The Walking Zombie 2, first launched on Steam a couple of years ago, only now having appeared on the Xbox. Don’t be dismayed if you never played the original, this appears to be a standalone experience that plays out as a first person shooter with, and this is exactly as it says on the store page, “attractive modern polygon graphics style”. Is this a franchise we need on the big black box, or should it have stayed on the PC? I’m sure Alda Games would rather the first of those options but let us get our zombie apocalypse on and find out.
As the game opens, the story arc is set up in a memorable style. In the prologue, we are a baby, still inside our mother who is turning into a zombie after being bitten. Luckily, we are born just in time, and despite our mother turning and eating some of the people in the camp, we are saved by the town elder. Now, some 20 years later, we are all grown up and ready to go out into the world and seek our fortune or something.
The promised attractive modern polygon graphics style is a bit hit and miss, sadly. The zombies and other characters we interact with look pretty good, in a retro kind of old fashioned way, but the landscape suffers a bit. In the forest, tree pop-in is pretty much constant, whilst in the random encounters that you run into, it’s always a bit foggy (I think to disguise draw distance issues rather than as a design choice). The whole feel of the game is just a bit clunky. For a game that purports to be optimised for the Xbox Series X|S consoles, this feels a bit strange.
Sound wise it’s okay though, with groaning zombies and gun noises all present and correct, although the gun shots all sound very similar, which is a bit strange, since you can wield everything from a weedy pistol to a full on automatic rifle. By and large the presentation of the The Walking Zombie 2 is very much just that – okay.
But how about gameplay? Well, it’s set in episodes in different locations, and after completing a number of tasks you can move to the next town. What this translates into is a series of missions, first in the little town we grew up in, then onto larger settlements, with Mayors who look a lot like a certain American ex-President, and then even more missions until we have unlocked all the locations on the world map.
The missions, which are a large part of the grind in trying to get stronger, are very much cookie cutter by design. As an example, in the first town, there’s a location called Secret Science Base. Every mission in this area, no matter what the lead up to it is, involves travelling to the same location, killing some zombies, then either picking something up or hitting a switch. And each time we go back, the zombies have magically respawned… This is a military base with a solid sealed door; how are the zombies getting in? As a result, the game gets very samey, very quickly. Further to that, some of the missions are truly grim; rooting through a full toilet in the search for someone’s watch had me wincing.
The other inhabitants of The Walking Zombie 2, apart from the people who inhabit the various towns and give out missions, are all hostile. Zombies, dogs, bandits – they all want a piece of you, and it’s only by the application of lethal force that you are able to dissuade them. As an FPS, the gunplay on display here is not bad. I mean, Call of Duty and Battlefield 2042 probably won’t have any sleepless nights, but it works fine. Shooting zombies (and other enemies) in the head is counted as a critical hit, which in turn does more damage. Luckily, all the enemies (except the bosses) are exactly the same height, and so running away and letting them come to you involves setting the sights on the first zombie head and then just keep pulling the trigger. It helps that they all seem to be fans of walking in single file, as well… With the mention of bosses, there are a few, normally really big bullet sponges who require pretty much all the ammo you are carrying to put down. There’s nothing silly here though.
So far, so mediocre. What about bad points? Well, there are a few, so buckle up. First up, this has to be the greediest example of a free-to-play title conversion I’ve ever seen. Despite the game costing £9.99, every single screen you go into has a pop-up inviting you to spend even more money, whether it is to buy a bigger backpack or more weapons. The thing that I find most annoying though are those on the level up screens, where, if you will just spend some real money, you can unlock as many skill points and perk points as you wish.
The Walking Zombie 2 is therefore the new poster child for the “Pay to Win” business model, and I find it very intrusive. Too intrusive. Add to this the fact that all the items you need to buy to survive cost a huge amount of your in-game currency – something that is very slow to earn by doing missions – unless you again are tempted to spend real money, and that’s pretty much the final nail in the coffin.
There is a fun game trying to get out of The Walking Zombie 2, but it is drowning under the constant push of microtransactions. The end result just feels like a mess.
The Walking Zombie 2 is available from the Xbox Store