Zombrief: Trapped Dead Out, Impressions

By Jim Rossignol on March 23rd, 2011 at 1:06 pm.

Fat zombie is going to have steak tonight.
I know! More people who were dead and now walk again! They are a fun time. Headup Games’ tactical zombie game, Trapped Dead, came out last week. I’ve been having a bit of play of it, and wrote some words about that experience, below.

Trapped Dead is a third-person action game with an RTSy, tactical feel to it. “Mmm, feels tactical,” I said to myself as I made a dude open a door, revealing the interior of the building. There’s a top-down camera, you see, which can be moved around independently of the characters, and can be zoomed right into have a look at stuff, if you want. You can’t look at stuff inside the structures until the characters can see it, however, so any room ahead could hide horrors. Anyway, your task is to control the hapless adventures of a small number of characters, who are trapped in an off-the-shelf zombie apocalypse. The world is hammed up to high levels of zombie clich√© predictability, but it’s not without inventiveness: the second character is a ruthless, wheelchair bound doctor, for example. And wheeling him about the level immediately becomes appealling.

I should point out that each of the additional characters, once in the game world, has to be controlled independently, and is AI-free. This need to manipulate every action immediately becomes hectic once you get past two guys, because the game has a lot going on in it, with zombies strolling all over the place. Much of my time was simply spent making sure various characters were safe, or were able to fight at a moment’s notice, and weren’t, well, trapped or doomed, for whatever reason.


Each character also has health and stamina stats, as well as an inventory of items these are fairly predictable items – melee weapons, guns (and ammo), medkits, and so on. Health is obviously the overall amount the can be slapped before they die, and stamina means that they can only run so far to get out of range of the zombies. All the characters are lard-hearted slug people, of course, getting exhausted and having to walk after a hundred yards of running, despite the undead lurching toward their soft posteriors.

Anyway, each level is consituted by a sprawling 3D environment in which more stuff can be picked up, and survivors can be saved and added to the party. These levels take some exploring, because resources are scarce, and you need to pick up everything to have a chance of taking on the hordes. There’s some distinct difficulties with all this, however, because the controls of the game never really feel particularly fluid or intuitive. I found both combat and movement to be fiddly and exhausting. I mean, that could be regarded as part of the challenge, but I just found myself feeling unhappy after I screwed up the most basic situations because of having to meticulously micro-manage the behaviour of a couple of guys faced with zombies wandering in from a couple of directions.

There seem to be a few issues with the game aside from general control-frustration, however, with odd bugs here and there, the most grumble-clarifying of which being the guns not always firing when you click attack on a zombie. This led to some great sadness on my part, as I watched a character eaten as a pistol didn’t go off when I asked it to. There’s also some profound inconsistencies in the game plot: your initial companion gets shot in the head because he’s been bitten, and is therefore a zombie now, but the rest of your team getting regularly chewed doesn’t seem to matter.

Trapped Dead is well presented and fundamentally a great idea. A sort of Commandos with real people in a zombie apocalypse, but ultimately it’s not complex or clever enough to really be engaging. And I got bored long before I should have done.

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44 Comments »

  1. Lars Westergren says:

    Much like zombies infect all they touch, and come at you in an unending mass completely void of individualism, so it seems the theme of zombies has infected popular culture and especially games. It has spread beyond all hope of containment. No matter how you fight back, soon everything will be about zombies. Goodbye, my friends.

    • Kryopsis says:

      Well said.

    • Giant, fussy whingebag says:

      Yes, soon even Angry Birds will include zombies. Or have a zombie version. Or be eaten by zombies.

      They will spread and breath ghastly unlife into every genre imaginable.

      “Introducing: The Sims 3: The Graveyard Shift!

      - Now life isn’t over for your Sims after they die from the unimaginable tortures you’ve inflicted upon them! Instead, they wake up in a crypt – as an undead horror, able to spread a terrible plague to the whole neighbourhood! Featuring an all new set of goals and objectives for your undead Sim, including:

      - braaaaiiins!
      - keep your ghoul slightly less putrified by breaking into the mortuary for extra does of formaldehyde
      - BRAINS!
      - and of course, pet infection: unlife doesn’t have to be lonely!”

