Review by Mr_Feesh
"Get ready for the survival gorefest of your life. Happy genocide. =D"
The State of Affairs
Frank West, freelance photojournalist (and apparent steroid-huffer; seriously, the man can carry around a 6-foot long wooden bench like it's nothing) has gotten word of an interesting potential story from an unnamed source. When it turns out to be a zombie outbreak, he does what any sane man would do--take a helicopter and jump right in the middle of this mess (or, in this case, a huge mall) to get a world-class scoop. As a journalist, Frank is the bearer of the truth, and he is determined to bring the terrible truth behind the zombies to the rest of the world, no matter how ugly it may be or whoever wants to stop him. And, lucky you, YOU get to control him during all of this madness. Do you focus on getting that delicious scoop? Rescuing the scattered survivors? Decimating the literally endless horde of rotting undead? That's entirely up to you. Your helicopter's coming back in three days. Better get killing.
Gameplay Mechanics (8/10; takes some getting used to, but very solid, and you can easily use exploits to get through the absurdly difficult stuff)
Frank handles very smoothly, and you shouldn't have much trouble getting him around. The pills that are hard to swallow are the unconventionalities. First of all, (the game's main selling point), anything is a weapon, you fight literally THOUSANDS of zombies, etc. You know all of this already if you've heard even a little bit about this game. Here's what you may not know:
Food: It's health. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Also, you have to be standing still for a couple of seconds to eat it, leaving you vulnerable.
Saving: You do it in public restrooms or in the Security Room. Later, there are a few other safe locations with save points. The general gripe is that they're few and far between, and the only alternative to loading is restarting the 72 hours. Didn't bother me much, though.
Psychopaths: The bosses. They're all human. Yep. No superpowered zombies. Hell, the humans are much more dangerous than the undead.
Survivors are ****ing frustrating: Occasionally you find other morons trapped in the mall. In this case, it's your job to escort them back to the Security Room (effectively your base and one of the only places where there are no zombies) for great justice and massive rewards. The only problem is, the AI is poor as **** and you always have to tap Y so Frank will scream "Hey! Follow me! Come on! Come on! Follow me!" Escorting several survivors at one time will probably also result in your 360 being thrown out of the nearest window. It's nearly impossible unless you use the best weapons in the game to slaughter the zombies before they can get anywhere near your survivors. Thankfully, you can target a spot, to which they will slowly drag their asses. Usually, this is a safe spot for them to wait while you slay the mean ol' zombies. BUT the reward is a truly massive amount of PP.
The PP system and leveling up: Not many people would equate a horror game with RPG elements, but they definitely add to the game. This is your incentive to keep playing even if 72-hour Mode is too hard at first. As you take pictures with Frank's camera (photography has its own little system), escort humans to safety, kill zombies, and defeat bosses, you gain Prestige Points. PP is, for all intents, what other games call Experience Points. When you get enough of them, you level up and gain either a random stat or a skill. The maximum level is 50. Naturally, by then, all of your stats will be maxed and you'll have all of the skills.
The Stats: These range from how many squares of health you have (up to 12) to your throwing range, to your attack power, to your inventory space, and so forth. They basically make the game easier.
The Skills: Skills are special moves that are usually a tremendous help and sometimes lifesavers. Frank starts out with none, but by the time you reach level 50, you can do some awesome stuff to zombies: walk on 'em, kick 'em around, drive them into the ground with a suplex, kick them all over the place (including a kick that decapitates and a roundhouse kick), toss them around, shake them off of you with style, and literally disembowel them with your bare hands. Yeah. There is much ass to be kicked.
72 hours: The only mode available from the start is 72-hour mode; in other words, Story Mode. This mode gives you three days to wander the mall, rescuing people and doing missions to further the storyline. Everything is timed, yes, but the limits are very manageable. And, hey, if you just want to kill zombies, you can do that too. If you miss anything in one playthrough, you can always do it in another one. You keep your stats, skills, and levels each time. It starts out hard as HELL, but it can only get easier.
Overtime: Successfully beating 72-hour mode (see FAQs for details :P) extends the game by 24 hours due to some pretty shocking events. But if I told you now they wouldn't be shocking, would they?
