Review: Dead Horde fails to shine in a wave of zombie games

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Zombie games today are about as prevalent and widespread as genital herpes in the human population; there’s a lot more of it out there than you’d think, but you don’t always hear about it right away. And by the time you do, it’s too late to even think about slipping a condom on. Which brings me to Dead Horde. Ok, so maybe that’s not really a fair comparison to draw. This top-down shooter isn’t going to give you festering, open sores three months out of the year or anything (it’s been taking Valtrex) but it will leave you feeling not so fresh afterward.

An undead apocalypse can happen for countless, possibly supernatural reasons, but it seems that nobody cares where the zombies come from anymore, as long as you get to shoot them between their unblinking eyes. Dead Horde is no different in this regard. You once again find yourself as an unnamed member of the military caught in a Black Hawk Down type of scenario. It is your sole mission to find the remaining members of your team as you make your way through the newly infested city streets. Plot included, you won’t find much unique or innovative about this game.

You start the game toting your trusty M16 (which miraculously has unlimited ammo) and you’ll end the game having mostly used this one weapon. I’m not saying that I don’t find the M16 sexy anymore, it’s just that I would like to be able to use the other options more effectively. After the initial insertion into zombie territory, you’ll find unmanned weapon shops where you can upgrade your existing gear and/or purchase new weapons using all the money you find by rifling through the undeads’ pockets. Dead Horde boasts a number of weapons, including shotguns, chainguns, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers. The problem is that it takes far too long for new stuff to show up.

When I saw the buzz saw launcher in the shop for the first time I nearly pissed myself with excitement. I had fantasized about mowing down countless enemies with blades of death, so I immediately bought the weapon and waded into some undead. Then I realized that the weapon didn’t have any ammo. After dying, I went back to the shop to buy some blades for my death-slinger and found that it could only hold one blade at a time until you upgrade the clip. Even then it only increases the capacity by one blade per increasingly expensive upgrade, and the game isn’t even nice enough to fill your clip once you’ve increased the capacity. So if you don’t have enough money to purchase the “full ammo” package at the shop, you’re out of luck since there are no universal ammo drops in the field. All your ammo comes from the store. These missteps combine to make the purchaseable weapons generally cumbersome and ineffective even as a secondary weapon.

Unlike the varied weapons that you never really get to use properly, the enemies you encounter are bland and come at you in one bland wave after another. There are zombies wearing tattered work clothes, ones with construction worker attire and some in military fatigues, but that’s about it, and all of them the same model of zombie as the next. Even in the later levels when enemies get tougher, they still all look the same. The handful of boss zombies the game throws at you are slightly more dramatic than the standard zombie fare; one in particular with its tentacled hands looking like baby Cthuhlus chasing you down. There’s another that seems to be a blatant ripoff of the Boomer from Left 4 Dead.

What grants the game extra points overall is the emphasis on co-op play. You can play through the campaign either locally (one person has to use a gamepad) or online through Steam. Either way, having another person there makes everything just a bit more bearable. There is also a leaderboard where you can see how you rate among others in several categories, like how long it took to complete the mission, total points, etc. Sadly, the multiplayer is slightly hampered because of the tight circumference that encases both players. You can only stray so far from the other person before you hit an invisible wall, and dodging packs of lunging zombies isn’t a good time to be hindered. While annoying, it isn’t game-breaking either, and you’ll get into a groove with your partner in no time. So if you’re tired of Left 4 Dead and have 15 bucks for two copies and a friend sitting around, you might not be too dissappointed with Dead Horde

The Good: Co-op keeps the game alive in spite of the undead.

The Bad: Lack of enemy and level variety; weapon customization makes it difficult to use anything but your M16.

The Ugly: A distinct lack of Woody Harrelson.

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