November 2nd, 2012 | By Emerson Smith
Are you tiring of long hours trapped in a cubicle, working long hours for “the man”? Are you looking for a game that skips the exposition, gives you a gun, names you “Dude” and gives you a whole lot of office space to destroy? Zombies. is ironically about destroying something much more terrifying than shambling, brain eating corpses — middle management.
One of the things that Zombies. executes particularly well is the humor and the ridiculousness of the game itself. Cutscenes between the levels are voice-acted and the scenarios range wildly from a Russian rocket scientist and his precious shotgun to a nationality-confused cop to an epic sword fight between an office worker and a samurai zombie. These slideshow-esque cutscenes are complimented by a shaky-cam style that really sells the B-movie aesthetic. It is just unfortunate that in-game the humor usually only crops up in the opening dialogue boxes that set the stage and the zombies’ subtle moans of “synergy” and “cloud-computing” rather than “brains”.
Zombies. gameplay remains very formulaic throughout, each half of the game is structured a bit differently. During the first half, the player slowly unlocks their arsenal, one weapon at a time, starting with his bare fists. “Dude” meets a variety of characters who will fight alongside him for one level, then die at the end and give him the weapon to fight solo during the next mission. This repeats for the entire first half of the game with a few boss fights to break the repetitive pacing.
Unfortunately, there is not much variety to a large potion of Zombies.. Each level has a ton of shambling office-worker husks that stumble around and try to eat you. Your objective is to cause as much destruction as possible before reaching the exit. Because the only variety given to the player over this extended period of time is the different weapons unlocked, hacking down the endless hordes becomes a chore. Boss fights are largely repetitive, the only variance in how fast the enemy runs in random directions and hurls their projectiles at you.
In the second half of Zombies., we can see more of what makes the game so special and how it could have been improved greatly. Because the player has unlocked all of the weapons in the game, the levels of carnage increase dramatically and rather than alternating between a large level with zombies and another large level with zombies and a new weapon, the levels begin alternating between the same large, zombie infested, levels and boss battles. It is here that we see more use of the environment and humor to drive the narrative.
For example, the zombies turn off the lights for a management presentation and this means that the player will have to make due with a thin flashlight beam to see the way to the next boss. Unfortunately, the challenge doesn’t last — with a few blasts of your hairspray turned flamethrower you can easily illuminate the level with a few flaming cubicles. This was really the only interesting way the environment was used, which was really disappointing because the amount of detail put into its visual destructibility is impressive. I would have liked to see the player or the zombies use the office space in more interesting ways.
Another level that stands out particularly is the “sandwich” scenario. After another routine shooting match with a boss, “Dude” finds an ancient sandwich in a vending machine, and eats it despite the warnings from his co-workers. Soon, the vending machine grows to epic proportions and the sandwich eats him. In the following level, all of “Dude’s” weapons are gone and he has to fight off mutant green sandwiches with his projectile vomit through a pitch black office floor. Because I no longer had access to weapons that could cause a fire, I had to take the darkness more seriously. Even though the sandwiches didn’t behave differently than the zombies and my vomit didn’t fire any differently than my pistol, the surprise this had on me as a player easily made this one of the most interesting sections of the game.
The music in Zombies. is on a plateau of its own. Long after the credits were done rolling, I found myself replaying the pulsing beats and addictive tunes in my head. Between every shotgun blast, Molotov explosion, and zombie grunt, bignic‘s soundtrack is a beauty to behold on its own, and blends well with the rest of the over-the-top atmosphere.
When it comes down to it, Zombies. is largely a repetitive experience. You may bore of blasting holes through cubicles and zombies with your machine guns and chainsaws, but when all is said and done, Zombies. is executed with an amount of class that’s a merit in its own right. I would be interested in seeing bignic make another game that brings the humor into the gameplay at a greater scope and maybe feature characters that join the player on his journey and offer banter during the game rather than the connecting cutscenes.