Infinite Mode: Talk about a misnomer. This isn't "sandbox mode". By beating Overtime, you get this bad boy. You basically get an indefinite amount of time to roam the mall, fight off zombies, and kill anybody else that you meet. Why? They drop food. Oh yeah, did I mention that your health constantly drops, you can't save, and food is very limited?
Books: Books have multiple effects, most notably improving how long your weapons last. Weapons obviously don't last long, since they're everywhere. Each weapon-modifier makes the affected weapons last three times longer. For example, Criminal Biography improves bladed weapons. Some weapons fit into more than one category, and thus receive a whopping 900% boost in longevity. A select few sacred paraphernalia actually receive the benefit of three different books, giving them a 2700% increase! If the game's too hard, use this. It's basically an exploit. XD Each book takes up one inventory slot, but it's very, very worth it.
Small Chainsaw: A portable chainsaw that fits in your inventory. It kills every zombie in one hit and does massive damage to bosses. Also, it gains the aforementioned benefit from three different books. Need I say more? Basically a cheat weapon when used like this.
Bottom line: Lots of facets to the gameplay. If you don't like one thing, try another. You constantly get more freedom as you play and earn better stats, so by all means, keep playing.
The story itself seems like standard video game fare on the surface, but there is deep and biting political criticism underneath. You may interpret it as "lol america sux", but there's actually symbolism woven into nearly every aspect of the game. There are constant anti-societal themes, with each of the psychopaths more or less representing an aspect of society. The zombies, of course, are the mindless consumers that make up the materialistic public. Even Frank can be viewed as a greedy consumer (an archetype established in the story and often detracted) via the way he is driven by necessity to take and use as many things as he can for destructive and, eventually, fruitless purposes. The whole game is surprisingly intelligent on this very subtle level, surfacing mostly towards the end. Don't expect a happy ending.
Sound (7/10; appropriate, but tends to be boring and annoying as ****)
There isn't much music in this game, since it's usually the muzak they always play in large stores (it turns off at night). You'll mostly hear no background noises but the moans of the zombies. Uggh. Even so, there are actually some licensed tracks by real bands played during psychopath fights and the end credits. I've never heard of any of them, but I guess that's pretty cool.
The sound effects are very satisfying: thuds, slaps, splats, gushes, smashes, and so on. Only the gunshots are a bit lackluster, but who cares.
The voices. Oh god, the voices. The acting is generally terrible, but some of it is decent. Thankfully, Frank's voice won't make your ears bleed (unless you have to scream at the survivors so they don't wander off). The other main characters.... not so much. The villain's voice is pretty good, and so is his sister's, but the rest of the cast seriously needs laryngeal cancer. The survivors sound annoying, too. They're a tad inclined to burst into tears when they're surrounded by zombies and scream for help every five seconds. If you have a bunch of them with you and you order them all to a location, they usually bump into each other and scream like they're being hit INCESSANTLY. Oh, and if you have more than 20 survivors in the Security Room, it sounds like a madhouse. WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS CRYING?! WHYYY?!!
Graphics (10/10; simply amazing)
Individually, the character models look pretty mundane. Frank's pretty snazzy and detailed, but it's nothing that couldn't be done on the original Xbox. However, the original Xbox couldn't suport hundreds of zombies onscreen with little to no slowdown, could it? Didn't think so. Did I mention that this game has my favorite blood effects of all time? The splatters are perfect. PERFECT. Also, no ragdoll physics here. Thank God. That means we get some decent death animations. XD The game does use Havok, but only for the weapons and objects, which are verrrry plentiful.
Okay, we're done
If you want a better idea of the intro or the saving system or what the weapon selection is like, look in any other review. Seriously. I tried to point out some of the lesser-known features, and I hope it worked out for you.
So! Since this game's so weird, you may want to rent it first to see if you like it. If you do, buy it. It's a classic. The whole experience stays surprisingly fresh since there are so many different ways to get a zombie (and other, unnamed enemies) to stop ticking. The replay value is amazing.
Now grab the nearest object and start braining corpses.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/22/07
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