      Apologies if that was a lot funnier for me than it was for you…

      EDIT: Oh dear…. I just did a quick search and found out that The Sims already has zombies… Sorry!

    • Pew pew LAZORS says:

      Amen. I couldn’t agree more.

    • patricij says:

      zombies bore me to death… and so do “vampires” (as they rarely have much in common with the true lore), I’ve been reviewing a vampire inspired electronic album and I almost died half-way through reading the promo materials…blargh

    • Ian says:

      I want sports game with zombies!

      FIFA zombies: Where every player is dead and yet still faster than David Weir.

    • Reapy says:

      I like zombies, but through all these zombie games nobody does them right. Dead Rising 1/2 is probably the only people that got the problem correct.

      In my mind zombie games should be about a slow moving mass of infinite stupid, slow moving bad guys. A great zombie game would be about waking up in the outbreak, surviving, setting up a base, setting up a community, stabilizing and holding off the hoard + other problems, then slowly venturing out and retaking/cleansing.

      All along the way, zombies should be these slow stupid hoard that quietly walks up on you where you want them least. They should be deadly to come anywhere near you unless you have some protection, but at no point in time should they act smart, run at you, or there be some sort of ‘super zombie’ . I get the resident evil/left 4 dead boss zombie has its place, but really, there are so many interesting things you can do with a ‘zombie’ enemy it seems a waste.

      Anyway, I am hoping dead state kinda gets this ‘zombie cycle’ done right in a game. There is still a spot for someone to do a zombie game right.

    • Jimmeh says:

      I think there are quite a few of us who share that opinion, Reapy. There is a lot of unrealised potential, but people’s patience is beginning to wear thin.

      I fear that if someone doesn’t get it right soon, there will be a massive backlash and we won’t see another zombie game for 15 years.

    • bob_d says:

      @Reapy: Yes. That.
      Yet somehow we still end up getting minor variations on a couple themes.

    • jrod says:

      +1 arbitrary unit of approval to what @Reapy said.

      Someone needs to do a game that captures the human drama and interpersonal relationships that survivors would go through in a zombie survival situation. “The Living Dead” captures this pretty well in comic book form, but no video game that I know of has come close.

      I want L4D meets Dwarf Fortress!

  2. Nim says:

    Jagged Alliance comes to mind. But with zombies and lack of turns.

    This type of game could really benefit from turns.

    • Mattressi says:

      You mean like Dead State?

    • Hunam says:

      I honestly thought this and Dead State were the same game till you mentioned it. They do look alike, although this looks like it has the edge in the visual department.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Dead State is much more of an RPG, as I understand it. This is just a linear tactics game.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, I know they’re different; I just assumed that the reference to Jagged Alliance meant Nim was looking for more of a tactical RPG when he/she said they’d prefer it to be turn based. Dead State fits that bill pretty well. Pity there’s no release date for it :(

    • Horza says:

      I, too, got the impression that this should be turn based but it’s not :(

    • Bhazor says:

      Yeah I mistook this for Dead State too so I was a little upset by how messy (though that would be somewhat fitting coming from Obsidian alumini Double Bear) and mediocre it sounded .

  3. Freud says:

    So basically a game desperately needing a pause mode where you can issue orders?

  4. torchedEARTH says:

    £27.81 for the game and no demo!?!?!

    Are they fucking insane?!?!??!!!!?!?!?!!!????!?!?!????!!!!!?

    They had their chance, this window has passed.

  5. Skull says:

    Im sad this won’t be able to live up to expectations. Commandos 2 and Desperados were both fantastic games, I got so addicted to both of them. But its a genre that often fails at being that super, even the other Commandos and Desperados 2 were rather weak. This zombie game continues the trend of these games being poor and thats a shame as I would love to see more of this genre getting released.

