I fancy myself a zombie connoisseur, of sorts, and judging from the extreme popularity of the genre these days, I'm assuming many of you are as well. Unfortunately, like with all subgenres, popular or otherwise, the undead have had a few games that were dead on arrival (I'm looking at you, Zombie Apocalypse), as well as some pretty great entries, like Dead Nation and Burn Zombie Burn!. Where does All Zombies Must Die! place on the list? Let's find out.
For starters, despite having followed the 'top-down cooperative zombie shooter with Geometry Wars' controls' approach, All Zombies Must Die! also brings with it some light RPG elements, in the form of quests, loot, and weapon crafting. On top of this is the expected cooperative side, which lets you and up to three friends mow down hordes of the undead.
But there's a catch.
You see, while this is a game that's seemingly built with four-player co-op in mind, the feature is relegated to local play only. When you're trying to create a game that can compete in an already fairly saturated market of zombie-bashing arcade shooters -- most of which have online multiplayer, I might add -- shackling the multiplayer to a single console is an incredibly bizarre decision.
Excluding online multiplayer might've been a terrible idea, but they make up for it a little by including drop-in/drop-out co-op that lets your friends join in on the action at any time. Now imagine this feature in an online game. Oh, the possibilities.
Despite my inability to shake the feeling that I had done all of this before, the rest of the game is solid. The quirky, cartoony art style isn't quite what you'd expect from a zombie game, especially one with a substantial amount of gore. The game takes place in the fictional town of Deadhill, which has been recently overrun by the hungry undead. There really isn't much to the story, and that's a little surprising for a game that puts its RPG style in the spotlight. There are four playable characters you can choose from, including Jack, his ex-girlfriend Rachel, an alien named Luxo, and Bryan, a scientist. Other than a unique secondary attack, each character plays in pretty much the same way.
It would've been nice to see the RPG side taken a little further so we could create and customize our own characters, especially since the ones being offered don't really need to be there. You could easily replace any of them and not lose anything, so why not give us the option of creating our own?
The quests system is a nice touch, though I would've liked to see that pushed further as well, since for a majority of the game you'll be receiving quests from robotic doors. The feature that's likely to draw you in and keep you hooked is the loot and weapon crafting, both of which are quite a bit of fun.
Scattered about the levels are objects that can be searched for items, experience, and money. When found, your bounty can be used to craft new weapons, upgrade existing ones, and make your character even more of a zombie slaying badass. Between each level are bases that act as safe rooms where you can use the loot you acquired to level up your character and craft new gear.
There's a fairly good amount of variety in the environments, which range from suburbia to a mall (a must for any zombie game at this point). The real strength comes from the size of the levels, which are surprisingly large. You can spend a good amount of time exploring the levels, searching for that special item or loot. Thankfully, a compass has been implemented that can be called upon to point you in the right direction.
All Zombies Must Die!, no relation to All Orcs Must Die!, straddles the boundary between cartoony fun and crazy, over-the-top fun. It feels like it tries to enter wild territory with its alien protagonist, crazy weapon combinations, and sentient-robot-doors, but it never quite goes all the way. I like the personality of the game, but it could've dived futher into its wacky roots. Instead, everything is a little forgettable. The characters, locations, and story aren't anything to write home about, and that's unfortunate.
It might not reinvigorate the tired zombie arcade game formula, or push any boundaries, but it knows what it is. Think of it as Dead Island's simplified arcade cousin, but with a very different look to it. If that sounds like your thing, All Zombies Must Die! isn't likely to disappoint.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of All Zombies Must Die! provided by doublesix.