killallzombies Review: Blood-soaked sports entertainment shooter is almost a ratings winner

Reviewed on: PS4

Note – the title of the game is #killallzombies (for some reason our CMS will not let us use a hashtag in the title)

Sometimes, the title of a game is enough to tell you exactly what it’s all about. In the case of #killallzombies, that is pretty much the game in a nutshell. In this twin-stick shooter, you attempt to kill all the zombies thrown at you in an arena before eventually being overcome by the rotting mass of flesh out for human takeaway. According to the plot description, this is the near-future’s sporting entertainment show of choice, because, of course, the natural evolution from modern-day entertainment programming (murdering popular music) is to move into straight-up murder.

At a glance, #killallzombies bares a striking resemblance to Dead Nation in terms of the viewpoint and gameplay, and aspects of it bring memories of the classic Smash-TV to mind,but it does have a few interesting hooks of its own to differentiate itself from its influences. The arena your character battles the undead in, for example, is made of hexagonal tiles, and these tiles rise and collapse in various patterns to create barriers, chasms and unearth turrets and chemical barrels among other hazardous and helpful distractions. Also interesting is each time you level up you are given a choice of four randomly chosen perks, some of which require some sort of personal sacrifice or gamble to get a juicy bonus.

You start from scratch with the score, xp and power-ups each time the game over screen rolls up, but the further you progress per session, the more varied the starting weaponry you can choose from at the beginning becomes(from handguns to laser-crossbows and beyond). Then there is the final hooky-hook of hooks, Broadcast Mode. Being a futuristic TV show, the audience can vote for which of the above may help or hinder you, and the audience is Twitch users (provided you are both online and streaming of course, otherwise the choice is yours). Generally, this means folks will be out to screw you out of a high-score at any given opportunity, but there were occasions some kind soul offered up a heavy machine gun or a particularly favourable power-up. It is a neat touch and adds some extra challenge to the already bleak hopes you had of coming out of this alive; for the most part though, it will frustrate more often than not.

The pace is as hectic as you’d expect for a high-score chasing shooter. Starting at a pedestrian amble before quickly escalating to ‘’Gah! I’m doomed!’’ in a matter of minutes, the panic sets in far sooner than it should as the aiming and melee combat are not quite accurate enough. Aiming for instance, feels slightly off-kilter,never truly aiming exactly where you believe it should. This is possibly due to the top-down viewpoint, but as other games like this don’t seem to have that issue, I’d say the controls are just not quite honed enough. It isn’t game-breakingly off – it remains hugely compelling to restart straight away – but it just leaves you feeling cheated out of a good run on occasion.

The shooting feels satisfying enough otherwise, splashing undead blood about with each bullet impact is morbidly pleasing and a sly cackle often escaped me whenever I blew up a truck to turn a large herd of zombies into a large patch of jam. As I mentioned earlier, getting in close and belting the shambling masses with your fists is futile, you tend to get stuck on the spot, doing miniscule damage. So rather than being a blood-drenched, defiant attempt at an escape or possible last stand , it looks more like a lone geriatric feebly swinging at a throng of football hooligans with his bag of shopping. Hey, perhaps that’s the point. To make you feel ultimately powerless when overwhelmed. Still, it doesn’t come across that way and these niggly issues do rob the game of a fraction of its potential enjoyment level.

The score-chasing does ease the games’ troubles well to some degree, but at launch, this is all that #killallzombies can offer. There will be co-op and a Flag defence mode added (worth noting it’ll be free) at a later date; how much later is the possible stumbling block. I can understand smaller companies staggering content to ensure their base game is solid first, but leave it too long and a large chunk of the potential audience will probably have moved on. Hopefully these modes are implemented swiftly as co-op alone would greatly enhance the replay value and keep that Smash-TV vibe.

As things stand, #killallzombies feels like a generous trial version of the main game and with the minor gameplay issues being so easily avoidable, also feels a little unfinished. It’s a shame as the core design and great concept should be pushing #killallzombies to greater heights. I’m sure I’d be scoring this game higher if the other modes were readily available.

Score

6.5

The Final Word

#killallzombies brings some fresh and inventive ideas to the twin-stick shooter model and is compelling enough to be worthy of repeated plays, but currently, there is very little meat on its bones.