When Konami released Zombie Apocalypse for download a couple of years ago, it brought forth an interesting – if somewhat limited – arena shooting game where the goal was to stay alive while battling hordes of the undead. The sequel, Never Die Alone, expands on that with bigger areas and some personality-laden characters, benefiting as a result – even if it is still limited in the long run.
The game features four distinctive characters, and though not all of them will grow on you, it’s nice to see the developers at Backbone try and flesh out the story a little bit. You’ve got Jeremy, a run and gun arcade master who constantly dips into the gaming lexicon for terms (guy says “n00b” way too often); Alma, a tough-as-nails chick who loves building her own weaponry; Def Money, a rapper who’s so full of himself he makes Kanye West seem normal; and Father Bill, a religious man who uses his power of healing almost as much as his shotgun. The best of the bunch are clearly Bill and Alma, though all of the characters have a tendency of talking too much. Hey, if you were about to die, maybe you’d want to get something off your chest, too.
Anyway, each character has different weapons, some better than others. Def Money’s twin pistols don’t serve much of a purpose, but both Alma and Bill make up for this with effective machine guns and shotgun, natch. There are also melee attacks and special abilities that prove noteworthy in the heat of battle, and you’ll need them, as hordes of zombies stack up to bring you down. We’re talking a screen-full in later parts of the game, people.
Anyway, the levels are bigger this time around, to the point that you’re actually running through them instead of staying stuck in an arena. This is a huge plus for Zombie Apocalypse, as it actually gives you room to run while seeking out secondary goals, such as weapon refills, saving survivors and flipping switches. The rest of the controls stay true to the original, though, with twin-stick shooting action and no shortage of targets. Why change what works?
Where Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone really picks up is in its co-op factor. On single player, you can switch between the four players at any time, something you’ll need to do depending on the objectives. But the best way to go is to play with three other friends, arcade style, to destroy the zombie horde. It hunkers back to Konami’s old arcade glory days, without the need to plunk down quarter after quarter to keep going. Nothing beats that feeling. And you can play online as well, a huge plus.
The game looks all right. Not amazing by any means, but the levels aren’t bad (a little too dark for our tastes) and the enemy design can get innovative as time goes on. The main characters could’ve used more detail, though. As for the audio, aside from the non-stop quips from the heroes, the music holds its own, and the zombie noises are quite appropriate.
Will Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone change the face of zombie shooters? Nah. It ends too soon and doesn’t really offer much in the long-term, aside from quick sessions of “Hey, let’s kill everything.” But it’s ideal for quick fixes, and great fun if you can get together a group of people that know what they’re doing. Just make sure you’re not the one playing Def Money. Seriously. P. Diddy is more reasonable by comparison. (And probably more talented.)