WaI Is Gameplay Hell

HIGH Gross neck stumps all around!

LOW Everything else.

WTF Two missions couldn’t end because boss death animations didn’t load.

Taking its plot from a film of the same name, MalnaZidos has an interesting enough premise — during the dark days of the Spanish Civil War, a fascist officer is forced to team up with a team of Republican commandoes when they find themselves surrounded the living dead, the result of sinister Nazi experiments. It’s a premise that could easily have a strong game built around it, but unfortunately, that’s not what happened here.

An almost criminally short third-person shooter, MalnaZidos asks players to control Jan, a fascist rebel, as he sneaks and shoots his way through a handful of bland, linear levels. This is action gaming at its most uninspired, and stealth at its most inept. Malnazidos‘ gameplay is inexcusably shoddy in every way. Jan moves as slow as molasses, aiming weapons is haphazard at best, and the less said about the terrible melee combat, the better.

It’s rare to see a game with controls this terrible — the camera is awkward to use, and has dire effects on attempts to move Jan around the world. Even when not aiming a weapon, he’ll always try to face the camera, and the game has trouble transitioning him from forward to sideways movement. As such, turning the camera during movement can have the effect of freezing him in place temporarily. It’s not the greatest thing to happen when a horde of zombies is bearing down on him.

Well, not ‘horde’, per se — more like a scattering. There’s rarely more than two zombies onscreen at a time, or at least two that need to be dealt with. Every now and then MalnaZidos will offer two paths, one with a glut of zombies, and the other with just two or three, all facing away from the player. The choice is obvious.

This brings me to the game’s stealth system. By crouching down, the player can sneak up on zombies and snap their necks, avoiding fights completely… unless the zombies are on a slightly different elevation, at which point the game will get confused about how to move the player model into place for the ‘neck-snapping’ animation, causing the whole game to lock up.

It’s rare that I find myself completely unable to say anything good about a game I’m reviewing, but Malnzidos is certainly testing my abilities. I suppose that the cell shading on the character models looks fairly decent. Unfortunately the rest of the graphics aren’t drawn with the same style. The vehicles, environments, and furnishings feel like generic low-detail assets compared to the cartoony characters.

There’s not even any satisfaction to be found in the combat. There are just two types of zombies, some that slowly walk towards the player, and some that sprint. They take the same amount of bullets to kill (too many!) and neither type reacts with anything but a generic flinch to taking damage, which makes fighting them feel like a repetitive chore. The game’s lone boss — a hulking Nazi — should have offered more of a challenge, but he froze in place when I detonated a barrel next to him, and from then on he was content to stand in place until I’d finished shooting him to death.

After beating the campaign in just under two hours I was shocked to discover that the game was already over — I’d completed it in about the same time it would have taken to watch the movie it was based on.

Malnazidos does have a second campaign, in which the player goes through much shorter versions of the levels they’ve already played, this time controlling the Republican commando characters. For some reason these levels are hidden away on the level select screen, so if I hadn’t been checking on missing collectibles I might never have known they existed.

Malnazidos is awful in every way a game can be. I’ve played countless free titles with better controls and combat. The Unreal Engine offers tutorials on how to make games that play better than this in just a couple of hours. Literally the only good thing I can say about it is that when zombies are shot in the head a few times, their skulls explode in a decently disgusting manner. When that’s the only positive a game offers, it’s safe to bypass it entirely.

Rating: 1.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Gammerra Nest. It is currently available on PC and PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode. The game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game rated M by the ESRB, and it contains Blood, Language, and Intense Violence. The intense violence likely refers to the exploding heads mentioned above, and really, I wasn’t that shocked by them. What’s a little more troubling is being asked to play as a fascist fighting for Franco’s army – the politics of which are not commented on at all in the game. No kids near this one, just to be safe. Also there’s better things for them to play.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Games: You should have no trouble with this game. You might get ambushed by zombies that normally alert players via moans, but you have to fail a QTE before zombies are allowed to hurt you, so that shouldn’t pose a major issue. All dialogue is in Spanish, and subtitled in English. Subtitles cannot be resized.

Remappable Controls: This game’s controls cannot be remapped. Also, the game can only be played with controllers, not a keyboard and mouse.

Daniel Weissenberger
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