Thursday, January 5, 2012

Attack of the Zombie Horde (XBLIG): "A Top-Down Zombie Survival Shmup"

During my time as an XBLIG reviewer I have seen quite a few takes on the "zombie shmup" genre. Often times I found that the developers who made these games really did the shmup genre justice while others fell short of the mark. At the end of last year 'Attack of the Zombie Horde' was released on the Xbox marketplace by 'Krooked Gaming (the developer)', and I sought it out for review. I had tried my best to get it for review before the year was up, but due to the way I chose to contact 'Krooked Gaming' I was unable to do so. I was definitely glad to get the game for review at the beginning of this year though. When I finally did my playthrough of both of the game's modes I was thoroughly impressed by what I found ...

Krooked Gaming's 'Attack of the Zombie Horde' is a game made of horror-survival elements, and shmup style gameplay. The story of the game is introduced through comic panel style artwork with a plot that's reminiscent of "Resident Evil", and "30 Days of Night". As the story unfolds through the comic book style art we find that a team of mercenaries are answering a distress call, and venture out to the remote Alaskan wilderness where things become rather complicated rather quickly. After they are dropped off via a helicopter they find themselves in a fight for survival against wave after wave of undead creatures. As the gamer you take on the role of one of four available mercenaries as the fight for survival amongst the bloody madness ensues. You can go at it alone, or with up to three other players (for a total of four). As the white snow becomes littered with blood, and entrails you must gather money that's left behind to pay for guns. How long you can survive depends on heavily on reflexes, and available weapons.

Gameplay in 'Attack of the Zombie Horde' is intense. You (the gamer) control one of the four mercenaries in a round by round fight for survival. The game itself features two modes of play, 'Campaign' and 'Survival'. Campaign tells the story of the game through completions of waves of enemies, and boss battles. During each wave of enemies you will have to constantly kill off various creatures in the circle clearing that you find yourself in. The enemies include zombies, maggots, skeletons, spiders, rats, and large scale bosses such as a zombie bear. Different weapons are available for purchase from an item menu between rounds, and can all be obtained by money that is collected from the fallen foes. The game actually starts you off with a handgun, but stronger weapons (handguns, shotguns, sniper  rifles, machine guns, sub-machine guns) can be bought for a certain price.

Survival mode is exactly what it sounds like. Your goal in 'Survival' is to stay alive as long as you can. As with 'Campaign' mode you are given three lives in which you must score as much cash as possible. Within each mode (Campaign & Survival) you'll find that you have a health meter that empties as you are attacked. The only real difference in the actual 'Survival' mode is that you can only use weapons that you have previously unlocked in 'Campaign' mode. The waves of enemies in 'Survival' are constantly flowing without between level interruptions, so it's a continuous mode that literally lasts as long as you can. It also has multiple enemy types, and bosses attacking at the same time making the mode more difficult.

Controls in 'Attack of the Zombie Horde' are very user friendly. the initial setup has the gamer using (Right Trigger) for firing the weapon, but can be set to dual thumbstick controls from the game's menu. Aside from the standard shmup controls there are a few additions such as a run button (Left Trigger), and item usage buttons (D.Pad/X, Y, B, A). Item based weapons are also a huge part of the combat in the game. You can obtain items that can be used (turrets, radio, land mines, nukes, air strikes) from dead enemies just like the occasional pile of cash. These item based weapons can be assigned to each of the four previously mentioned buttons/directions. I found that using the (X, Y, B, A) buttons instead of the (D.Pad) works much better.

In conclusion I think 'Krooked Gaming' hit the metaphorical nail on the head with this game. It's easily a five star XBLIG title. The game not only features solid gameplay throughout, but delivers it in such a fashion that is truly enjoyable. The variety of weapons to unlock in the game is quite impressive. The fact that the developer incorporated global leaderboards with this game made it even better. I have complained a lot about how certain developers leave out online leaderboards, and I was definitely glad to see that 'Krooked Gaming' didn't follow this trend. I didn't mention it earlier in the review but I did my playthrough of the game as a singleplayer. It's very fun to play alone, but I'm sure playing with others would be just as fun if not more so. I will end by saying this is one of the best XBLIG titles I have played yet, and I would have included it in my 'Top 10 of 2011' if I had reviewed it before the new year arrived. With that being said, this game is definitely worth buying. If you don't have it yet I strongly suggest you add it to your gaming library soon.

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