The original Dead Trigger reminds me of my ex-girlfriends – eye-catching, absolutely gorgeous and totally vapid. It had some of the most impressive graphics on iOS at the time, but the gameplay quickly descended into a repetitive drudge through the same few stages, completing a limited number of goals against almost identical-looking enemies. It was, in a word, a disappointment. Two words then. TWO.
So fair play to Madfinger Games for re-upping a year later and addressing it’s obvious flaw – a lack of variety. ‘Dead Trigger 2’ mixes things up from the arena based déjà vu with some new tricks. First off, locations – this is now a global battle. Africa and China feature as well as the de riguer American cities; and as well as disembowelling every zombie ever, these levels feature sub-missions which add a bit of context to the story and keep things slightly more interesting. You still have to shoot everything in sight obviously, but for example you might now have to blast some air vents to clear a room of deadly toxins before shooting everything in sight. Shooting everything in sight is clearly still important.
There’s also a fantastic new level type which is so enjoyable it could almost be a game in it’s own right. Equipped with a sniper rifle, you’re tasked with offing zombies who are attempting to crowd into a restricted area, with each shot giving you a zooming bullet’s eye view of torsos exploding and limbs flying into the ether. Theirs of course, not yours.
As well as this, on-the-rails helicopter levels where you take control of huge Gatling guns both look great and keep things feeling fresh. Or as fresh as rotting flesh can feel, I guess.
Another more curious change is the decision to switch your weapons from a button press to auto-fire. Simply aim at a zombie’s soft parts and the game does all the firing, giving a whole new meaning to the title ‘Dead Trigger’.
And where the original game stuck with pretty much one kind of zombie, ‘Dead Trigger 2’ now has an assortment of them. Well, I say ‘assortment’, but what I really mean is ‘one’. Ok, I’m being somewhat facetious, but even though the zombies are no longer straight up cookie cutter, it would be nice to see some more imaginative enemies – zombie dogs perhaps? Zombie children, zombie…priests?
There are however, a few new super-zombies who crop up occasionally (as well as, to be fair, huge end of level bosses which impressively fill the screen) including Vomitrons, who spew toxic bile form their guts like an acute case of food poisoning (brains may be tasty, but you’ve got to cook them properly); Kamikazes, who kill themselves and you by way of an exploding barrel strapped to their chests, and Radioactives, who look harmless at first, but can quickly drain your energy within a certain range. These beefed-up weirdos are hellishly hard to kill and swallow your bullets with barely a scratch like a demented version of a trick by David Blaine. Come to think of it, all of David Blaine’s tricks are demented.
There’s a very effective method of getting rid of these enemies though, and it’s stuffed inside your wallet. Each mission earns you monetary rewards which you can spend on upgraded weapons which will eventually render these vomit-spitting, barrel-exploding, David Blaine wannabes as harmful as a Lollipop Lady.
The problem is not so much that they’re expensive (although the more powerful weapons aren’t exactly buy one get one free), but that they take time to either be built or upgraded – from a mere thirty seconds early on, to several hours by the time you’re deep into the game. Yes, hours. Several of them.
Add to this the fact it’s necessary to upgrade your team – made up of an engineer, scientist, medic and black market dealer, in order to upgrade specific weapons and gear (each of course, with their own substantial wait), and you’ll find yourself wondering if playing the game more than once a week is realistic.
The answer to all this is Gold, which speeds the process up dramatically, and reduces your bank balance dramatically too. Gold costs money, and without it you face a horrifically turgid grind that you’ll give up on long before Dead Trigger 3 is released.
What it boils down to is this: super zombies are severely allergic to pound sterling. You might as well chuck twenty pound notes at your screen if you want to progress; it’s effectively the same thing.
Elsewhere, some things remain unchanged. The graphics are essentially the same as the original, very pretty and full of detail and shiny effects such as the way water, blood and vomit drip down the screen while you’re being attacked; but pretty similar to the original and not the near revolution in iOS visuals we experienced the first time round.
Sound is a mixed bag, or to put it another way, a mixed bag of awfulness. Terrible non-descript rock music is accompanied by voice acting where the first female survivor you come across sounds like she’s auditioning for a shampoo advert rather than gripped by panic stricken fear, and your lead character opens the game with the one liner ‘It’s killing time!’. Deep.
There was also great hype in the pre-release press about the game’s events being affected by the actions of global players, but I couldn’t for the life of me see any evidence of this. Everything just played out as a standard single-player experience. Is everyone hiding?
There’s definitely an intrinsic enjoyment in blasting zombies to pieces, especially with visuals which are still top quality, and gameplay that’s added a bit of depth; but when your wallet has more effect on the undead than an M16 or a grenade, it’s time to give serious consideration to if the war is worth waging at all.
Dead Trigger 2 is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Get it now on the App Store.