Whilst the zombie genre isn’t quite as prominent as it was a couple of years back, there are still a huge number of titles that feature the undead. As you would expect from a game titled, Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare, this fun little mobile port is full of the shuffling, groaning, undead hordes. And like many games before it, it’s up to you to rid the world of them. Or at least try and steer your way through.
Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare puts you into the shoes of a bunch of survivors, as you attempt to, well, survive. Holed up in your battle bus, you’ll find that the hordes of undead have blocked the roads. It will be up to you to leave the comfort and safety of your metal moving home in order to remove the zombie obstruction, grab some much needed supplies, and get the hell outta there before your bus is overrun.
In order to remove these undead masses from the road, you’ll need to decide upon your squad prior to each stage. A team of six character types is all you can take into battle, and it’ll be up to you to mix and match your characters and special items from a pool of 27 unlockable options. You will need to choose wisely too as some are great at melee combat, and others prefer range attacks, whilst you’ll find that the special throwable items allow the opportunity to freeze or set fire to the enemy.
Each of these characters has a cost associated with them, and it is only once you’ve managed to raise enough battle points will you be able to drop them into action. Each comes with a variety of different stats too – Health, Melee/Ranged, Fortune, Speed, and Preparation Time – but if truth be told the respawning time is pretty much the key component. See, there is no point taking a squad of heavies who are going to take an age to spawn, as time is critical in Dead Ahead and getting men on the battlefield is what ultimately counts. Yes, there will be times when you’ll find sending out a few shotgun touting team members will help soften the defences, prior to sending in the big guns, but for the majority of the couple of hundred levels, quantity wins the day over quality.
There is also a bit of a grind involved in this Zombie Warfare and the more you play, the more Survival Points you will earn, the greater the amount of supplies you’ll pick up, and the stronger you can make your characters. With the battle bus also upgradeable, seeing it able to take more hits before your level progression ends in failure, picking up a variety of goodies and increasing your character stats is a much needed strategic element.
See, that’s because the zombies coming at you all have varying styles themselves. Some will plod slowly forward, needing to get up close to attack, whilst others will run and Banshee scream at high pace. The latter levels will see undead police officers and the like come kitted out with armour, whilst even more will explode on contact, distributing infected areas that harm your little squad of survivors. Repetition of certain stages is most definitively the par for the course here, because until you go in once and experience the zombie blockade, you won’t ever really know which squad of characters you need to take into battle.
With a super visual style that just works, and basic audio screams and groans accompanying your adventure, you’re not going to find yourself wowed by anything Dead Ahead brings, but much like that other classic indie horde shooter, Let Them Come, the action is fast, frantic and pretty good fun. It’s also pretty addictive, with the inclusion of a whole stack of character upgrades and the chance to see exactly how many zombies you’ve put down via a Zombiepedia, seeing you going back for more over and over again.
So as it stands, Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare is a fun little mobile port that sees the development team at Mobirate chance their arm within the big console market. But it is these same mobile porting aspects which are ultimately its downfall.
See, for as much fun as mindless zombie killing brings, there are some big problems with Dead Ahead. Problems that, even with the weirdly addictive nature it holds, will ultimately see it struggle to get a foothold in the market.
In no particular order, these include a dodgy map and level selection menu which are super frustrating to use, and a slow, painful item deployment feature when in-game. Seriously, trying to scroll a big cursor at a snail’s pace in order to place the perfect molotov or nitrogen barrel when you’ve got hordes of the undead coming at you is hugely annoying.
When you also have to throw in the fact that your Battle Deck of six playable characters frequently decides to default back to your starting squad, completely forgetting any character changes you had previously made, then the whole Dead Ahead experience comes across as dead sloppy.
But it gets worse than that and whilst being prompted to ‘rate our game’ every 5 minutes may be okay in the mobile scene where the game obviously flourishes, it’s not the done thing over in this here console gaming arena. Ask us once if you must, maybe even daily at a push, but not every 5 minutes.
As you would expect from a game that has made the jump to the bigger screen, and there are also a huge amount of microtransactions in place for those who wish to try and advance their game without the need of putting the work in. Even though I have no real issues with the inclusion of Starter Packs, SWAT Bundles, Circus Packs, the purchasing of in-game gold or the obtainability of Military packs with cold hard cash in order to see your characters leveling up quicker, when that same game is already priced at £15.99, then questions should really be asked. I mean, what is the whole purpose of the console release of Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare? Obviously it’s to make money – no-one should be in business if that isn’t pretty high on the agenda – but for a mobile game that is free elsewhere? You’re asking a lot when you factor in the original cost and the pushy microtransactions.
And that’s a massive shame really because with the whole money-making exercise being such a prominent feature of Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare, it takes away from what is good about the game – fun, addictive, zombie beating madness with plenty of content and challenge.
I know which type of game I’d want to be known as. But I don’t think Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare does.