All Zombies Must Die
Yeah, lets not even pretend that All Zombies Must Die! is doing anything original. It'd be easy to dismiss AZMD! as a Dead Nation knock-off if it wasn't more obviously a knock-off of developer doubesix's own Burn, Zombie, Burn!. Sure, in between they churned out the depressing Top Gun, but no doubt they decided to iterate from their first game with this new release.
I'll skip the basics, because if you don't know what a twin-stick zombie shooter is about in this day and age, you probably don't play video games and are reading this review entirely by mistake. This would be a good time for you to close the page and go back to TMZ or whatever other den of iniquity you lurk in. The adventures of slacker Jack, his ex-girlfriend Rachel, nerdlinger Bryan and Rastaf-alien Luxo are all kinds of goofy, constantly breaking the 4th wall to remind us that these guys are all pretty sure they are in a video game. The story is fluff, but it's amusing fluff at least.
You'll spend that vast majority of your AZMD! time mowing down shamblers with a rather boring slate of weapons that do pay homage to a few other famous zombie icons like a cricket bat from "Shaun of the Dead" and a shotgun from the "Evil Dead" series. Zombies will swarm you ceaselessly in each level and stick around too long and you'll run out of ammo, then life. There is a limited amount cached in various containers in each level, but it goes fast and without changing levels you can't restock the supplies, so it is in your best interest to do what needs to be done and get going before being overwhelmed.
Much like the earlier Burn, Zombie, Burn!, you can use the environment to your advantage, setting zombies on fire either by luring them through a burning area or by using weapons that cause a fire effect. Once one zombie is burning, they'll wander around and catch others on fire until you have a giant wall of fire chasing you. Killing these afflicted zombies will get you more experience, and in certain levels killing enough will cause a special item to drop. These items will be used in the crafting system we'll explore in a bit. Fire is by no means the only element, as zombies can be electrocuted, sonified, toxified and frozen depending on the situation.
Those elements play heavily into the crafting system featured in AZMD!. You'll acquire an assortment of objects during the course of play, along with the occasional recipe. Whenever you are at a base, you can combine items with the usual result being a weapon that now has a status effect associated with it. Once you learn the pattern (which isn't hard) you can guess your way into crafting up stuff before the recipes. While this system is fun and adds a little extra carrot to geocoding zombies, ultimately it isn't very deep or branching. You've also got a few basic stats you can upgrade for each character, but again, nothing that drastically crafts the game into anything uniquely yours.
Obviously a game like this cries out for co-op, and it's there, in all its four-play, couch-only glory. Yeah, once again the ball is dropped as there is no online. In this game, where the story takes multiple play-sessions to work through, you can't expect to have the same group of four people to plow through the game. When will they learn? It's more fun with friends for sure, although someone hoarding ammo can become really annoying.
Also annoying is the mission design that has you criss-cross the same area quite a few times without offering any new rewards for passing through again. There ends up being just too many missions without enough variety to not get a little tired by the end of the game. The entire focus of the game is combat, and the combat just isn't all that exciting. Things are made even worse when a mission requires you to take along one of the weaker characters. The different zombies (who all seem like design rejects from Plants vs. Zombies) tend to absorb way more punishment than what fun allows, and even fully upgraded you still don't feel like you really kick zombie ass like you'd hope (except for the chainsaw... the chainsaw is pretty fun).
The homages to other games are fun, and the story made me laugh, but the gameplay started stale and feel deeper into drudgery from there. We are in the tail end of a really long (overly so) cycle of these shooters and at this point if you aren't bringing something revolutionary to the table you shouldn't leave the kitchen. All Zombies Must Die! isn't bad, but at this point it's only for diehards.