Game Description: In a change from House of the Dead's first-person viewpoint, Zombie Revenge places all characters (including hordes of attacking zombified souls) in a third-person camera view. A perfect translation of the arcade game by the same name, Zombie Revenge also offers up an original mode that features a few small differences, including the option to play with powered-up guns or in bare knuckles mode (without the aid of handguns).
Zombies have long been a part of popular entertainment, but video games in particular have found the exploitation of the undead very useful.
As games have come under heavy scrutiny from finger-pointing parents and politicians, the industry has looked for ways to have their cake and eat it, too—keeping the gore factor high while not upsetting those looking for an easy answer to society's problems.
Zombies have proven to be popular subjects of late for this reason. Programmers have a particularly easy time working on the appropriately brain-dead artificial intelligence of enemies, gamers can have their violent fun, and the game industry can wash their hands of it. After all, theyre not capitalizing on loss of human life—zombies are already dead.
No game echoes this sentiment clearer than Sega's Zombie Revenge, a shoot-'em-up, beat-'em-up arcade brawler with zombies and gore to spare. Though the game does have its moments, there's nothing here that hasn't been tried before. Zombie Revenge just changes the scenery a bit, adding a Resident Evil-esque theme to a pretty basic formula.
The premise doesnt mark any new territory, either. A city is overrun with zombies after a top-secret government plan to create undead soldiers goes wrong. A team of heroes is brought in to deal with the threat. Of course one of them, Linda Rotta, is a blond bombshell. Like Jill Valentine in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, she's hardly dressed for the occasion (or hardly dressed at all for that matter). Despite their ridiculous names, the two obligatory macho guys, Stick Breitling and Rikiya Busujima, look ready to kick ass, but Linda looks more ready to start her shift at the local Hooters. Are tight shorts and a tank-top really appropriate attire for killing zombies?
Obviously we don't ask questions like that in a game like this. It's all about the mindless arcade action, but even that loses its appeal quickly. Solid gameplay could have saved this game, but it's as lifeless as your typical zombie. The objective is to progress through each level in standard A to B fashion while fighting through a seemingly endless wave of walking corpses and slime-spitting monsters. All the while the same "Go! Go! Go!" arrows that have been around since the days of Golden Axe prompt you forward. A confrontation with a boss character ends each level. Sometimes there's a hidden item room thrown in here and there to break up the monotony, but that's as exciting as it gets.
At the very least, a Dreamcast game should be visually impressive, and the hi-res graphics in Zombie Revenge don't disappoint. Even though other games have been there, done that, the environments and characters are pretty convincing. I wasn't very impressed with the bosses though, and the game really tries to punch up those encounters. But there are other notable things. The camera behaves well for a 3D game. The perspective changes only from checkpoint to checkpoint, wisely staying static for the action. There are several extra game modes and options, but they all revolve around the lacking arcade mode.
The good-guy special agents have an impressive arsenal of fighting moves and weapons at their disposal, but it's not enough to keep the action from growing tedious, and the bad controls compound the problem. For instance, punch-kick combos cannot be interrupted once activated. So if you miss your target, your character will keep punching even though you took your finger off the attack button long ago. This causes you to get stuck punching at empty space while a zombie quickly creeps up from behind to gnaw on your neck. Then there's the dash button, which can be useful for getting some breathing room when a gang of flesh-eaters are bearing down. But at the same time, this arrangement causes some confusion in the controls. Since the dash button is the same as the guard button, holding it down will make you run, but not before stopping to guard several times in mid-stride.
Simply opening doors can prove frustrating, but the single most annoying control problem is the auto-targeting that goes with firing weapons. Not only is it poorly implemented, it just doesn't work. Trying to aim your gun when surrounded or when fighting a boss is pure aggravation. Sometimes it locks on to a target, sometimes it doesnt. Its range isn't very good, either. This is inexcusable for a game that depends so much on shooting.
Fighting the zombies can be fun at times. There are a lot of cool weapons, especially the giant power-drill for gorging zombies and the dual handguns. But these weapons are all temporary. Just when youre getting into a groove of splattering zombie parts all over the street with a shotgun, you run out of ammo and its back to hand-to-hand combat.
