Double Review: Dead Horde
As killing zombies is always more fun with company, Miodrag and Declan have decided to try and survive Dead Horde together and brave the dangers of
zombies mutants explosions.
Miodrag: So, Declan, that was quite the experience, huh?
Declan: For sure! How enjoyable of an experience though?
Miodrag: Well, the thing with this kind of review format is that it’ll just make us look as if we’re ranting our butts off like on a gaming forum. But yea, this is the first game I did not finish for PXOD. Not sure I regret it. So, the plot is, like with most zombie titles, irrelevant. You play two identical dudes that need to get from point A to point B while killing “mutants”. I think we skipped almost every level introduction since they were just basically walls of text that said “Good luck!”
Declan: Yeah, the story is non-existent outside those intros. I read a few of them but as you said, they basically amount to “Good luck!” or in one case “Gotta get to the choppa!” Then again, this kind of game has never called for a strong story to be fun and memorable.
Miodrag: Aye, I don’t really mind a lack of story or an excuse plot. The point is just to kill a bunch of dudes. The problem is that we didn’t have much fun killing dudes. We should mention something positive first, though? I liked the vehicle handling! Especially the satisfaction of using the handbrake at full speed.
Declan: But I didn’t! I liked the…uhhh…the upgrade shop! That was neat.
Miodrag: I didn’t like the upgrade shop because zombies spawned while I was browsing. That’s pretty low of them. And you had to buy ammo for a weapon after buying said weapon! Damn apocalypse weapon monopoly…
Declan: Haha, yeah, that’s a low blow, keeping the action going while you’re in no position to act. I should clarify though, I liked the concept of the upgrade shop. Being able to upgrade your weapons and retain the upgrades throughout the game was a good idea, but its implementation leaves a lot to be desired, even the upgrades felt, for the most part, pointless.
Miodrag: Actually, I only thought the damage upgrades were pointless. I honestly did not see an improvement in performance when I upgraded the default weapon’s damage. Did help having larger clips, reload speed and rate of fire, even if a clip size of 28 is a very strange number…
Declan: Yeah, things like the larger clips and reload speed were noticeable but damage is what you really want from upgrading most of your weapons. You want them down faster than when you began but in Dead Horde, you could max out the damage on a weapon and still see no noticeable difference in the rate you’re dropping the enemies.
Miodrag: Indeed, the zombies, err, mutants took forever to drop. Also, the biggest crime in a zombie game: no shotgun until half-way through the game. What. The. Hell?
Declan: I had the same reaction. Ever since Evil Dead, the shotgun has been the go-to weapon for
zombie mutant slaying. That we had to wait until halfway through the game is annoying and just as strange is that when we did finally get the shotgun, we got the rocket launcher as well, that powerful rocket launcher you loved so much.
Miodrag: Yep. For all you readers, I think Declan killed me at least four times during our playthrough. Or five times, not sure. I know I got grenaded, barreled and rocketed. The game suffers from selective friendly fire, i.e, a minigun won’t hurt your buddy, but an explosion will. Shame the explosions don’t hurt the damn zombie robot ninja mutants.
Declan: I’m sorry about those deaths, I wasn’t out to kill you. It was hard to avoid it though. The explosion effect wasn’t a good indicator of its area of effect, which was actually much larger. The damage that the explosions did against the mutants was rather paltry too. If I can go down in one hit then surely some festering bag of bones should go down as easily.
Miodrag: The Area-of-Effect of some zombies is also maddening. There’s this one zombie that keeps jumping and causing a HULK SMASH effect when landing, damaging the area around him. The problem is that he doesn’t have something like a maximum jump distance. He locks on to you, so you have to time the dodge roll to avoid it. Now, that would be OK if it weren’t for two things. The first one: the HULK SMASH effect is only metaphorical, i.e. you’ll get a ton of damage, but visually, it’s like throwing a dusty pillow. The other problem was, well, my worst complaint about the game: the invisible wall barrier. Care to elaborate?
Declan: Ah yes, the invisible walls. I think they may have been our greatest foe in the game. There were some areas where there were invisible walls when there was really no need for them and then you always have that invisible tether to your buddy, stopping you from going too far away. It was really annoying, especially in the more crowded scenarios.
Miodrag: Basically, if you’re too far away from your buddy, you hit an invisi-wall, or rather, both of you hit one and can’t advance in any direction other than towards your friend. Possible hilarious scenarios? You are two steps away from a medkit and low on health. Zombies corner you between them and the invisi-wall. You die. Other hilarious scenarios? You try and roll away from a horde of zombies. You hit the wall while rolling and don’t move an inch. You die. Actually, it wasn’t that hilarious.
Declan: Just frustrating.
Miodrag: As is most of the pacing of this game. Some decisions were just flabbergasting. Like, first you find a shop and then a checkpoint. It can mess things up for you if you make poor purchases, because the store closes down after you reach the checkpoint, so you’re stuck with whatever crap you bought even if you die (like sawblades).
Declan: Those sawblades were so useless. I think I used them once and that was enough to turn me off of them.
