I’m a big fan of the first Zombieland movie, and so any game that promises to tie that together with the sequel – Zombieland: Double Tap – is going to pique my interest. Coming from Gamemill Entertainment though, we have Zombieland: Double Tap – Roadtrip, and this tasks the returning characters from the first film with travelling across America on the campaign trail. Yes, Tallahassee has decided that the best thing he can do is run for President, and so an epic journey from the end of the first film, at Pacific Playground, to the start of the sequel is on the cards. So come with me to the United States of Zombieland, all in order to see if we can get Zombie Kill Of The Week.
The first thing that you will notice with Roadtrip is that the voices for the characters are actually not that bad. Columbus has the same neurotic whine in his voice, Little Rock sounds like the actress in the film and so on. However, I do have an issue with Tallahassee. He sounds about as much like Woody Harrelson as I do, and it sounds almost like the development team have shown the voice actor a photo and said “What do you reckon he will sound like?”. It’s a shame really, as the characters in the game do talk quite a lot, and Tallahassee’s voice just puts my teeth on edge every time.
Other than that though, the rest of the presentation is pretty much as you’d expect from a twin stick shooter, which is how Zombieland plays out. Viewed from a slightly isometric top down viewpoint, we are tasked with surviving and killing as many zombies as we can. There are ten main stages through the campaign, with numerous side missions to attempt, and in addition a horde mode has also been introduced. Offering up to four player couch co-op (unfortunately there is no online integration, which is a bit of a missed opportunity), there is certainly plenty of things to do in this zombie-fuelled experience.
Each stop along the campaign trail sees the heroes placed in a slightly different situation, ranging from running around Pacific Playground turning on all the rides, to scooting around a military checkpoint, trying to find a shell for a tank to clear a path. What these missions generally devolve into is running around like a heavily armed headless chicken, shooting zombies until we manage to find the item/key/door that we are looking for, and then exiting the mission. Some of the levels require you to stay alive for a certain amount of time, or to kill a specific number of zombies, but by far the worst ones are when you have to interact with an object. One of the missions sees us siphoning gas from five fuel pumps, and to do so you have to stand next to said pump and hold RB down until a bar fills. Now, this takes a stupidly long amount of time and, even if you clear the screen of zombies before you start, by the time you’ve siphoned one pump they’ve all respawned, busily chewing on your face again. “Not a problem!” I hear you think, “I’ll just shoot them as they run up!”. Well, think again, as when you are siphoning you can’t shoot. And if you move away because 80 zombies are about to swarm you, you then have to start the process again. I found this very hard work, especially playing solo, but with a wingman it becomes a bit easier, so having a team to hand makes sense.
As you run around the levels, there are extra weapons to pick up, helpfully. These can be found in the boots of cars, or in containers and freezers dotted about the place. These weapons are a varied bunch too, ranging from an acoustic guitar to a full-on Blaine from Predator minigun, with lots of flavours in between. Running about with a katana or a fire axe is quite amusing, but if you prefer to have all the violence happen at a distance, becoming a fan of the firearms is the way to go. As you kill zombies, each character has a special ability that charges up, able to be unleashed if you are struggling. These range from spinning around with chainsaws in hand to slowing down time, allowing you extricate yourself from a tricky situation. What you don’t have though is a dodge-roll kind of move, and you really feel the lack of that when the zombies manage to corner you in a blind alley.
The main thing I’ve taken away from the entire Zombieland experience though is that it is a lot of fun to shoot zombies. The horde mode sees you trying to survive 10 waves of bad guys with different objectives; surviving a certain amount of time, to attempting to kill all the zombies. These waves get increasingly harder, with different zombie types mixing things up. There are speedy ninja zombies, who run faster than the rest, through to exploding fat zombies, who have a surprising splash radius, to boss type guys like Coach Cannibal, who crops up to just make things that little harder. Trying to take out the boss zombies, while not getting swarmed by the little guys, requires a surprising amount of skill, and my one piece of advice would be to never stand still. Finishing a level gives your character a series of skill points to spend, which can increase their base health or gun damage for example, and this allows for a tiny smidge of character development throughout.
There are annoyances to Zombieland: Double Tap – Roadtrip however, and some of them are very upsetting. The very first time I failed a level was to one of these issues, as the zombie clowns in the levels have a projectile attack. I was inside a fence, the zombies were outside and couldn’t get to me, but the clown’s missiles sailed through the fence, hitting Tallahassee square in the face, killing him stone dead. There are also areas that you can’t run through, but zombies can, which leads to some unpleasant rear attacks. You see, if you back yourself into an alley that you can’t get out of, you don’t expect zombies to be able to teleport through obstacles and start chewing on your head.
Further still, the camera is non-movable, and as is usual in these type of games if you run behind a building or a tree that blocks the view of your character, they appear as an outline so you can see where they are. However, the zombies don’t, so while you are out of view, you can be attacked and killed, but unable to do anything about it. The aim of the guns is also somewhat dodgy, as the laser sight appears to not always have a lot of relevance as to where the bullets go. This is more of an issue with the bigger zombies, strangely, as the smaller ones seem easier to hit. All too often spraying and praying seemed to be the only answer…
All in all and Zombieland: Double Tap – Roadtrip on Xbox One is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Shooting zombies and completing the roadtrip is fun, but the annoyances and niggles do spoil things somewhat. If this was a budget title, then the problems could be overlooked a little more, but as it’s a near damn full price release, it’s tricky to recommend this over a game like Diablo 3, for instance. If you like the films, you’ll most likely enjoy the game, but it is very much a case of what could have been, with cheap deaths and unfair game mechanics marring the experience.