Platform: XBox 360
Zombies. For some reason, people can't get enough of them. And lately, it seems I am one of those people. Some of my favorite games revolve around zombies: The Typing of the Dead, Resident Evil 4, Corpse Killer (favorite for all the wrong reasons), and the entire Doom series. So how many zombies is too many? Answer: 53,594. This is the population of Willamette, CO. This is also how many zombies you need to kill to unlock one of 50 achievements in this game, and while it is not difficult to achieve, it is time consuming. Multiply the amount of time necessary to complete this achievement by about 15 of the available achievements, and you have yourself a lifetime of gameplay. This, coupled with endless zombie genocide, are the two aspects of the game that got me interested enough to spend $60 and add another game to my currently pitiful Xbox 360 collection. Alright, enough back story, let's get into the game!
Description: You play Frank West, a photojournalist following a hot lead about the National Guard barricading the town of Willamette, supposedly containing a riot. Frank immediately finds this fishy since the major attraction to this town is the Willamette Parkview Mall. Frank hires a helicopter pilot to fly over the city and drop him off at the mall. Once Frank witnesses some of the devastation first-hand, he instructs his pilot-for-hire to come back for him in exactly 72 hours. With camera in hand, Frank's off to find paydirt, entering the mall by way of the rooftop security center.
First off, if you're reading this before playing or having finished the game, let it be known that you will have to play through the game at least 3 times to get all of the endings and unlockables and, even after this is accomplished, you have an additional game mode to play with that will allow you to unlock achievements and increase your Gamerscore. There is so much to do in this game, you'd have to play for at least an entire week to see, do, and unlock everything.
The game is setup as a third-person action game, with a free-floating, adjustable camera. Players have the ability to explore almost all of the entire mall from the get-go, and as such are left with the choice of following the main story or going off and doing their own thing. Those who are itching to do both can, to some extent, on the first play through, provided you have the skill to finish missions quickly. I personally have finished the first set of cases with 14 hours to spare before the next case started, providing with much needed time to level up.
Concerning leveling up, you'll want to do this early on in the game. This is a Capcom game after all, and unless you're a pro, you're going to have a hard time flying through this game without concentrating on some character leveling. Your character starts at level 1 and maxes out at level 50. The game allows you to retain the level you've achieved when restarting the game, no matter what mode you restart in. This makes the game a bit easier for those who are not as skilled. If you find you're getting hosed by a specific part in the game, start over and work your way through the game to that point again, building your attributes along the way and making it easier to advance.
With increasing in level comes adding to your stats. Aspects of your character are enhanced with each level up, including health, strength, speed, item slots, special attacks, and more. Increasing the number of items you can carry is especially helpful since you may want three different weapons on hand along with a skill-enhancing book and some items for health replenishment at all times.
After uncovering all of the cases and obtaining the true ending, you unlock infinity mode. This allows you to ravage the mall for as long as you can survive, and also allows you to earn the 5 and 7-day survivor achievements.
Graphics: Graphics are pretty well done, considering the amount of sprites that need to be handled at any given time. Many things throughout the mall are very detailed, providing you with a reason to use the zoom function on your camera. My favorite is the Mega Man shirt in one of the second floor stores in Paradise Plaza. While the graphics aren't close to what has been achieved on the Xbox 360 so far, it is more than adequate for this type of game. I did notice, however, that the game gets choppy for a few seconds here and there when entering new areas toward the end of the game. This can be duplicated in overtime mode if anyone is questioning this fact. After playing Half-Life 2 on the Xbox 360, though, this is nothing by comparison.
Sound: The cut-scene dialogue is the main attraction when it comes to sound. While the game has some wonderful sound effects and amusing background Muzak, the voice acting is what makes the game in story mode. Admittedly, I was expecting cheesy lines read by second-rate voice actors considering the premise of this game, but was surprised by every new cinematic I encountered. As far as the sound effects, most are very entertaining, both in the sound itself and the method of triggering them. From throwing a pie in a zombie's face to hitting them over the head with bowling balls, the sound effects will have you chuckling to yourself and urging you to experiment with all of the weapons available in the game.
Play Control: The controls are very easy to get used to with the exception of the aiming mechanics that go along with secondary attacks. Every item allows you to use the first-person view to aim and use it. Most items allow you to throw them, while guns allow you to precisely aim at your target. Aiming with a gun, however, is difficult to achieve because you need to have a decent amount of space between you and any hostile characters to keep from interrupting the aim. During fights with psychopaths, this becomes nearly impossible since the enemy usually gets a hit in on you as soon as you start aiming. This makes projectile weapons less effective overall, causing me personally to revert to using weapons like the mini chainsaws and swords. The camera did not cause any problems throughout game play, unlike most third-person games, adding to the relative ease of overall game play.
Replay: This is the game's selling point in my opinion. With so many achievements to unlock, obtaining all of them alone will cause you to replay the game at least a few times. Then you also have the plethora of weapons, items, clothing, survivors, psychopaths, and scoops that you have available. The mall itself also offers some replay value in its size. My first play through didn't take me to all the sections of the mall, and I most certainly didn't get to see all of the stores and the items they had to offer. Even if you've experienced everything there is in this game, you still have the Xbox Live Leaderboard displaying your best score against the rest of the world, prompting some gamers to don Depends and survive for as long as they can in Infinite mode. If this game doesn't get you to immediately restart after your first play through, then it was not meant for you.
Final Verdict: This game is
one of the first Xbox 360 exclusives to put the system on the map, and
rightly so. Despite the complaints from many about the lack of save
points, I didn't find this a bother since I grew up playing games with
no save ability whatsoever. Anyone that enjoys action games should
at least download the 15 minute demo of this game from Xbox Live and experience
it for themselves. Is it worth 60 bucks, though? For me it
was, given the amount of gameplay it has given me. Since the demo
was released on Xbox Live, I have been urging anyone with an Xbox 360 to
purchase this game, and urging those without to purchase a 360 and this
game. For those who have been waiting for a worthwhile exclusive
to purchase this system, this is the game.
Written on 09-09-06 by Shane, firstname.lastname@example.org
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