Posted: April 14, 2014
There is, I must admit, a niche for games that are harder than hard. A game which is not gentle, that does not have a learning cure so much as a learning cliff. A game which shows nothing but brutality to it's players. This game is a labour of love, with many, many hours obviously put into it to make as best a game as the developers could. They knew what they were going for, a semi-realistic zombie apocalypse that shows no mercy and they went for it.
Of course, this introduces problems.
Let's start with the learning curve. As mentioned before, this game has not so much a learning curve as a learning cliff, so you might expect a short moment on how to explain game mechanics, or at least, hints and tips while the game loads for you? Reasonable to expect, isn't it? Well, no. You don't get that at all. There is no kindness, no compassion, no one or nothing to give you a holding hand; this game chucks you in the deep end, then expects you to know breast stroke. Now other games have done this, Dark Souls being the most infamous, but Dark Souls took a moment to explain what was going on. It told you how to raise your shield, explained how to equip, and how to use the bonfies. No such luck here. You're in a bulding that is secure, and the moment you walk out that door, zombies. Lots and lots of zombies.
Now having one or two zombies at first to get used to them, to know how to deal with them, again, would be standard fare. Nothing wrong with being exposed to a new enemy type slowly, to let you understand and get used to. Not so with this game, oh no. Try a few dozen. And you don't know what to do beyond kill. You might have a few weapons, but they float through the air, seemingly not connecting to anything, which means that you have to spend a few swings getting used to weapons. And in a game this lethal and unforgiving, those few practice swings will cost you dearly. And you will die.
Now one mechaninc that you might know is that being grabbed can only be resolved by pushing (which is V by default). What you may not know is that zombies can grab through wire fences and windows (wether or not this is a bug is something else entirely) and if that happens, you are beyond all hope. Another thing that you might guess that being grabbed and then bitten is bad, and it is, but being bitten is not well shown. Beyond the zombie jerking a bit, you may not even know you've been bitten until you begin to show the signs. And if you are bitten, death is inevitable. You have two minutes. Spend them well by either finding pills to buy you more time (no cure here), jump off a ledge, or simply beg someone to kill you.
Now the inventory may take some getting used to. You have two inventory wheels, one for ammo, one for weapons. The bigger, bulkier, and heavier something is, the more space it takes, and you don't have many pockets. So of course you need to manage inventory space, which is perfectly fine, this is a horror survival game after all. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I applaud it. I don't want to be carrying two rifles, three pistols, and a big ♥♥♥ sledge hammer. I'm not a ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ space marine here, and this isn't the game for them. Ammo is counted in weight and mass as well, which makes sense.
And, of course, the zombies. Oh, the Zombies. These are standard Romero-Zombies. Undead who feel no pain, fear, or emotion and operate entirely on instinct. Woth noting, hwoever, that the eyesight of a zombie is perfect. I'm not kidding; they have perfect, near 360 degree awareness of everything that not even you or I should be able to see. Two stories directly overhead? They can see you. Small dot on the horizon in a darkened room? They know you're there. Pitch blackness? Sure as ♥♥♥♥ they know you're there.
And while this does make for a fun and entertaining horror game, there is one more flaw. Multiplayer. Now, I know what you're saying: But Left 4 Dead and Payday did it perfectly! How can this be possible!? Well here's why. For starters, Valve knew that players can't communicate well with strangers on the other side of the world. They knew that coordination was next to impossible. They knew that players naturally deviate from each other at all times. So how did they solve this? Simple. You always knew, at a glance, how your fellow players were doing, and where they were. They had glowing outlines that showed at any distance, and maps were linear to prevent fanning out by players. Maps in valves games were funnels, and even Overkill understood this by making the map around easy to navigate and open buldings made as simplistic as possible.
Multiplayer is a mess. Players do not communicate well with others over large distances. Most players don't even have microphones, so that idea with walkie talkies where players far away can't talk without them? A waste of time since text speech does not work with walkie talkies, so you must be right next to them to work. Maps are cramped, narrow things that while linear, often curve in on themselves and encourage exporation. Again, not a problem, except that players naturally do not drift together, they drift apart because they have no sense of surroundings at the best of times and are given no way to drift back together.
This game strikes me as a single player game trying to do the work of multiplayer. It just can't work. It doesn't work. Bad bugs (or bad mechanics, that's unclear), an extreme difficulty curve beyond any sane resembelance and poor combat mechanics and jerky, overwhelming numbers of undead at all times mean that players will only have an experience of death, more death, and of course death, all without any real progression. This game isn't just hard, it's near unplayable through it's obscene diffculty spikes and poorly designed multiplayer maps.
This is not to say that it's bad, heck, I had loads of fun playing it, but it is very much a niche game. If you don't want to play this sort of game, skip it over, but I reccomend playing this game just for the experience.