Zombie Armageddon – XBLIG review

A WDesm review for XBoxHornet

“Lock and Load, soldier!  This Tower Defense needs your gun (and better production values)!”

Zombie Armageddon has joined the ranks as an XBLIG Tower Defense game, and, following in the steps of the amazing Soulcaster, it certainly has its work cut out for it.  How well does it line up?  Well, I won’t say its ground-breaking, but it does have some charm.  Read more to find out.

The game follows a small bunch of armymen traveling from fortified HQ to fortified HQ, aiming to escape a city overrun with zombies.  Each stage is a single screen, where zombies start from a discernible spawn spot, and travel the path towards your base.  Your survival depends on fortifying the path to your base, and a Humvee acts as your ‘Hand of God’ on the battlefield, rolling out from the HQ to deploy troops, rescue civilians, upgrade existing troop ‘towers’, or alter the very battlefield with more advanced features.  Your offense in the game comes from your deployed troops, who can fire from the safety of the rooftops onto the passing zombies.  Taller buildings have the advantage of offering troops a longer range, so ‘tower’ placement becomes tricky, as not only do you need to decide on the location of the troops, but also choose the appropriate rooftop, and your Humvee needs to be able to travel from the HQ to the location safely, without itself being overrun with zombies.

While there are many features available to you, there are explained in a clear-and-concise tutorial, so you aren’t overwhelmed when first left to your own self-defense devices, but like most tower defenses, it does promote the rather binary “there is a right deployment design and a wrong deployment design” logic that often crops up in Tower Defense games.  Thankfully, there is a demolition option available, so that you can create new paths or set up new killzones for your troops, but I found that the game didn’t offer enough money in each stage for me to use this feature – I often spent almost all of my money on defensive encampments and troop upgrades, and didn’t have the opportunity to really play around with level manipulation, which is a real shame.  The requirement that the Humvee be able to travel to any position you want to interact with is a sufficient penalty enough that money-generating could probably be marginally increased without drastically affecting game difficulty (or, alternatively, simply decrease the cost of demolitions).

The storyline is tied together with MSPaint-quality still images overlaid with mediocre voice-acting.  To be honest, I’m impressed at the high quality of the images achieved through such a simple medium, but the end result is still below the expectation for a ‘cutscene’ in a finished game, and while low-quality graphics work acceptably in the thick of the action-centric stages, it doesn’t cut it for commanding your attention.  The audio isn’t so unprofessional to have static or breathing sounds, but it still should have been done ‘correctly’, with quality equipment and well-rehearsed voices, or not at all.  The pain is compounded because new enemy types are introduced through these cutscenes, leaving you the unpleasant choice of auditory and visual violation versus entering the next stage unawares.  Honestly?  After stage 2, I chose ‘unawares.’

Ultimately, Zombie Armageddon is definitely a ‘try before you buy’ game.  The Tower Defense mechanic has a few unique additions to it, namely in how you have to choose where your troops are placed for optimal firing range, and how you have to deploy them via the Humvee, but the limited resources doesn’t truly enable you to play around with them enough.  The included Onslaught mode does allow you to have a more enduring effect on the battlefield, and does offer substantial replayability if the game is your cup of tea….just watch out for those deadly cutscenes.

Grab a gun and try this one out, if Tower Defenses are your forté!

Game Score 6.5/10

Download a demo here.

Watch a trailer here.

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