Tag Archive: zombies


Sowing the seeds of fun

Whenever someone decides to do a spin-off—whether in movies, TV, or videogames—it’s a huge risk, since it’s rare to end up with a good one, and even rarer for it to actually be successful. So, when PopCap revealed that they had a small band of developers at the studio working on a title called Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, most of us were intrigued, but we worried if this tower-defense franchise could survive the sudden transition into the world of third-person shooters.

Taking elements from both Battlefield and Call of Duty, Garden Warfare mixes in some strategy gameplay and PopCap’s own brand of offbeat humor to create a wholly unique experience that’s wildly fun to play. Eight total classes (four plants, four zombies) playable across seven different modes provided me probably as much, if not more, enjoyment as I get from the shooters this game takes its inspiration from.

The element that grabbed me right from the get-go? Garden Warfare has the most interesting customizable classes I’ve seen in quite some time. Though you only start with four on each side, each class also has six unlockabale options that do more than just provide a new skin. This means there’s over 50 playable characters, each with their own degrees of originality. For example, the Peashooter has a Commando alternative that does less damage per shot but has a higher rate of fire.

Their use on the battlefield isn’t where this uniqueness ends, though, as each gradation is fully customizable. Garden Warfare offers hundreds of different items to unlock to give your plants and zombies their own distinct look and style. Whether it’s sunflowers with top hats, Chompers with zebra stripes, or All-Star Zombies with 3D glasses, there’s no reason everyone’s characters should look the same.

And, thankfully—for once—you don’t have to worry about microtransations when it comes to getting items. Instead, you unlock them via a free, in-game card system. You get cards from packs you buy with silver coins, the traditional Plants vs. Zombies currency. You can earn coins by completing matches and doing well, or you can perform certain challenges in a match (revive three allies, kill two Sunflowers with one shot, and so on). It may be a bit of a grind, but it won’t cost you anything extra on top of the money you’re already paying, a welcome change away from the policy of most EA games.

The combination and balance of characters is also intriguing and requires a lot more to master than you might expect. The Zombie Scientist is both the healer and shotgunner class for the zombies, while the Cactus is both the sniper and the explosives expert for the plants. Having a balanced team when you go into battle is critical and requires pinpoint communication between everyone on your team, especially in more tactics-driven modes like Gardens & Gravestones (think Capture the Point). A nice touch is being able to change classes mid-battle, in case strategies need to change on the fly.

Not everything about Garden Warfare is sunshine and rainbows, however. Even though the game has the lowered price tag of $40 ($30 on Xbox 360) to make up for the absence of any single-player, I still found it lacking the content you’d expect from a multiplayer-exclusive experience at launch. While the game lists seven modes, there’s really only Garden Warfare’s take on three: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Point, and Horde Mode.

Team Deathmatch serves as the basis for three modes by itself with Team Vanquish (straight-up Team Deathmatch), Classic Team Vanquish (any customization features are wiped away), and Welcome Mat (beginner’s mode). Capture the Point is seen in Gardens & Gravestones, which also has a Classic variant. In Gardens & Gravestones, the zombies must try to capture six to seven different points in succession. If the plants stop the zombies just once, the match ends. Finally, there’s Garden Ops—which, obviously, is Call of Duty’s Spec Ops, which originally was their take on Horde Mode. This is the only mode to feature a local and online option (exclusive to the Xbox One version) and sees up to four players taking on the role of plants and facing off against 10 waves of increasingly difficult zombies.

Besides the lack of modes, the game also has a paltry list of maps to fight on. Some modes only have one map, while others have a maximum of five (some of these being day/night variants of a map), and although it’s great to see them all done in the same bright and cheery art style of the main series, it gets repetitive when you’re cycling through the same areas again and again. At the very least, though, the maps fit the modes. Team Vanquish only supports smaller maps to up the encounter rates, while Gardens & Gravestones has large, expanded maps to allow for more strategic maneuvering when looking to capture points.

