, won't penetrate the skull. Unlike Romero's zombies, thankfully, Road to Fiddler's Green's population of undead will go down if you put enough holes in their chest, or if you viciously beat them with whatever's lying around.

Road to Fiddler's Green reminds me of nothing quite so much as the old Half-Life mod They Hunger. I mean that as a compliment, honestly. Road to Fiddler's Green doesn't have much in the way of bells and whistles on its singleplayer mode; it's all about the streamlined violence.

There's a plot, but most of the time, it doesn't really get in the way. It's just a way to get you from one objective to the next, with plenty of zombies to shoot or bludgeon. It's a bit of a throwback, really, to the days before games got quite so cinematic. (That's doubly weird, of course, in a movie tie-in game.)

It's also got some of They Hunger's difficulty. The starting level of Road is the toughest, as you have to pummel a dozen zombies into submission with eight .22 rounds and a claw hammer, but as you get further into the game and get more weapons, things get much easier.

They're still tricky, though. Road to Fiddler's Green gives you a pretty heavy stun window when you get hit, and ammo can get a little scarce on the ground in places. If you get cornered by more than one zombie, you're dead. Period.

You've also got more than your standard-issue shamblers to deal with. Zombies may be on fire, exuding a poisonous mist, or capable of vomiting a toxic and disgusting substance (I think it's Diet Dr. Pepper) for quite some distance. Other zombies are weird doublejointed things the game calls "crawlers," and still others have relearned the use of weapons. Getting smacked with a fire axe will ruin your whole day.

The singleplayer game in Road to Fiddler's Green is backed up by a robust multiplayer mode. The standard deathmatch and CTF modes are here, but the real appeal is the Invasion mode, where you and your friends must fend off waves of increasingly dangerous zombies. The high difficulty factor from singleplayer comes into play here, as eventually, the ammo runs out and you'll be down to fire axes and golf clubs.

I'm a horror fan, so Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green is my kind of game. It's gory, it's fun, and it's well in keeping with the spirit of Romero's films. It's got a real bitch of a first level, but once you get past that, you'll find a surprisingly engaging first-person shooter.



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