I'll be perfectly honest for my non-existent viewers; I've been lagging far behind on my reviews. Most of it just laziness on my part, but the games I've got backlogged are Mount and Blade, Heroes of Might and Magic 5, Quake Wars: Enemy Territory and finally this game, Trapped Dead. The last one is the smallest and most easily reviewed, but it's also quite an interesting premise. The game's a sort of real time tactical survival zombie game in which you control up to four unique characters to complete objectives in large levels. Considering that I criticized Left 4 Dead for being too fast paced, how does this survival zombie game compare?
Trapped Dead takes place in a very familiar setting for zombie aficionados; think Romero and "of the Dead" series. The release of Agent Zero, the first zombie, has resulted in a zombie outbreak in the city, with only a few survivors left. After reaching your bunker, you and your comrades will need to find a cure for the zombification of Raccoon city. I mean, generic American city.
The game is a top-down tactical game similar to Fallout Tactics in continuous real time mode. You can control up to four characters per level, and you're going to need to avoid, trick, or kill the hell out of the undead, all the while conserving ammo.
The game itself is told in a comic book fashion, and you progress somewhat linearly from level to level. The characters are overall pretty generic, but they do have distinct personalities. The story is paper thin, and just exists as an excuse to bring the player from level to level. After the completion of each level, you go back to your bunker to organize, choose party members for the next mission, and manage your inventories.
Is it possible, for a culture obsessed with zombies and zombie survival, to still not have a clue when this happens?
Surprisingly the sewers are remarkably safe
Don't be a tool in a horror film/game. Go in a group
How does the game play then? The game starts you off easily enough with just a bat and a pistol, and eventually adds team members to your roster, though some levels add team members and some don't, but you can only recruit up to six members, and bring only four members into a level at once. Each member has strengths and weaknesses, with some being skilled at healing, the others at aiming, and the others with melee whacking. Think of the game as Fallout Tactics always on permanent real-time, controlled by a real time strategy interface. Thus, you'll be micromanaging all four characters if you bring them all along. Thankfully, the game allows you to pause like in Baldur's Gate/NWN, so you can just stop the game if things get hairy to give orders. When attacking, the game uses a hack-and-slash game play method, with each press of the mouse an attack when carrying a weapon. Certain weapons, such as rifles, have cooldowns. The game drops ammo all over the place, but the later zombie levels will have hundreds of zombies, so conservation is key. In addition, items take up inventory space, so you'll need to plan ahead. The game also places explosive fire-extinguishers throughout the level (is this China?), so you can sometimes group zombies together for a group kill.
The game also has a stealth element to it. Zombies are attracted to loud noises and the scent of blood. Thus, if you use guns, you're going to attract a lot of zombies. If you walk, and whack zombies with a melee weapon, then you can pick them off one by one. The game also features the crossbow as the ranged stealth weapon. Players hurt will flash red, meaning they're bleeding, which will attract other zombies unless they patch themselves up. You're also able to toss blood packs, which work the same way as boomer bile in L4D; they attract zombies to the location, and will attack anything that was splashed. And because all zombies are Romero-slow zombies, they only move at walking pace. The characters with more stamina can easily outrun them, but their huge numbers means that you may run from one swarm into another. It's a nice strategic element to the game, but as shown below, it's severely underused.
The game mechanics are functional but flawed. Game characters don't have AI scripts, so they basically sit there when zombies come at them, so you'd have the case in which you're going to be exploring a room with the muscle of the group, only to realize that your handicapped douche doctor has been turned into dinner because he was too stupid to use his revolver. Why not have AI scripts, like avoid combat, use melee, attack with stealth weapons, etc? In addition, you'd have the most unusual AI script for teammates following you. When selecting group follow, one person is designated the leader, and everyone follows behind him/her. The only problem is that if you're making a 180 degree turn to run away from a zombie, then your teammates will actually run into the zombie your leader was running away from. Why? Well, basically to maintain the follow-the-leader trail. As mentioned above, the closer you are to a zombie, the more damage your bullets do, so you're going to be making a lot of close encounters to save ammo. However, considering how eager your teammates are to maintain the conga, you're going to be pretty boned. Moreover, because in the later levels you're going to be fighting lots of zombies in groups at once, "stealth" doesn't really work real well, so the use of melee weapons is kind of suicidal. The game requires excessive micromanagement. For example, after your gun's out of bullets, you need to manually reload. And lastly, there's a problem with squad selection. Even though you're controlling four members at max, and that there's a pause button, your squad is difficult to control because you can't group your characters, and they have no AI. Thus, because of the interface, you'll find that you're selecting the wrong leaders for a group, of bringing your entire group to one area when you only intended to bring one person.