Now, don’t get me wrong—even though there’s not really a lot here, the game is still tremendously fun, especially when you’ve got a full room playing 12-on-12. The gameplay’s fast and frantic, and each mode brings nuance to the tried-and-true formulas. Garden Ops allows you to grow friendly plants that were all featured in Plants vs. Zombies 2 to provide extra defenses, while Gardens & Gravestones actually makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something when you capture different areas and push the front lines forward. I just wish there were more modes to try, and while content packs are coming down the line, I can’t judge what doesn’t yet exist.

Even though there’s a bit of a bare-bones quality, content-wise, to Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, it’s definitely one of the good spin-offs. No matter what genre they tackle, the developers at PopCap really care about this franchise, and they clearly put forth a great effort. From the deep class system to the solid controls to the tiny details like zombie-movie references in the graffiti scattered around the levels (my personal favorite was “You’ve got red on you” from Shaun of the Dead), there sure is a lot here to love.

Developer: PopCap Games • Publisher: EA • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 02.25.14
8.0

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a polished, tremendously fun time even without all the options or content of its multiplayer contemporaries.

The Good A surprising amount of depth and customization in the character classes.
The Bad A lack of maps and modes at launch.
The Ugly Here’s hoping the port-a-potty with a zombie inside was clean before the Chomper swallowed it whole.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, and is coming to PC at a later date. Primary version reviewed was an Xbox One retail copy provided by EA.

Lee walks a lonely road

We play a lot of games here at EGM. So many, that as much as we may enjoy a game, fall in love with its characters, or gush about its premise, it’s difficult for us to find the time to ever get back to a game after we beat it that initial time through for review, unless we make a concentrated effort. After playing just the third of five episodes to be released by Telltale in their The Walking Dead series though, I swear I will make that effort and find time to play this through from the beginning once all five episodes are out. Episode Three, The Long Road Ahead, sealed the deal because the story is just that damn good and I don’t just want, but need to play through it all again to see how some of the critical, and even no so critical, choices I’ve made so far have affected my game play experience.

And that’s the beauty of what Telltale has crafted here. The replayability for this game is through the roof because they successfully found a way to consistently make you care about these characters via every decision you make, because you don’t want to end up regretting something. And this is mostly because the zombie apocalypse, much like in Kirkman’s original Walking Dead comics, is just a setting as this franchise has always really been more about the human condition and how people react in crisis. And this episode is no exception. There were literally moments that had me laughing out loud followed up immediately by moments that shocked me so much I dropped my controller. There are few other stories in gaming that have ever sucked me in and wowed me like this series has with its brilliant plot development.

Speaking of plot, this episode starts about three months after since Lee and Clementine had their fateful meet-up outside her tree house and the Motel has all but run its course in terms of usefulness. Lilly and Kenny are still at each other’s throats, with the events of Episode Two having only driven them further and further apart, culminating in Lilly refusing to leave and Kenny ready to just barrel out of there in his RV with just his family. The title, The Long Road Ahead, kind of hints at what happens, but I can’t in good conscience tell you more about the story. Not to mention, I’m sure that depending on the decisions that you make in the first two episodes, your story might set up completely different from mine beyond that.

The pacing of the episode was a lot quicker this time around and transitioned better, a major problem I had with the more leisurely paced Episode Two, and so in that regard The Long Road Ahead took a nice step forward as I was constantly progressing it seemed by doing even the most menial tasks.

There was one minor annoyance this time around though and it came in the form of a shooting gallery mini-game where Lee was wielding a sniper rifle. I understand Lee may not be the best shot in the world, but I felt like I could never line up my shot just right because of the lack of proper crosshairs and the controls’ sensitivity. This can be somewhat forgiven though since, after all, Telltale’s The Walking Dead is more of a point and click style adventure game and not some Call of Duty-like shooter.

Once again though, the key for me was seeing the evolution of the characters over just one episode, and how the group dynamic shifted as the roster of characters changed once again, sometimes very rapidly. If you care about The Walking Dead, zombie games, or just spectacular storytelling, The Long Road Ahead will hook you to this series if you weren’t already. And if you were hooked to begin with, then you’re like me probably, begging Telltale to get on it and release the next episode already.

