360 XBLA Review - Zombie Apocalypse

What do you get when you take Left 4 Dead, turn it into a top-down shooter and splash a bit of the Xbox classic Hunter: The Reckoning in there and a little Geometry Wars, then smack an 800 Microsoft Point price tag on it and publish it over LIVE? This; Zombie Apocalypse.  But while that sounds mighty cool, you may be surprised about the actual result. Read on to find out.


This game takes the form of a top-down shooter where your character looks a little like an ant from so high up, as you try to take on the raging horde of zombies. A little like the stand-offs you face at the end of each Left 4 Dead level, each level – or ‘Day’ as they are aptly named – is set in a small area with a few environmental hazards from aeroplane engines to wood chippers which make for some very, very gory and fun kills.


In Zombie Apocalypse, you start with the fan favourite M16 assault rifle which has unlimited ammo (mind you, you can find a few other weapons through the campaign which are sure to not have an unlimited supply of ammo), and shoot by pointing the right thumbstick in any direction, which is where the similarity to Geometry Wars come in, not to mention Hunter. A press of either trigger and you’ll get out your gore maker, also known as the chainsaw, which chops Zombies limb from limb. And a press of one of the bumpers and you’ll throw a little zombie surprise in the form of a tickle-me-Elmo toy which is very reminiscent of the pipe bombs in Left 4 Dead, being yet another little thing in the game to make sure these zombies don’t survive without a certain amount of pleasant gore.


From the very first time you boot up Zombie Apocalypse, you will instantly recognize the games characters you have to select from. This isn’t because they’ve been in anything before, because the fact is they haven’t. It’s just they are a little too unsettlingly similar to those in Left 4 Dead; 4 survivors, one a hard-as-nails female, a red-neck American, an African-American business man and the classic aged ex-military guy a little past his used by date. And while this is a funny little thing to put in the game, it’s a little sad to see game developers not being able to create original characters.


The game's campaign takes the form of 55 increasingly difficult Days with more and more, and harder and harder zombies. This makes some of the latter Days nearly impossibly hard to beat, ensuring frustration and boredom (actually, boredom kicks in around the 4th or 5th day). You can choose to play this game on your lonesome, but it won’t be a walk in the park, as the three other slots aren’t given computer players, so the only real way to enjoy and in fact beat the game is to play with some friends over LIVE.


While the gameplay is a bit below average, even for an arcade game, the graphics are surprisingly passable. While certainly not anything to write home about, they are decent enough to fit the setting of zombie apocalypse perfectly with some nice looking zombie models and just the right amount of blood, both on and out of the zombies. The graphics in the environment are also pretty neat, with nicely designed arenas full of detailed objects and obstacles, though it may just seem that way from so high up.


Zombie Apocalypse has you killing these evil zombies to a somewhat delightful soundtrack. It’s an original score, but it sounds close to those heard in the 28 Days and Weeks series of movies, and that’s why it’s great. There’s no better way to kill zombies than to be doing it to a familiar zombie blasting tune from some of the best zombie movies in the last decade. That said, the score itself isn’t very long and will get very repetitive, even making the games seven landscapes that little more similar, which would be a good time to just blast some custom tunes from your HDD.


There’s a lot of games on LIVE worth an 800 MS point price tag, but there is also a lot that aren’t. Zombie Apocalypse is one of the ones that really isn’t worth spending your MS points on. The game is fun, but for how long? 15 minutes? 20 minutes? Even that’s pushing it and without some friends to play with, you likely won’t even pick it up again after the first few levels you play until you die a few times, which is sure to happen a lot with the amount of zombies you get pitted against.


This game is doing what game developers everywhere have just realised possible; milking the theme of zombies. Everyone, everywhere, at any time of any day absolutely loves zombies, and that’s a given, but if you’re going to make a zombie video game, at least do what movie makers do to their media; make it good! That’s a little blunt but it’s true. A good zombie game like Left 4 Dead, Hunter: The Reckoning (yeah, it had other ghoulies in it too, but it still had some of the most fun zombie killing action ever seen) and to an extent the Nazi Zombies mode from CoD: WaW really are great fun and never get tiring to a zombie fan, ensuring one of the most worthwhile games on the market. Zombie Apocalypse is an overly difficult, frustrating and while sometimes pretty funny, very repetitive and boring game. It has a great score and lots of gore, but I’m afraid they just can’t get it out of the gutter by themselves.





- Great zombie killing score
- Lots of gore
- Sometimes pretty funny which is refreshing
- Decent visuals



- Only 7 very repeated levels
- Frustratingly difficult to beat
- Single player is too dull
- Gets boring too quickly
- Not many weapons


Reviewed and Written By John Elliott