Dead Horde ReviewJoe Shaffer
Everyone you know and love either walks the earth eternally hungry or has been devoured by the previous group. You've learned since making this realization that your only friends and family now are your firearms and bullets, perfect for making short work of the shambling corpses that presently populate the streets.
The above paragraph could be used to describe a plethora of games these days. The zombie apocalypse plot device seems to have become today's replacement for the rescue missions, fighting tournaments, and hostile alien takeovers of the 8- and 16-bit eras. For the sake of this review, let's just pretend the above premise belongs to the game Dead Horde, an overhead-view shooter where you gun down myriad undead flesh-eaters while seeking safety.
The game's mechanics and rules are simple. You mosey about WASD-style, aim a reticle at various rotting targets, and 'left mouse button' them to death for cash. With each successive kill, you gain multipliers that increase your cash flow. You can then use the cheddar you've earned to upgrade your weaponry. In other words, each dead zombie brings you one step closer to possessing a stronger assault rifle, a shotgun with a larger clip, or sharper blades for your saw gun.
Yeah, Dead Horde features a gun that shoots saw blades. It's pretty awesome.
You might think that the inclusion of a ridiculous weapon like a saw gun is an indicator that Dead Horde is an over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall adventure starring thousands of zombies, veritable seas of blood, gore galore, and nonstop action. Sadly, Dead Horde is pretty tame in comparison to most zombie-killing titles around today. Mostly, this is thanks to the lack of enemy diversity. For the most part, you battle legions of the same zombies until you cry bloody tears, rarely needing to change up your strategy. Now and then you'll run afoul of nastier mutations that require a tad more finesse to destroy, such as acid-vomiting, bariatric ghouls or tentacle-laden speed demons. Unfortunately, such foes don't manifest often enough to keep the ball rolling. With simplistic, straightforward mechanics, enemy variety is a necessity in a game like this. Otherwise a campaign could become very chore-like, as it does here.
Despite its simple premise, Dead Horde is quite challenging. I can appreciate that, honestly. What bugs me about the challenge factor, though, is that the zombies can run like Olympic sprinters while the military-trained protagonist plods along at a moderate pace. You'd think that the game would provide you with a run key and a finite amount of stamina to compensate for such an unbalanced setup. Instead, you get a "tuck and roll" ability that's more of a liability than it is a help. Half of the time, you'll execute this maneuver and get hung up the slightest corner of a piece of environment. It may appear that you're clear of the object, but you'll discover the truth when you just barely touch the object's hit box and become zombie chow. What's worse is that the roll is sometimes worthless. It might grant you a momentary reprieve, but the ghouls usually manage to catch up to you before you can either deal significant damage to them or put much distance between you and them. Bear in mind that you can only roll every so often, as doing so depletes your stamina, forcing you to wait a few seconds for it to replenish.
Vehicle scenes should provide a solid respite from the tedious and frustrating bits of the campaign. Sadly, thanks to wonky vehicle mechanics, piloting a tank or a jeep is irritating. Mostly, I've found that the game's vehicles are difficult to steer, especially in reverse. I usually wind up reversing in the wrong direction or skittering off the road. At times when I want to plow through a field of zombies, I might find myself veering in the wrong direction or over-correcting because the vehicle physics are so touchy. The end result is only a few zombies splattering on my hood when it should have been dozens.
I suppose that playing co-op could make the game enjoyable, but I doubt it. Joining friends in the ho-hum massacre of an uninteresting collection of undead fiends doesn't sound like it would be a wise social investment. "But Joe, you liked Left 4 Dead! Isn't that pretty much the same concept?" On the surface, maybe, but L4D provides superior mechanics, tenser situations, better stage designs, actual variety, and cool characters. Dead Horde offers less of the above listed items, plus lame vehicle sequences.
The market is saturated with low cost zombie shooters these days. As you can guess, that pretty much translates to mountains of mediocre (or worse) games and a few shining beacons. Dead Horde is one of the substandard examples of zombie gaming, although it's definitely better than some that I've played. If all you're looking for is dumb zombie killing and loads of mindless action, then stick with Zombie Shooter and forget about Dead Horde.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.