The Zombie Apocalypse Will Be Boring
I recently had the dubious mispleasure of playing the game "DAY OF THE ZOMBIE" by Groove Games (I had thought, but was relieved to find, that Kuma Reality Games did not soil their reputation on this one), developed by Brainbox Games. I suppose I discovered the game by means of Ultraviolet (1998 UK TV) -> TekWar (on YouTube) -> Isle of the Dead (that'll be interesting to write about sometime) -> let's look at some odd and very obscure Russian FPSes! I ought to note that I was nearly knocked out all day long, because I played this game for something like six hours straight instead of getting more sleep last night, although I don't hold a grudge against it for my poor choice of priorities. I managed to survive the day, at any rate, Day of the Zombie notwithstanding.
This game was never released, except perhaps in Russia (the setup file allows a choice of English or Russian, and is fully localized in natural English - no idea about the Russian angle). It was thought to be in the same type of category as Left 4 Dead, but unlike that title or Irrational's Division 9, it was just a "story-based" linear FPS, with backtracking. It appears to be strongly similar to "Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green," using at least some of the same assets (ugly, fat woman zombies, babushkas, lousy weapon models including the .22 rifle, probably more), and that game (which was released) got a 2.1 from GameSpot (I would give this game a 10/100 perhaps). I'm in no great rush to find Road to Fiddler's Green.
The game was fairly easy to set up, and stable except in one instance (I'll mention that later). Cursor movement at the main menu was really bad, but manually setting SETRES 1920x1200x32 in the menu - the game is based on the Unreal Engine 2, i.e. UT2004 - cleared this up, although I noted when waving the cursor around that it inevitably climbed to the top of the screen - there was no problem with gameplay however. When I started the game, I found myself starring as young Johnny, clueless college-age kid in a dorm, and then hey look, zombies. At first I felt vaguely impressed by the spartan yet vaguely proportional surroundings and the various materials which responded with appropriate sound clips when hit, and especially the flimsy walls zombies can tear through or the doors which can be destroyed with a few hits or shots. I wasn't impressed by the PILLZ! bottles strewn about that seem to return about 1/10 of the health bar (a single zombie attack can knock off twice this much). Luckily I had a baseball bat right in the room (ahh, memories of Action DOOM 2) which did a fair amount of damage, but quite soon I tired of the step-forward-step-back shuffle and whacking kids with dreadlocks and matrons too old to be in a dorm. Zombie models might've come from some for-pay package; some of the models don't fit in with the others at all (i.e. the gray mummified zomies that appear to have boots for feet). There is only one type of somewhat freaky zombie - I believe it's called a "Flesh Feaster" and is basically a zombie that runs on all fours and makes hideous snarling dog noises.
That's about it for atmosphere, though; the levels are set inside somewhat clumsily made city and vaguely university-like settings, as well as a mercifully extremely brief and surprisingly not very disgusting sewer, as well as an industrial dock section at the endgame (of course, the only boats found at the dock are private lake boats). There are three characters, who never meet each other yet around the same levels within minutes of each other. Johnny's quest, predictably, is finding his girlfriend (you already know the full story here). Each player, I should mention, gets a comic book-style introduction. The second player you get is a "school janitor" who has an unhealthy reverence for the University's "proper order of things" and spends his time muttering about pranks and saving the school's 'treasures' - two rare books, the Fenwick Shovel (which, unfortunately, is not usable as a melee weapon, although maybe that's a good thing because shovels suck in this game), a couple other "artifacts." His lines and voice actor can't seem to agree whether to put any effort into making him seem deranged. He is hobbled from the start with a hammer with no range or power. He is the first character to find a firearm dropped by a dead man - a lever action .22 rifle which holds six shots. It takes three head shots from the damn thing to kill a zombie, takes forever to reload, and there's a long wait from one shot to the next. His terrible hammer has (as do the other weapons) a slow wind-up secondary attack, which flings a zombie to the ground but doesn't kill them, or even seem to do any damage to speak of. Doesn't seem very useful even if you allow yourself to be cornered. At this point in the game I was still making an effort to play it "the right way." I soon realized that the game doesn't have any compunctions about throwing endless zombies at you (they fall out of vents with a splat on the ground and take a moment as ragdolls before composing themselves - of course, they can't be hurt at this time). More helpful are the endless amount of heavy doors in this game, which the zombies don't even bother pressing up against.