SUMMARY: Somehow, Telltale finds a way to keep working in emotionally powerful moments with this series that range from humorous to heart wrenching. Either way, these moments make only one thought come to mind…that we can’t wait for the next episode!

  • THE GOOD: Finds a way to yet again amp up the emotion and consequences for your actions
  • THE BAD: A couple of rough/out of place shooting sequences
  • THE UGLY: The human condition

SCORE: 9.0

The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – The Long Road Ahead is available on XBLA (Xbox 360), PSN (PS3), and PC. Primary version reviewed was for XBLA.

Zombies aren’t always the biggest concern…

Continuing the five-part series based on Robert Kirkman’s celebrated comic book, Telltale’s second episode of The Walking Dead will leave you horrified, disgusted, and inexplicably craving more by the time you’re done.

Subtitled Starved for Help, this tale takes place three months after the end of the first episode and sees Lee, Clementine, and the rest of the survivors from the first chapter bunkering down in an abandoned motel. Running low on supplies and even lower on food, the group starts to turn on each other, with Kenny and Lilly vying the most to assert themselves as the alpha dogs. All seems lost, but other survivors suddenly approach the gate and offer a trade that seems too good to be true: food for fuel.

It turns out these survivors happen to own a dairy farm up the road, so Lee and the rest of the gang set out to explore the grounds in order to see whether a change in venue might give the group a better chance of surviving. But along the way, they run across bandits—and, when it seems like these aren’t just any ordinary old dairy farmers, Lee realizes that the zombies aren’t the only monsters out there in the world…

If you enjoyed the first episode of The Walking Dead, then Starved for Help definitely won’t disappoint. The continued character development of the core group—with the introduction of several new members to your ragtag band of survivors—constantly intrigues. All decisions and non-decisions are even more critical this time around, and I loved the fact that the zombie invasion really serves as more of a simple backdrop for this episode—the whole motif surrounding humanity’s dark side will make you rethink a lot of your decisions as the game unfolds. And all I can say is that I can’t wait until more of my friends play so that we can discuss certain scenarios and explore how we all handled them differently. Personally, I was in the minority for some and the majority for others; the stat tracker that illustrates how other Walking Dead players approached the game is a highlight of the experience.

That’s not to say that this episode is without its flaws, though. Lee’s walking pace is dreadful, and though this understandably builds suspense at times, it just feels like a drag most of the time—it takes forever to walk from one end of the farm to the other. I just wish that, in certain scenarios, the player could hold down a button, and he’d break out into a light jog. There’s a zombie apocalypse going on, man—show some hustle! I also love how, no matter how big an item Lee may add to his inventory, it magically disappears when he places it behind himself—like he’s got a wormhole in his butt that he uses to dispose of all large items.

If you love The Walking Dead and enjoy point-and-click adventures, though, this series may well be Telltale’s crowning achievement when all is said and done. Until then, we’ll all just have to endure the painful wait until the next episode, Long Road Ahead, finally becomes available later this year.

SUMMARY: The second episode in this five-part series cranks the twisted-ness up to 11—and may push you in directions you never even thought possible. 

  • THE GOOD: A twisted story chapter that shows zombies may not be the only monsters out there…
  • THE BAD: Lee’s lackluster walking pace needlessly extends the experience.
  • THE UGLY: Human-flavored beef.

SCORE: 9.0

The Walking Dead: Episode 2—Starved for Help is available on XBLA, PSN, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for XBLA. 

THE BUZZ: Hollywood director/screenwriter James Gunn walked the red carpet at the 2011 Spike TV VGAs and talked to EGM Associate Editor and Resident Supernerd Ray Carsillo about his experience co-directing/writing Lollipop Chainsaw with Suda51. He also let slip a little new information about the highly anticipated game in regards to Nick, Juliet’s decapitated head of a boyfriend, and his part in the game.

Gunn says in the interview (which you can watch the video of below) that an ability that Nick possesses is that if Juliet beheads certain zombies, she can place Nick’s head in place of the zombie’s head and have Nick pilot the zombie’s body and fight along side her for when the odds really get tough.

