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Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Developer: Beatshapers
Release Date: Oct. 28, 2014

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - '#KillAllZombies'

by Brian Dumlao on Nov. 30, 2014 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

In the distant future, #killallzombies is thrusting civilians into a sport of survival were a ravenous zombie population is unleashed in the name of sports entertainment.

The previous console generation saw the rise of twin-stick shooters and zombies. The former was helped by the fact that cheap downloadable games were introduced almost immediately and gained traction as time passed. The latter became en vogue again after aliens, Nazis, and terrorists became tiresome. Twin-stick shooters and zombies gravitated toward each other in games like All Zombies Must Die; Burn, Zombie, Burn; and Zombie Apocalypse, to name a few. The trend doesn't seem to slow down on the new consoles, with Dead Nation re-released for the PS4. One twin-stick zombie shooter doesn't seem to be enough, though, as indie developer Beatshapers decided to add its own with #KillAllZombies.

The first thing you'll notice about #KillAllZombies is its modes. It features three on the selection screen, but the only one available to players at the moment is Survival. Both the Flag and Co-op Survival modes are marked as "coming soon," with no timetable for their arrival. The developers have promised players that the additional modes will be activated as free updates, and while the gesture is nice, seeing them on the menu is more of a tease than something worth anticipating.

Once you come to grips with the fact that you're only getting one mode for now, you're thrown into the arena with a gun and a quick primer on the controls. In traditional twin-stick shooter fashion, pointing in any direction with the left stick moves you there, while pointing in any direction with the right stick shoots in the desired direction. You have unlimited ammo, but you need to reload between clips, either automatically once you fire off your last shot or manually with a button press. If all else fails, you can rely on your melee ability to knock back zombies that are crowding around you. Killing zombies also gives you points and XP; the latter is used to reach new character levels and unlock new weapons for future playthroughs.

That XP comes in two forms: the larger scale used for unlocking new items and the smaller one, which is used for activating perks. At every level-up opportunity in the smaller scale, you can choose one of four randomly chosen perks to use in that particular game. Some are permanent for that game alone, like increased speed or dexterity to reduce the chance of getting hurt. Some are temporary, like using a stationary doppleganger that shoots in the direction you're facing. Others balance things, like exchanging speed for toughness or giving you better attack power at the expense of some health. There are even a few that give you an equal chance of immediately dying or getting a large sum of XP depending, on how the coin lands. The perks don't have to be chosen immediately, and they stack if you time things correctly.

For a game that seems so simple on paper, it is amazing how #KillAllZombies makes a terrible first impression. Zombie variety is practically nonexistent, as you'll always encounter a regular zombie and fatter ones that only differ in terms of how much ammo they absorb. Your starting weaponry is rather weak, as it has a paltry number of bullets in each clip, forcing you to reload more than shoot. The firing rates and range also seem to be handicapped, and the lack of accuracy when firing is apparent when you realize that you only have approximate control over where you shoot. Melee also feels inadequate, as it barely seems to do anything against enemies and is slow to execute. There also seems to be an imbalance as far as pacing goes, with small bursts of zombie activity sometimes being followed up by rather long periods of inactivity, disrupting the action flow that is required in a good shooting game. That inconsistency rears its head often enough that the title can feel both exciting and boring.

Despite this, the game is still enjoyable enough overall. The perks system offsets the poor weaponry to make things feel less hopeless, and the random nature of your selection keeps the experience fresh during the early stages. Accessing the more powerful weaponry through perks or grinding, especially the heavy machine gun, makes the game feel much more solid in its shooting and brings out the unabashed glee of mowing down corpses. The level is actually rather dynamic, even if it only features one environment. After the first round, you'll see everything, from walls being temporarily resurrected to creating choke points, vehicles that you can blow up to clear zombie hordes and gain power-ups, and random objects like turrets and decoys to give you an edge in the battle. Then there's the fact that the game is inherently a classic high score chase. Even though the scores of your nearest competitor aren't displayed on-screen at all times, the absurdly large number of points one can reach is usually enough motivation for you to go just one more round.

While there's formally only one mode in #KillAllZombies, it does get modified once you decide to broadcast the game. Spectators can vote on the things that happen in your game between rounds, making your experience easier or tougher based on their whims. The same thing happens during rounds where typing out keywords can help or harm you in terms of power-ups and health. It livens up the gameplay a bit but only works if you're sure you have an audience, as the game plays out normally without participation from those spectators.

For what it offers, it feels rather baffling that the asking price for the title is so high. Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition, for example, offers a much more extensive quest to go along with the shooting. While it features aliens instead of the undead, Crimsonland does the same thing to a lesser degree and does so for a dollar cheaper. Both of those titles also feature cross-buy for the Vita and, in the case of Dead Nation, the PS3. When stacked against those titles, #KillAllZombies feels rather lacking.

Graphically, the game is pretty simple. The environment is nice once you get used to the minimal nature of the arena, but the lack of transparency on the foliage that hangs over the lower section is disappointing, considering how hectic the gameplay can be. The particle effects, like blood and explosions, are fine because they don't slow things down, but they also don't stay on-screen long enough to let you appreciate the carnage you've wrought. The frame rate also stays steady, with a large number of characters on-screen, but the average animations, lack of any real details, and rather homogeneous designs of the zombies makes it less impressive than it should be.

Audio-wise, the game goes for a rather bare-bones approach. The rock tunes on the title screen and during gameplay are nice, but there are only two of them on an endless loop. They aren't grating, but some variety would be nice. Sound effects are fine but somehow lack the punch that a high action title would be expected to deliver. The announcer's voice is fine but a little underwhelming whenever he shouts phrases that are meant to be awesome or inspire more bloodlust.

#KillAllZombies is something of a paradox. The core game is simple but strangely addictive once you get past the initial horrible impression. The random nature of the terrain and the perks keeps the experiences different, and the live-streaming integration is a nice touch, provided you have an active audience interested in your exploits. Unfortunately, the game can feel like a grind as you work toward weaponry that actually makes a difference, and the lack of modes makes the game feel both rushed and incomplete. Combined with the price and lack of cross-buy, which other twin-stick shooters on the system offer, it's rather difficult to recommend #KillAllZombies to anyone but the most dedicated twin-stick shooter fans.

Score: 6.0/10

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