Miodrag: You’re smarter than me though. I don’t fault the game for this, although there was a lack of explanation, but I honestly thought it was a melee weapon and kept wondering why the hell I lost so much health when using it as such.
Declan: I don’t blame you. When you don’t have a dedicated melee attack, it makes sense that you’d get a melee weapon instead and the sawblades appeared to be that weapon, unlocked early on too.
Miodrag: We got to the airport though, so knowing our luck, the real melee weapon was in the next level. Although, honestly, it’s a tad late. I really wish we could have just shoved the zombies at times. The basic ones seemed flimsy enough. Anyway, the actual way you advance: killing all zombies. Then the gate opens. The problem for us seems to have been that zombies were either stuck in some far corner, or the wave we needed to kill didn’t trigger…
Declan: The zombies in the corner I can forgive. Even today, AI pathfinding can be a fine art. The time between waves was annoying though and I think that may have been more design choice. Perhaps they were thinking “Let’s give the players a break after each wave” but it just became tiresome waiting for the spawns.
Miodrag: I really couldn’t tell whether it was a design decision, time-based or location-based. Sometimes it seemed like it was one of those, and sometimes like it wasn’t any of those. I know this might sound like nitpicking, but I’m not sure the persons responsible for spawn placement had a unified agreement. For example, sometimes the zombies jumped out of containers, alleyways and other places that made sense. Sometimes they spawned right behind you. And sometimes they spawned while you were in the shop menu. It was a bit inconsistent.
Declan: I hear ya. It didn’t feel like a lot of thought was put into the spawning…or too much thought. It’s hard to know. One thing I wanted to talk about that we didn’t discuss while we were playing the game is the sound though. That was something else that was lacking from this game. Every surface had the same sounds for walking, and cardboard boxes sounded like barrels being hit as they scraped over the ground. Then the gun sounds all felt muted, like they were recorded from a small indoor shooting range. What did you think?
Miodrag: Well, I could let the gun effects slide somewhat, but only because I have no idea how much of a budget your typical gun sound effects demand. They were pretty lacking, but I wouldn’t be too hard on the Devs. What I did mind in regards to sound was the surface effects you mentioned. You know the train level, right? Well, whenever you hit any surface, in any level, you had the same metal clang. Now, since it was early on, my brain probably wasn’t used to the sound or something, but I could have sworn that whenever we shot the surfaces in the train level, it sounded like the cling-clang you hear from a train approaching. So yes, the sound effects were bad enough to make me expect that I’d be run over by a train… Unless that was intentional, in which case, wow, I never would have thought of that.
Declan: I find it hard to think it was intentional, they didn’t seem to do a lot with the environments other than use them as background dressing. There was that one moment though, I’ll let you explain that.
Miodrag: Oh, yea, that one cool moment. You go through an alleyway and then all of a sudden, there’s a power failure, the lights turning off one by one and you hear the screams of mutants coming at you. Now, the problem is, why did we only have one such moment? I mean, the environments were, like you said, background dressing. And what’s with those buttons?! They drove me crazy!
Declan: The buttons! Did you need to press them at the start of a set of waves? You could keep on pressing them and changing the colour of the light above them but they didn’t seem to trigger the next waves and certainly didn’t open the gates, which opened automatically once the waves were defeated.
Miodrag: They were just randomly placed. I had no idea what they did. Maybe it’s a very basic form of player sprays? Since the two colors were the same lights we had as players to tell ourselves apart. It was like “NO! THIS WALL WILL BE MY COLOUR!” I dunno, I’m honestly trying to figure out what they did. It’s driving me insane. Mostly because I’m trying to say something nicer about this game other than me liking vehicles and that the lights went out that one time in a way I found moderately entertaining.
Declan: I feel the same way. The first day we started playing, I was looking forward to it but the longer we played, the less I wanted to keep playing. The astute among you will probably realise how late this review is and I’d have to take responsibility for that. While things in my personal life were getting busier and I was finding it hard to find the time to put into playing the game, I think subconsciously, I was just trying to avoid playing it, ranking its importance below other things.
Miodrag: Honestly, folks, just go play Crimsonland or Nation Red. I can’t recommend this in any way, sadly, not even on a sale.
Declan: Likewise. I cannot recommend this game…unless you want to not have fun.
Miodrag: Wait! I remembered two more good things! It started in windowed mode the first time I ran it and it has local co-op. No, I’m not being sarcastic, Devs, do that more often.
Declan: I’ll second that! The notion that PC gamers don’t enjoy local multiplayer annoys me. Thankfully, you can enjoy top down zombie shooting with local co-op in the form of Nation Red.
Miodrag: I think I’ll buy Nation Red soon. I only played the demo. But yea, don’t play Dead Horde.
Developer: DnS Development
Genre: Zombie Shooter
Time: 2 hours
Gripes: Invisible walls, explosion friendly-fire, area-of-effect visuals, samey environments, lacking sounds, bad weapon-pacing, odd general pacing.
Get it for the: Vehicle handling and that one moment the lights go out in a cool way.
Full disclosure: PXOD was given two review copies of the game from the developer. The game was played six-levels in co-op before calling it quits.