Dead Ahead Zombie Warfare is yet another mobile to console port that just doesn’t quite fit into place. I’ll admit, there’s more here than what we’re used to seeing with games of the same origin platform, but not so much that I feel entirely comfortable recommending a purchase either way. Serving itself as a sequel to Dead Ahead, Zombie Warfare is a tactical survival game that simply has you taking on wave after wave of enemies, tacked to the same gameplay format from beginning to end. The premise is simple, the undead has overtaken the planet and it falls to you to kill zombies, loot supplies and locate survivors. Yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking, another run of the mill zombie apocalypse game to further bombard this already tired genre? Well, you’re absolutely right.
The main aim of the game is to send out survivors to battle incoming zombies head-on, with the overall goal being to destroy a barricade that sits in directly in the path of your bus. It sounds a lot simpler than it is, but that’s pretty much it as far as the concept goes. Oddly enough, Zombie Warfare is described as a tactical game, but I found very little need to exercise any strategy. Sure, there are times in which you need to send out specific survivors to deal with specific foes, but this is hardly tactical. In fact, it amounts to little more than common sense when you sit back and look at the bigger picture. Zombies will arrive in wide range of forms and to its credit, Zombie Warfare houses quite a decent portion of enemy variants. There’s your bog-standard undead, undead enemies that can harness weaponry, dogs and more.
Through natural progression you’ll earn new types of survivors to tackle the different enemies within. You will also be rewarded at the conclusion of each level with stars, these will eventually grant you access to new levels and locations. There’s not much in terms of actual gameplay as most of the action plays out whilst you observe the carnage. Survivors will cost a set amount of points to bring out of the bus, with the more capable and devastating survivors costing more than the base survivors. The meter for calling out survivors does replenish, rather than gating you to a static number, which is a nice touch. There’s a cooldown timer in place to prevent players from spamming an army, but it’s quite a lenient system nevertheless. Running alongside this players can pick up some additional perks.
These range from buffs for your character’s strength, to cooling down the timer that allows you to bring more survivors from the bus. It’s quite basic to say the least. When you’re not fighting to take down a barricade, chances are you’ll be navigating the world map. Here, you can upgrade your bus using coins that you’ve earned throughout the journey. Upgrading the bus will improve its durability and damage output, as well as obtaining new slots to further pimp up the ride, so to speak. Upgrading the bus is indeed tethered to your character level. To level up, you simply need to earn Survival Points, which are dished out whenever you complete a level, or of course replay one. Coins can also be spent on buying new survivors, with more survivors unlocking as you reach higher character levels. There’s a sizable collection of unique items that can be utilized to give you an edge in the fields of play, including medikits, nitro, gas canisters and more. Though, these take up survivor slots, so it pays off to choose wisely before you jump into the fray.
Much like aforementioned meter to call survivors from the bus, these items pull from a secondary meter, but again this can be replenished through killing zombies, so it’s quite a straightforward affair. Upgrading items and characters, which basically improves their overall stats based on your choices, will cost coins too. This does mean that with so much pulling from your proverbial purse, there’s some grinding to be done to keep your funds at a sufficient level, but clearing a stage takes little more than a handful of minutes, so this is alleviated to some degree. On the flip side, however, those that don’t want to grind can always head on over to the Xbox Store and invest in some addition packs via microtransactions. These don’t seem to be unfairly priced, but we all know how the world feels about MTS full stop, don’t we? Yup, the root of pure evil. Throughout the course of the game you will fill up your Zombiepedia. This isn’t anything special and merely serves as a notebook for you to read up on the enemies that you’ve encountered so far.
The game does a good job at keeping the locations interesting and varied, but this means very little when the gameplay itself becomes repetitive and stale after just an hour of play. It doesn’t help matters that the AI’s behavior can be baffling at the best of times. What good is a survivor that runs through incoming zombies, bypassing the fact that they’re soon to attack the all important bus? Moments like this occur frequently and it rapidly tests one’s patience. Touching up on the visuals, these are passable. Zombie Warfare lacks a great deal of detail, but this is to be expected for a mobile game of this type. Don’t get me wrong, some of the locations and even the characters are well designed, but nothing really jumps out to captivate or retain your attention. The soundtrack is another downside here, doing very little other than to highlight how bland this experience can be. It’s far from hideous, but it does become annoyingly repetitive before long.
Outside of the main campaign levels, you can participate in challenge levels. These tend to be much harder than the main event levels, lending the game a degree of replay value outside of the star-gathering system. I don’t want to pull this game down too harshly, because there’s quite a good amount of content to soak up. I dare say there’s somewhere between four and six hours worth of play. With that to the side, and as far as mobile to console ports go, the pricing is going to be a major issue here. Dead Ahead Zombie Warfare costs £15.99/$19.99, which is quite steep if you ask me. Throw in the aforementioned MTS which can cost as much as half the cost of the core game and I can see this being an issue for many that check this out on the storefront. The bottom line in all of this is that Dead Ahead Zombie Warfare will only sing to a specific crowd, and even then, I suspect many will be slightly let down by its overly basic structure.
The steep price tag and the inclusion of microtransactions will certainly raise eyebrows, especially for a game that’s as repetitive and as bland as this. There’s heaps of content to get through and no shortage of interesting characters and upgrades to unlock, but due to the lack of evolving functionality, the game fails to maintain its initial allure.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.