EGM’S TAKE: Well, we figured Juliet wasn’t just carrying Nick’s head around for sentimental reasons and this new ability reveal definitely should add an interesting new dynamic to the game play along with the rainbows, hearts, and, of course, Juliet’s chainsaw and pole dancing related abilities. The big question we will have to wait to find the answer to now though is how good is the friendly A.I. and how much of an effect will it really have in combat?

Unfortunately, due to the rapid nature of the red carpet, we couldn’t talk more in depth with James Gunn about the game at that moment, but it was also nice to see his enthusiasm for the project come off rather clearly and has me looking forward to this game even more.

What do you folks think? Are you pumped for Lollipop Chainsaw? What do you think about this new ability? How about the rest of Juliet’s zombie bashing repertoire? Let us know your thoughts with comments below!

And you thought YOUR high school was tough

Suda51 loves nothing more than to parody American culture as well as mix in some musical aspects to his games and so a lot of the elements to his upcoming hack ‘n’ slash zombie fest Lollipop Chainsaw should come as no surprise. Described as sex, blood, and rock ‘n’ roll, Lollipop Chainsaw follows one Juliet Starling, a former cheerleader of San Romero High School (named such in tribute to the father of modern zombie culture, George A. Romero) and how she must put down many of her former classmates who have been turned into the walking undead. With the help of several unturned, including her boyfriend who now lives as a disembodied head (imagine Ash from Evil Dead, but the “infection” went A LOT further) attached by a chain to Juliet’s waste and provides advice, Juliet must get to the bottom of this zombie outbreak. Let the Buffy the Vampire Slayer parallels commence!

Seriously though, I had a chance to grab Juliet’s preferred weapon of choice, her chainsaw, and dive headlong into the first level of Lollipop Chainsaw a short time ago. In terms of gameplay, although the premise is very different, it feels very similar to another Suda51 game in No More Heroes and so fans of that series should appreciate the ability to just pick up and play Lollipop Chainsaw from the get go. Aside from her chainsaw, Juliet can also shake her pom-poms and perform various cheerleading acrobatics in order to stun zombie crowds and give her enough time to decapitate her zombie foes, which is the only way to put them down for good. Of course, this makes me wonder about the source of the outbreak because whenever a pretty girl shakes her pom-poms in front of me, I admit I become pretty stunned and single-minded in my thinking patterns as well.

Anyway, as we progressed through the level and took down classmate after classmate and even a math teacher mini-boss, the thing that was most evident was that this game has Suda51’s style written all over it. Big explosions of light and sound punctuated the climb of my combo counter climb higher and higher as I slay undead foe after undead foe. And along with the fountains of blood from the neck stumps of recently beheaded enemies, if I was able to “get in the zone” with Juliet by hitting a high enough combo, all the blood would turn into hearts and firework sparkles while my chainsaw became supercharged with one-hit knockout power. This obviously allowed me to mow down my enemies much quicker and just roll through the hallways of San Romero High.

Another interesting note about the style is that the game has at times a bit of a B-movie feel to it, again paying tribute to the good ol’ days of zombie films. This could be because of the work Dawn of the Dead screenwriter James Gunn has contributed to the game as he has been more than open about his joy in working on this game with Warner Bros. and Suda51 on his personal website and to us in the media. Along with James Gunn, top of the line voice actress Tara Strong has been confirmed as the voice of Juliet and who may best be known for Raven in Teen Titans, Batgirl in Batman: The Animated Series, Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls, Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham City, and has even been rumored, but never confirmed, to have done the voice of Bowser Jr. in Super Mario Sunshine.

After enough slaying of the hoi polloi zombie, that I might add is done in your more standard “shuffling” type that only really starts to speed up when Juliet gets within chomping range, we made it to the school gymnasium. Oh Juliet attended many a pep rally here in her preferred zombie bashing outfit, her cheer uniform, but now it has been taken over by a zombified Metal Goth named Zed, the first of many high school class stereotypes we are due to see in the game, who hates Juliet and her establishment supporting ways. Here is where we really get out first taste of the rock ‘n’ roll as Zed’s primary forms of attack deal with sound speakers and amplified sound waves that rush towards Juliet after Zed shouts some nasty things into his unholy microphone. You’ll look to mute Zed for good, but only after fighting him in several stages, where you get to see his true power as he literally pulls himself back together after several rounds, and this is all in just the first level.

