Review by OutOfRange
"Nothing Like Resident Evil... Fortunately"
I have to say it now, I don't really like resident evil games; the puzzles are usually awful and the plot's never particularly great. However, when your game's relying on an old movie for inspiration, there's not much need to worry about the storyline I suppose. I have to say I like the idea of the game, and I do like the ideas the game has, however, it's execution of many of these ideas is extremely poor. However, it's still a good game that despite all the frustration it caused I actually enjoyed playing.
Hmm... A game that has to carry on it's case a sticker that says it's definitely not based on Dawn Of The Dead. Although it's not a totally original plot, it does unfold well, and doesn't really lose track of what the game's about. In some ways this is also a bad thing, but that will be discussed in a minute. Basically, if you haven't heard by now, you play as a freelance journalist and you go to report in a zombie infested mall. You have a helicopter returning in three days, so you have that much time to uncover as much of the plot as you can.
As touched on, you have a fixed time limit to finish the game through; thus the storyline develops at a fixed pace at specific time intervals. The game uses cases' to keep track of the storyline, and as you progress through the game you uncover more cases. When one is finished, you'll be given a specific time that the next case will start at. It you're late to getting to the point where this new case starts, you'll lose track of the plot and either have to load or continue to play but you'll get no new information related to the plot. The problem with this is; is that although it keeps the game going at a regular speed, there'll be times where it wants you to cram too much into too little time. Also, there are times where you'll save and then realise you don't have enough time to make it to the next piece of plot no matter what you do; you're then stuck to either finish the game without uncovering any more plot, or start again, which can get extremely annoying,
That said, you will have to start over several times, as when you do your experience and thus levels are carried over. The problem is that you start off the game with extremely bad stats, and not only have very little life but can also carry very few things. Thus you can't really progress through the game until about level ten, although it doesn't take too long to get there, as you find you die far too quickly. Unfortunately, while the zombies are incredibly dumb, you'll find all too often that zombies you thought you hit, you'll miss, and one's that you thought were no where near you will manage to grab you and suck away your life.
While you can grab practically anything you want in the mall and use it as a weapon, most of the things you can use are pretty much useless. CDs make a very bad choice of weapon, especially when you can get chainsaws, and lead pipes are almost everywhere. Unfortunately, you don't just have to preserve your own life with these, you'll also be expected to escort survivors you find around the mall back to the security room, and some of these have the worst AI ever seen in a game. They'll follow you to a fault, where they just get in the way and refuse to give any room to attack zombies, tell them to go move to a safe point for a minute while you clean a path and you'll be rewarded with constant screams of FRANK! There are others who won't even move, or will but very slowly, without you physically carrying them, which is a bigger problem when you have other characters to escort other than them. Also, don't use your sights while aiming guns with survivors around as far too often I've had them wander into the sights and have killed them completely by accident while trying to clear a path. Other times they'll get completely stuck behind obstacles or start running into walls, and trying to get them to climb up the wall before the vent into the security room is a mission in itself. What is a good idea in theory is completely destroyed by it's implementation in the game, and quickly becomes an extremely frustrating experience as there are far too many ways to die or have people you're trying to protect die without it being your fault.
Otis is your friendly neighbourhood security guard, who will hang out in the security room and call you up on the walkie talkie when he has information he thinks you should know about. Problem is; at times he'll call you up almost constantly, normally with completely useless information that could have waited till later. Second problem; if you're in the middle of combat or for whatever reason are too busy to take the call, he won't take the hint and call back later, he will constantly call you up over and over until you finally answer him. It wouldn't be so bad, except the beeping is so damn annoying that it's hard to focus on anything but it while it's going on. Add that to the fact they're not voiced over, and thus you have to squint to try and read the in game text.
The bosses in the game come in the form of psychopaths'. These guys range from boringly easy to stupidly cheap to the extent where once you're on the floor you may as well pretty much resign yourself to death. Some are fun to play against, and are actually pretty interesting, whilst other are just dull to the point where you want the battle to be over already. I hated the guy at the supermarket mainly because you're on such a tight time limit and he can take an age to kill without the chainsaws, and also because he can snipe you from across the store with a shotgun. Stupidly cheap. Then there's the convicts that basically make it near impossible to escort survivors through the park unless you kill them, which again can take so long that it eats away at your time. Basically; you're expected to do these throughout the game while running between one plotline and another, and generally there isn't really enough time, especially when trying to save them all.
All in all, there is some fun to be had, but there's a lot problems that can seriously reduce the amount of enjoyment that you can get from the game. But all things considered, there is a lot of content in the game to keep you engrossed for a while. I really think this is one of the good examples of what a good current gen game should be expected to deliver.
There are a LOT of zombies on screen at any time, and while the graphics sometimes aren't the greatest ever, they do have a lot of detail where needed, and all the cut scenes use the in game engine rather than relying on pre rendered stuff. The result? That anything you choose to wear from the mall will appear in the cutscenes. The mall itself is big and takes some time to get used to the layout, and all the sections have their own distinct traits that separate them. While some of the shops are pretty bland in layout, they work well enough and all in all the graphics pull together pretty nicely.
I can't really recall much in game music, as generally it doesn't blare out the speakers like in most games, for the most part it's more a slight eerie noise in the background with zombies grumbling. The psychopaths generally have their own music, most of which I have to say is pretty good. The voice acting for the most part is done pretty well, and I can't really think of anyone I thought had a really bad or misfiting voice.
Overall, this is a pretty entertaining game, and to be honest pretty much reflects what I believe we should be able to expect from next gen (or now current gen) games. It does have a lot of problems that really should have been ironed out before the game was released, but even so it's fun to play for the most part, and at least gives a new direction to the otherwise stale zombie games. Now if only the damn game didn't crash so often.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/03/07
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