So far, so bad. The game has shaped up to be a First Person Zombie Mostly Brawling Game. The third guy is a stranded military man, and he starts out in a house somewhere with the sound of zombies pacing back and forth. He starts off with an awesome (maybe) sniper rifle, a glock pistol (very weak, but no worse than the .22 even though it takes around five shots to kill), and very soon after an awesome M16 rifle which can actually start taking limbs and heads off of things. Vaguely interesting. Well, damned if the game doesn't really fall flat here, because soon you are running through a badly done "hedge maze" at the edge of the city. I think I saw the writing on the wall and from this point on I just sprinted through the level.
I did make an effort to play through some of the other levels more or less the right way, and at times it forces you to stop and clear a set number of zombies before proceeding. Johnny gets a slow but powerful revolver which must be cocked after every shot (a nice touch actually), crazy janitor man gets an annoying but still useful four-shot shotgun in his quest to prevent the dormitory fires from spreading to the chancellor's mansion, and I got the "allammo" console cheat so I stopped having to worry about ammo. There were some other weapons - throwables such as molotov cocktails, grenades (very rarely), and later on some zombies learn to pick up melee weapons (these soak up far more damage than other types, so leading them into flames is a must). The most useful melee weapon is probably the lead pipe, which has a long wind-up time but kills a regular zombie in one regular whack.
There was one vaguely fun idea which was poorly introduced by the loading screen - "Have you found all the Kung Fu books yet?" or something. Sure enough, I looked into an open box soon after and a red-cover book was staring up at me - bam, you get tattoos on your fists (but only for that weapon) and you can do a fast punch combo - which zombies still sometimes will hit through. Worthless.
Later on, you get to find some mounted guns. The only place the game gave me any trouble was one of these sections late in the game - you are told to use a minigun (which in practice seemed like using a Civil War era gatling gun chambered for Janitor Man's .22 - slow and not powerful) to rip through cars but any attempt to fire a minigun at that spot (including pulling it up from the console) resulted in a game crash, and Unreal Engine 2 informed me of a runaway loop. At this point it appeared as if there was a branching path available - a pickup truck blocking a barricade before me, and a burning car to the right. As it turned out, grabbing the minigun launches waves of zombies, too, so I ended up just using the M16 to shoot up the car on the right, and wasn't bothered by lots of zombies either.
I can't stress enough how little fun this game was. On top of it all, the endings were pure garbage - all three characters are killed, although the janitor dude is last seen angrily looking out a window at more zombies (as if that would have been a problem). The army guy gets the classic "hooray, I got away in the boat, whoops, zombies are about to eat me" and comes close to showing some green cleavage. Maybe he was going to be saved from a brain-feasting by those dessicated pillows getting in the way? Hmm. In any case, the comic panels would have hilariously destroyed any attempt at tension in the ending segments, since you briefly see the entire page before the camera tracks in to cover each panel. The game's final thoughts, from the wannabe Crypt Keeper narrator, were "Nobody will survive the Day of the Zombie!"
How fitting that the game itself couldn't survive the Day of the Zombie.
* Zombies can break through walls, and then you can run past them while they flop on the ground as ragdolls
* Very rote adoption of the worst kind of zombie movie cliches
* Emphasis on repetitive and dangerous melee combat
* Possibly released in Russia, an insult to international ethics
I'd be down for a real "Tales of the Crypt" style game, but this one didn't come close. The closest thing I know is still the hilarious and ever-relevant Counter-Strike Condition Zero: Deleted Scenes mission mode, which unfortunately has nothing to do with zombies (absent the company motto in the final tower mission, Rise Hard, possibly referencing them - then again maybe it was the computer kind, impossible to say) but would have been a pretty decent platform for this sort of thing (absent zombie dismemberment, that is).
Final thought: The worst modern FPS I have played thus far. Worse than Soldier of Fortune: Payback by a good amount. Less enjoyable than Carnivores: Cityscape. Worse than the Kuma Reality Games "Dinohunters" Shick Quattro adgames, by a mile (those were enjoyable for the humor alone though). It's especially infuriating that Russia was singled out for poor treatment here - as poor an impression as Metro 2033 and Dungeons of Kremlin
make, this was far worse. Considering how good Killing Floor was (and is) starting from the exact same engine, there is no excuse for any of this. Yes, it's true that DOTZ wasn't released in North America because of how bad it is, but the whole game appears complete enough (including endgame credits) that you get the idea that somebody was really, really hopeful it would be given the green light for a disc pressing. Fuck that, and fuck Brainbox Games.