Although we’re still lacking a lot of the major story details and what other classes we could expect to take on in this high school from hell, one thing is for sure: if you’re a fan of Suda51’s other work, then this game should be right up your alley.  Lollipop Chainsaw is expected right now to hack out a spot for itself on store shelves sometime in March 2012.

Are you folks Suda51 fans? Are you looking forward to Lollipop Chainsaw? What do you think of all the parodies that will be seen in Lollipop Chainsaw? What else do you think we might see in Lollipop Chainsaw? Let us know your thoughts on this game with comments below!

A lifeless, zombified PS3 port

Back in 2009, an arcade classic was in desperate need of a makeover—and, of all places, it came from the Wii, surprisingly enough. The House of the Dead: Overkill served as a prequel for the immensely popular lightgun House of the Dead games and explained, sort of, both the origins of Agent G (the series’ main protagonist) and the zombie-causing formula he’s fought for 15 years—all wrapped in a ’70s B-movie setting with over-the-top voice acting, tons of sex and swearing, and cheesy moments galore. Looking to capitalize on that surprising success, Sega’s ported the game over to the PS3 with some upgrades in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle with a new audience.

Unfortunately, anyone who played through the original House of the Dead: Overkill will note Extended Cut for PS3 just feels…off. For as many problems that have been fixed from the original—like repetitive zombie skins and short game length—new ones seem to have cropped up. And the most glaring is way the game looks.

See, the poor graphics were actually part of the original’s charm. Throwing in a film grain to cover up the Wii’s weaker processing power was a masterstroke that helped give Overkill a B-movie look that fit perfectly with the depraved humor and unabashed, over-the-top moments. Bringing the game into full HD on the PS3 actually takes away from the original experience and shows that film grain and great graphics just don’t mix. But the visual changes don’t stop with the HD upgrade—Extended Cut also includes added 3D. Enemies chuck weapons in order to add a few 3D moments to the experience, but it feels forced and unnecessary the whole way through, and it’s just another knock on these new-and-“improved” visuals.

Another flaw comes with the controls, since most players don’t actually own a PS Move—and that’s how this game is meant to be played, with the Move serving as a makeshift lightgun to help re-create that arcade experience. If you don’t own a Move, the controls don’t translate to the DualShock, since you’ll more than likely try to overcompensate with the reticule and overshoot your target, making the game’s multiplier combos almost impossible. Looking back, the game worked so well for the Wii because the Wiimote’s essentially designed as a light gun to begin with.

Extended Cut includes two new levels that follow zombie-fighting stripper Varla Gunns when she’s not with Agent G and Isaac Washington, and those definitely add some replay value and extra humor—though the spotlight still shines on the relationship between Washington and G. These areas introduce new characters while also bridging what some might consider plot gaps—but I just think of them as part of the charm.

In the end, I can’t believe I actually found myself pining for the Wii version, as this PS3 incarnation found a way to use technology to suck out all the fun and charm of the original and deposit it in a steaming pile of disappointment on my living-room floor. If you’ve never played the original House of the Dead: Overkill and happen to own a Move, then this game might be worth checking out. Otherwise, I hope you’re ready to dust off your Wii—because I’d actually recommend that version, which you can probably find in the bargain bin these days, to get the better overall experience.

SUMMARY: It may sound preposterous, but you’d be better off checking out the far-better Wii version of this PS3 port.

  • THE GOOD: Two new levels extend the campy, on-rails romp
  • THE BAD: HD graphics with a film-grain effect is like a visual oxymoron
  • THE UGLY: The Mother boss in full 3D

SCORE: 6.0

The quintessential monster mash

Season Three of SpikeTV’s hit series, Deadliest Warrior ends tonight with a pair of thrilling one-hour episodes starting at 9PM ET/PT. First, the French Foreign Legion vs the Himalayan warrior Gurkhas will kick things off in your standard Deadliest Warrior fashion by pitting these two historical powerhouses against each other.

