HIGH Transforming into a giant spinning beast that lays waste to an entire wave of zombies.
LOW Wandering into a horde because of bad camera placement.
WTF Is that a Wall-Nut?
It’s tough to pinpoint exactly where the developers of #killallzombies made their mistake. After all, a twin-stick shooter isn’t exactly the most difficult thing to design—fill the screen with monsters, and let the player kill them via pointing. What could be simpler? Top-down shooters with RPG leveling is a genre with well-established rules that have worked for years, but for some strange reason, #killallzombies makes changes to the formula which strip out playability and jack up the difficulty to no great effect.
The game is wholly plotless—the Xbox Store description suggests that players are taking part in some sort of ‘killing game show’ after the zombpocalypse, but there is absolutely nothing in the game itself to suggest that interpretation. For no clear reason, players are dropped onto a field of hexagons and asked to defend themselves as endless zombies swarm in from all directions. They’re scored on number of zombies killed and time survived, and killing zombies awards experience which can be used to unlock perks. There’s even a couch co-op mode which sands off some of the rough edges, as it’s much easier to plow through wave after wave of the undead with double the firepower.
An interesting playfield is the only thing #killallzombies has going for it. While it initially seems like a generic hex grid, it constantly undergoes changes—sections rise up to form walls, fall to make chasms, or just flash red and have obstacles dropped down on it. It’s a visually interesting effect, and the sheer volume of weird ways that the floor can be changed was consistently entertaining. Tetris blocks, pandas, cameos from other zombie game characters—at one point Thor’s hammer dropped from the sky and made an impressive dent in the landscape.
While the field of play might be nice, when it comes to core play mechanics, #kaz makes error after error.
To begin with, the camera is far too close to the action, so there’s no way for the player to know where zombies are coming from, or whether they’re about to run into a horde of them.
Instead of randomly dropping guns or having zombies drop them when killed, they’re added to the menu of perks that appear when the player levels up, making them far rarer and more precious than they should be.
Basic zombies are so fast that when sprinting zombies appear in later waves they feel redundant.
The onscreen display is lacking even the most basic information players might want or need, such as a running kill count or how many zombies are left in a given wave, yet ‘score’—which has no use in-game—is prominently featured.
While it’s possible to unlock new, more powerful starting guns, the method for doing so is completely opaque. Players have no explicit goals to work towards, leaving them with no motivation to keep playing once they’ve gotten a general sense of what the game is.
Worst of all is the game’s tower defense mode, which seems to have been conceived by people who have either never played a tower defense game, or just hate them with a passion. The entire point of tower defense games is to find ways to manage enemy movement towards a goal, harrying them until they’ve been destroyed. #killallzombies‘s tower defense mode places the tower at the middle of a map, then sends zombies to attack from every direction, while giving the player—again, who can’t see where the zombies are coming from—no way to control or alter their movement. When each tower defense game starts the player has just enough money to build three towers, but starting towers aren’t powerful enough to handle even the first wave of attacking zombies, so most games end very quickly.
#killallzombies has no excuse for getting this so wrong. Similar title Crimsonland had all of the fundamentals down 13 years ago, and seven years ago a game called Nation Red adapted the same structure for zombies and was nearly perfect at what it attempted to accomplish. The idea that a modular tile-based arena could somehow make up for getting all of the genre’s established systems so incredibly wrong is ridiculous, and given the shoulders on which it had the option to stand, there’s absolutely no excuse for #killallzombies to be as shoddy as it is.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by beatshapers. It is currently available on XBO/PS4/PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBO. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. 1 hour of play was spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains violence, blood. Yes, the game contains nothing but shooting zombies, but it’s fairly tame as zombie shooters go. No exploding heads, no severed limbs or guts strewn about. Just a few splashes of blood to mark the fallen zombies—which, in spite of genre conventions, disappear after a few seconds.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game has no audio cues or plot elements, so it’s simple to play without sound.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
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