What would you do if zombies crawled out of the woodwork? Get annoyed about the logic of it all, or kill them?
A FPS about survival against a zombie apocalypse created by the folks at Madfinger should spell success. Known for pushing the envelope on graphics in Shadowgun and the Samurai series they certainly know what they are doing. With Dead Trigger we get a game that pushes the hardware to the edge to create the best backdrop possible to blow away the best looking zombies ever. Sadly they forgot to allocate people, and time to story and game design.
Dead Trigger is a mixed bag when it comes to game design taking parts from the freemium model, and at the same time not adhering to basic rules of freemium. For one you are free to play for how long you like without forking out any extra cash beyond the initial $0.99 the game costs. Most freemium titles such as Six Guns from Gameloft, and a whole bunch of games from Glu need you to either wait for energy to refill or buy new energy using IAP. The aspects of freemium that Dead Trigger has incorporated are the typical map progression, IAP to get better guns and a lack of care about presenting a coherent story. What should keep you going in Dead Trigger is the fact that you like to kill zombies, and you want to get better gear.
The story is a combination of the known zombie universe ever since those Italian directors created the genre in the seventies. It is presented in texts where throwaway characters tell you obvious facts, such as how important it is to get more ammo. I haven’t even read an entire page of text, as it bears no impact on my actions or motivation. I kill, and then I upgrade my stuff.
Missions range from the ordinary kill all zombies to more demanding protection tasks. Fetching a couple of packages, and then delivering them to a drop-off point are the easiest in my opinion. That is because I am free to not kill all zombies I see, and this conserves precious bullets. Killing all the zombies on a level means that you have to use every bullet well. There is no use shooting from too long, or autofire to mow down a bunch. The key word is moderation, and lining up proper headshots saves a lot of woe in the end. Protecting vans, entrances or survivors are much harder. The target for protection has a health meter, and the zombies are hell bent on destruction. Lining up headshots might not be possible, as you have to remove the threat quickly. I have run out of ammo quite rapidly on these missions, and this has led to failure when I have had to switch to less potent weaponry.
The weapons certainly look the part with beefy textures, and grim designs. Something feels slightly wrong though, and it is hard to pinpoint. Perhaps it is the lack of thump to them, or the fact that they look cooler than the effect. Buying new weapons is imperative for successful zombie slaying. There is two kinds of currency in the game: cash that you earn from completing missions, and gold that you purchase using IAP. You can certainly hold your own using the guns you buy with cash earned. This will mean a lot of grinding though, and depending on how you approach the game you will either loathe the idea, or find it perfectly ok. For those wanting a steady progression despite the lack of proper story you will need to spend at least an extra $0.99 every once in a while. For those playing casually just taking a mission now, and then there is no need for IAP at all.
Of course you can buy powerups that change the game. Quicker movement, more damage and more health is all available using gold. More item slots, and weapon slots are also available. To get all you have to spend both gold, and cash.
The main strength of Dead Trigger is the console quality FPS presentation. The zombies look amazing, as they shuffle, crawl or run at you. The environments also have a high level of polish. Madfinger flexes the muscles even further showcasing effects not really needed, such as the cool water effects walking through dripping water. I can accept the blatant advertisements for other games from their catalogue, as they fit in well as part of the scenery.
The zombies look menacing, and especially up close if you get into a fisticuffs with one of them. They are repeated a lot though, and in reality there is less than a handful different looks to them. I would have liked to see more maiming, and decapitations. Sure the heads get blown off, and you can sever arms. For some reason it feels held back like if I am playing with a PG-13 filter on or something.
The controls are good, and to me they work better than those found in FPS games from Gameloft, and EA. Perhaps it is the fact that there are so few buttons to keep track off. The controls consist of movement using a virtual control stick, a fire button and a reload button. It might also be the fact that there are no alternative layouts that I am feeling fine with the controls. I tend to spend too much time trying to find a setup that enjoying the actual game takes a backseat. The only options you have are for sensitivity; invert controls and choice of handedness.
Dead Trigger won’t win any accolades for best story, best narrative or game design. It does what a shooter should do however, and that is offering a octane fuelled fun experience killing zombies. I know that I should be more bothered about the weirdly spawning zombies charging me from all directions, but my heart tells me to kill them all to survive. And after that I want to level up, and get to buy that new shotgun that might have more punch to it. All I can hope for is that Madfinger takes the assets, and creates a serious Left 4 Dead shooter.
Dead Trigger $0.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: MADFINGER Games, a.s.