Darwin was wrong. Even the dumbest can survive.
The last complain I have is the level and weapon variety and design. The game gives you one pistol, one revolver, one sawed-off shotgun, one rifle, a crossbow, chainsaw, bat, katana, and grenade. It's a satisfactory amount for a zombie survival sim, but it really is lacking. It's more than Left 4 Dead, but less than Left 4 Dead 2. How about a regular shotgun? Considering that sawed-off shotguns are illegal, you can't really count that as realistic. Levels are varied enough, such as military installations, prisons, shopping districts, and sports grounds, but it feels repetitive. Why? Well, first the backgrounds are still mainly dark, and secondly, the structure of the levels isn't particularly different. The later levels are basically the same level; you go through one section, kill/avoid twenty zombies, then go a next one. Levels should vary in how you need to approach them. Have levels that use very narrow corridors, have some levels that allow you to go stealthy, have some levels that require you to run, etc. In addition, the levels are way too long. Although there are save points, the long levels tend to drag the game on without adding additional content. Lastly, each level also has special triggers that will allow you to environment-kill zombies, but they're so far in between that they're more gimmicks than gameplay mechanics.
A military base infested with about a thousand zombies, just like the 7 levels before it
I cheated. You'll never have this much ammo on hand.
There are only about three zombie varieties: mobs, tougher mobs, and mini-boss butchers. The last level has a final boss. Some people may find zombie variety disappointing, but I didn't mind because I wanted to play a game with regular zombies, not zombies that would paralyze me with their tongues. All zombies are also the slower Romero zombies. Some people find this boring, but I prefer the classic Romero zombies. It's not much of a survival game if zombies outrun you. The game does become rather repetitive after killing your 1000th zombie, and unfortunately, you don't get anything like experience for it.
The game's system requirements are:
Windows XP (SP3), Vista, Windows 7
DirectX Compatible graphics card with shader 3.0 support
2 GHz CPU
1 GB Ram
HHD Space 2 GB
The game's overall system requirements aren't too difficult, and the game ran fine at 60 fps max settings on my computer. Although the game is viewed from an overhead position, some of the characters are surprisingly detailed. There's no demo available.
Whatcha' lookin' at through your scope Billy Ray?
The game's available at Gamersgate and Amazon for $20 retail, but I know that Gamersgate puts the game on sale for about $10. For the price, you can do better, but there aren't too many games like Trapped Dead available. The game's very short, and I finished it in one long afternoon. There's multiplayer to extend the life of the game, but I wasn't able to find online games. Playing coop, with one person controlling each character, will probably work better as you'll have to micromanage less. I'd wait until the price of the game drops though. There are no mods, and no noticeable bugs in the game.
Trapped Dead is one of those games that look awesome on paper but fall short when actually playing the game. While the game is functional and has a good theme and premise, the needless micromanagement and general repetitiveness of the game drops the game down several points. Playing multiplayer will probably bring the experience up as that eliminate part of the micromanaging, but the structure of the levels themselves need to be change. Overall, I recommend this game if you're hankering to play a Romero game. Otherwise, there are probably more entertaining options out there.
- The game requires AI scripts. How about: auto-attack when enemies are near, run away when enemies are near, heal me if I'm hurt, use ranged then melee, etc. You know, stuff we've had since Baldur's Gate and that most RTS games already have? Auto-reload should be enabled by default.
- Structure the level for variety. If you're going to make it big, vary it so that we have opportunities to use stealth, go out guns blazing, or trick enemies into traps. Just don't make it one huge linear run and gun fest.
- Custom characters. Why not? Everyone wants to imagine themselves in a zombie world.
- Vehicles. Seriously.
- Increase the amount of weapons available. There's really no excuse not to. Don't tell me the real world only has about a handful of weapons available.
- The interface could use a bit of work. Switching between weapons is really unintuitive, and I should be allowed to assign groups.