Zombie Revenge teases us with these great ways to dismember a zombie, only to make punching and kicking essential to survive. The game seems to forget that were trying to kill the undead here. What good is a body slam or a shoulder attack going to do when emptying a pistol into one hardly slows it down? We're obviously not supposed to care about the story or the heroes, but at least let us have some fun!
When you do get to use the heavy artillery, the zombies spill green blood, and so do the protagonist humans. Getting the privilege of seeing the red stuff requires beating the arcade mode first. It's a cheap gimmick and another attempt at deflecting criticism from industry attackers. The game can't even play it straight at the most fundamental level. The developers should have gone all-out, or they shouldn't have gone at all.
When I first saw the score Ben gave Zombie Revenge, I thought two things: The new guy is out to prove something and he didn't bother to play through the game thoroughly. That's because I had relatively high expectations ever since I heard that Sega was going to be publishing it. After all, it was based on the The House Of The Dead arcade games and given the popularity and fun of that franchise, I was expecting it to be a modern-day Final Fight. However, barely 15 minutes into Zombie Revenge, I knew that it would do little to live up to my expectations, and that Ben was right-on damn near everything he said. It's amazing to me that while Zombie Revenge was plucked from the The House Of The Dead series, no one on the development team thought it necessary to change the gameplay to coincide with the change in genres. Instead, everything remains the same. From the simplistic level design that constitutes static stages where enemies pop up to be shot, to the dumb AI of the enemies, Zombie Revenge looks and plays like any arcade gun-shooter I would find at my favorite mall if it werent for the overhead perspective.
Like Ben, I found Zombie Revenge's graphics to be worthy of some praise, but even that is tempered because the heroes, the bosses and every other character in the game, looks simply grotesque—far too grotesque even for a zombie-filled game. It's as if the game designers took all of two seconds to come up with and then create these monsters, and that includes the heroes as well. A little more care going into the character designs would have made the cut-scenes and their respective character close-ups a lot easier to look at. Improved voice acting would be another area I thought Sega would have worked on, but that was by no means the case. Maybe some fans of anything even remotely like Resident Evil (notorious for bad voice acting) won't mind, but I think that enough is enough.
There is one thing about Zombie Revenge that Ben neglected to mention, and that is the Zombie Revenge Raising Game. It's a mini-game that I downloaded from the Zombie Revenge CD to my VMU thinking I could take one of the game's three heroes, train them separately and then take them into the game. Unfortunately, it is nothing like that. For one thing, these home-grown characters cannot be used in the Arcade Mode, and the Original Mode is only good for collecting food to be later fed to my VMU fighter. About all the VMU fighters are good for, is for Pokémon-esque battles in the Fighting mode, and even that gets old quickly. The two more traditional VMU mini-games included are a zombie fishing game (yes, you read it correctly) and a memory card game, but neither are entertaining for longer than a couple of rounds. As a whole, none of the VMU games are worth the 110 blocks of memory they demand from your VMU.
If Sega was going to milk their The House Of The Dead franchise by doing another cross-genre release, I wouldnt mind at all, especially if it were a take on the Resident Evil franchise (which is what I was expecting Zombie Revenge to be when I first heard of its existence). But cross-genre games are only worthwhile if they are made with the intent to exploit the advantages of the new genre. In making Zombie Revenge, Sega didn't show any inkling of doing that, and the result is an utterly forgettable release that does nothing but tarnish the Sega name and the The House Of The Dead franchise as well.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood & Gore, Animated ViolenceDespite the green blood, parents will find that the game earns its Mature rating. The violence is graphic and red blood can be accessed after finishing the game. There is also some adult language and overt sexuality. Zombie Revenge is a loud, action-filled, arcade gore-fest thats suprisingly shallow in its design and gameplay. Its essentially "Resident Evil Arcade," and on that level, it almost works.
It might be worth a rent for those casual gamers wanting that chance to impale a zombie on a giant hand-held drill, but polluting your Dreamcast with this game for too long would be a crime.
Horror fans can wait for Resident Evil: Code Veronica, or just stick with the current crop of Resident Evil games of PlayStation and Nintendo 64, because theres nothing surprising or scary in Zombie Revenge.
Seasoned action fans can find bigger and better arcade action on lesser platforms. Die Hard Arcade for Sega Saturn, Final Fight CD for Sega CD and Streets Of Rage 2 for Sega Genesis might be difficult to find nowadays, but they represent the best this genre has to offer.