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Dead End City Review 

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I’m a little bit partial to a vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up, so much so that when I find a good one, a proper addiction takes hold. That may be through a need for progress, unlockables or high score chasing. It’s why I’ve ploughed far too many hours into the Sky Force series

On the face of it, Dead End City should tick many of the boxes, throwing in a more vehicular based SHMUP experience for good measure. I mean, it’s got waves and waves of enemies. It’s got unlockables. It’s got high score chasing. That’s all we really want, no?

You’d think so, yet unfortunately it falls short in many aspects. But most disappointingly of all, it’s a tad boring. 

Dead End City review 1
Blast your way through Dead End City

A boring shoot ‘em up? Yep, that’s what Dead End City is and whilst it doesn’t do an awful lot terribly wrong, it fails to do much, anything, to excite either. Middle of the road, quite literally, then? 

With a condensed centre screen play field, your task in Dead End City is to jump into a vehicle and head north, holding down your trigger finger like there is no tomorrow. It has you wiping enemies from the screen at a rate of knots, scrolling, dodging incoming fire as best you can. With a humble weapon to hand, accompanied by a limited special, there’s not too much to write home about here, even if it is relatively smooth, rarely lagging behind what is expected.

Visually it’s a bit of a struggle. Clunky old-school visuals do nothing to help build excitement in Dead End City, with the screen fast becoming a blur of action, enemies and fire, your vehicle model dancing this way and that. I mean, again, it does things okay, but we can’t say we’ve been particularly enamoured by the eye candy on display. Same goes for the sound if we’re honest; ask us now, as we type this, and there’s little to stand out. 

As foes are taken down, pickups are collected, but as you do so, you’ll need to keep an eye on your fuel levels. Fuel is key in Dead End City, always draining, shifting out at a faster rate as damage occurs. Should that fuel bar of yours hit zero, it’s game over, man. Game. Over.  

Fuel pick ups increase those levels, whilst overfilling sees TOPOFF MODE (yep, you better be right we’re using those caps) come to the fore; it’s here where a main shot powers up. Ammo can be obtained too, building towards limited Special Shots, helping increase a score multiplier as it goes. And from there, expect to find enemies dropping Medals and the like, helping further score enhancements via the biggest of bonuses. 

Dead End City review 2
The grind for new cars and weapons is real

The problem is, there’s a lot going on in Dead End City in a very short amount of time, especially in terms of the dodging requirements that are needed for you to last more than a minute or two. Keeping a handle on that fuel level, those special shots, the medals, the gold and that TOPOFF MODE, means it can all feel a bit too much. In fact, we’ve rarely cared to concentrate on anything more than dodging and surviving, hopeful that bars are found travelling in the right direction.

Takedown waves and you’ll be rewarded with a quick points overview screen, detailing the number of enemies killed, a combo meter and the like. From there, you’re thrown into another wave, and another, and another. With a strange interlude sub-wave that slows things down a little, you’ll eventually happen upon an end of stage boss. Take them down and your job is a good ‘un. Fall by the wayside, and you’ll be left to start the story again, battling away from the start once more. And you’ll most definitely fall to the test of Dead End City too as this is far from an easy ride. Too difficult? Probably not, but there are points where it crosses the line of acceptability. Others may disagree, of course, but we’d need to get involved in a very lengthy discussion for anyone to change our mind. 

Normal, and a locked hard difficulty, awaits in Dead End City, as do a few overall levels. If your skills allow, we reckon you could probably have those ticked off, done and dusted in a half hour or so, placing on leaderboards as you reach a conclusion. For us, Dead End City is more of a struggle, coming a cropper time and time again at the mercy of various bosses. 

It would be great then if that collated cash and gold could be made a bit useful. But honestly, the in-game shop feels as close to a waste of time as you’ll ever get. A ‘Player Hitbox’ or ‘Boss Health Bar’ are the cheapest things in there at some 5000 credits, with a good few unsuccessful runs needed for you to get anywhere near those levels. But why are we paying for hitboxes and health bars? Shouldn’t they be standard? From there, stuff ramps up in price and whilst much is unlockable through sheer play, persistence and success, we have been left crying out for some extra weaponry, some aids. We wish Dead End City would give us anything in fact. Instead that stupid shop wants to provide some skins, gallery packs or soundtrack. What is that all about?

Dead End City review 3
Good luck with those bosses

Dead End City could have thrived with some kind of roguelite nature to it, each and every run providing new tools, as you slowly move further through multiple stages. But it says nah to that, leaving you to struggle along, grinding away, hiding any new toys or excitement. And that’s a shame, because it means there’s little about the game which will draw you in, aside from perhaps wanting to take on runs with unlockable chariots. Good luck grinding enough cash to unlock those, or attempting to survive boss battles without taking a single bit of damage. 

Of course, there are a couple of extra game modes that expand the borders of this Dead End City just a little: a Score Attack (does what you would expect) and a Highway mode. But frankly, neither change much, with the latter just providing a couple of minutes of more intense Dead End City play in return for some ranking. Perhaps it’s easier to gather up some more of that cash as you navigate these modes, but that will still leave you pretty short of any decent numbers, again, requiring some serious grinding before you’ll ever feel like you are getting anywhere.

It means that whilst Dead End City is just about capable of providing a short term SHMUP fix, if you’re looking for anything longer term than that, we’d expect the boredom to push you away long before any real excitement hits. With a reasonable price behind it, perhaps it’s worth a punt for an evening or two, but don’t expect this one to deliver too much of a decent shoot ‘em up fix.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • A different take on the usual shoot ‘em up life
  • Plays smoothly enough
Cons:
  • A proper grind if you want to get anywhere
  • What's the point in the shop, really?
  • Just a bit boring
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Eastasiasoft
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 28 February 2024 | £12.49
Neil Watton
Neil Wattonhttps://www.thexboxhub.com/
An Xbox gamer since 2002, I bought the big black box just to play Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. I have since loved every second of the 360's life and am now just as obsessed with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S - mostly with the brilliant indie scene that has come to the fore. Gamertag is neil363, feel free to add me to your list.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>A different take on the usual shoot ‘em up life</li> <li>Plays smoothly enough</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>A proper grind if you want to get anywhere</li> <li>What's the point in the shop, really?</li> <li>Just a bit boring</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Eastasiasoft</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 28 February 2024 | £12.49</li> </ul>Dead End City Review 
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