But then comes a geek debate for the ages that will scientifically be put to rest as pure numbers will face-off against super-human speed and strength in zombies vs. vampires! Can the sheer numbers of a zombie apocalypse be enough to overcome the brutality of a traditional vampire? If all people become zombified and vampires are forced to resort to lesser food sources, will they be vulnerable enough to a wild pack of flesh mongers? It looks to be a true battle of braaaaaaains vs. blood-pumping heart as this age old discussion will be put the test as finally find out WHO IS DEADLIEST?

What should also be fun to watch with the season finale episode will be the live tweeting and audience interaction given during the episode by the show’s hosts and just what the guys will have to say. How will Dr. Armand Dorian’s human biology knowledge be tested as gel torsos will have yet to be seen types of punishment inflicted upon them? What new gadgets will biomedical engineer Geoff Desmoulin pull out to test these unusual and definitely not human characteristics? And what strategies could Richard “Mack” Machowicz come up with for a pair of creatures that often are depicted as having some sort of hive mind?

Outside of tonight’s season finale though, it should be interesting to see if this begins a slippery slope for the series and could lead to more fictional face-offs in the future, which I for one would be excited about. Could Iron Man vs. Batman be that far away? Or how about Superman vs. The Hulk? Whatever the distant future may hold for this always-compelling TV series, I know that in my personal immediate future, I am going to be sitting down at 9 PM EST with my TV tuned to Spike.

Originally Published: June 28, 2011, on EGMNOW.COM

More mindless than the zombies you’ll be shooting

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: 3DS

Release: 06.28.11

Players: Singe Player, 2-player Co-op

ESRB Rating: M – Mature

The Good: Beautiful graphics
The Bad: We’ve seen this all before in Resident Evil 4 and 5
The Ugly: Time is your greatest threat, not your enemies

Every fan of the Resident Evil franchise has been waiting with baited breath to see if it could make a successful transition to portable gaming with a pair of titles coming to the 3DS. The first of those titles, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D may have the diehards worrying a little.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is the attempted expansion and combination of the Mercenaries mini-games found in Resident Evil 4 and 5. Although the graphics for the game are crisp, the character models look nearly as good as they did on a console, and the use of the bottom screen for your inventory and map are nice touches, there is little beyond these features to make the game worthwhile.

The point of Mercenaries is to play as one of eight different characters from the series that are randomly inserted into various familiar locations from the Resident Evil 4 and 5 games. Whether in Europe taking on cultists or in Africa taking on the Majini, the object of the game revolves around an arcade style time-trial where you try to get the highest score possible in the time allotted while also building up combos by quickly dispatching several foes in a row.

Unfortunately, even with 30 possible missions, RPG-like powering up of your favorite Resident Evil characters, and some stellar graphics, the game gets repetitive and boring quickly. There is an overall lack of enemy variety with nothing you haven’t already seen in previous Resident Evil games and because of limited enemy A.I. and the powering up feature, where any character can equip up to three upgrades once they’re unlocked, your greatest threat against getting a high score does not come from the infected but from the clock on the top of the screen.

A nice feature to try to add some replayability to the game is that Mercenaries does feature a co-op mode for a friend with a 3DS, but then you’ll have two people getting bored after a handful of missions instead of just yourself. Add in poor controls that will take a lot of time to get used to as the most often used actions for this game, shooting and reloading, require not one, but two buttons to be pressed or held at a time and overall, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D just lacks the substance necessary to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Score: 4.0/10

By: Ray Carsillo

Originally Published: January 6, 2011, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow and NationalLampoon.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed the exclusive Xbox 360 Dead Rising 2: Case West DLC from Capcom. And no, I did not get the A ending on Dead Rising 2, I got the S and did not give TK the Zombrex.

Originally Published: November 11, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

I reviewed Plants vs. Zombies limited edition pottery. Are you f***ing kidding me?

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