  6. scottossington says:

    All the characters are lard-hearted slug people, of course, getting exhausted and having to walk after a hundred yards of running, despite the undead lurching toward their soft posteriors. Made me laugh out loud.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Me too. This is rapidly becoming my #1 video game pet peeve. Particularly if I’m playing some sort of marine, and then discover he can only run about 10 paces before apparently pulling up with stitch.

    • Lamb Chop says:

      ah but factoring in the rocket launcher and 42 varieties of machine gun he’s carrying, 10 paces is actually pretty good. Walking fortress, I salute you.

    • Weylund The Second says:

      Oh, you youngsters. If I ran a hundred yards my knee would give out. And then my kids would hit me with spoons.

    • Rhin says:

      honestly, 90% of the people I know cannot run for 100 yards without collapsing at the end into a wheezing mess. I’m not sure all games *should* feature superhuman stamina (but I guess you need some clever level design to keep travels through large clear zones from becoming monotonous)

  7. El_MUERkO says:

    Pity, the engine looks nice.

  8. J-Han says:

    I really like the game… but I am unable to get online co-op working. Every time I try to connect it says “Timeout.” Anyone else who’s playing Trapped Dead experiencing multiplayer connectivity issues?

  9. Kakrafoon says:

    Trapped Dead is a bad game. I reviewed it for a German website, and it is a boring, soulless piece. There is nothing going on there that reminds me of Commandos or Desperados, because the characters are all alike – except Wheelchair Doctor, maybe. The only stats your people have are smashing, shooting and healing. There is no progress between levels, not even a hint of rpg elements – there are no special abilities, the save system with the manholes is very tedious, the weapons are boring, the zombies only come in 2 varieties – standard zombie and big zombie with a cleaver. The worst thing is that you have to manually designate zombies for the characters to bash. One of your guys standing around with, say, an axe will let the undead eat himself without even arching an eyebrow if the attacking zombies weren’t marked by the player as targets.
    Another thing that makes this a very lacking game is the total absence of voiced responses for your “units”. They won’t say anything when you select them, or when they receive an order. They are silent, even in death. I mean, come on – there are only six playable characters in the game that are not zombies – how hard can it be to record and write a few lines for them? If Blizzard and Relic can do hundreds of lines for dozens of troop types and, in Relic’s case, for dozens of situations, a small developer studio like HeadUp Games could at least try to give six characters a voice.

  10. Bilbo says:

    When there’s no more room for innovation in game premise the dead will walk the earth…

    “lard-hearted slug people” made me chuckle.

    I’m probably going to avoid this, if I want tactical action X-Com pretty much still has me covered

  11. RadioactiveMan says:

    This is a terrible game. Do not buy! And certainly do not pay 27 pounds as was posted above by torchedEARTH. There seems to be little consistency between retailers for pricing this game. I found it on Amazon for $19.99, and thought that was an okay price. I installed it and immediately regretted it. Massive buyer’s remorse, like I have rarely felt with any game purchase!

    As mentioned above, your units will do nothing without your direction. They will let a single zombie chew them to death with fighting back, and will not even let you know they are in trouble.

    The control scheme is terrible. There is some kind of V-sync feedback business going on here, and I cannot figure out how to turn it off. You are required to click on tiny things rapidly, and its very difficult with the sluggish pointer. To make matters worse, sometimes when you click something, nothing happens. Your input does not always register.

    There are apparently two kinds of med kits, but the only one I can find restores stamina and stops bleeding, without healing. Beginning with only a single character and no healing ability, the game is quite difficult.

    Lastly, the word on the game’s forums is that there is a game-breaking bug halfway through the game. You need to operate a switch to open a door and proceed, but the switch is bugged. Last I checked, a patch had just been released that fixes this; but the patch also converts your game to the german language version. Lovely.

    • J-Han says:

      “There are apparently two kinds of med kits, but the only one I can find restores stamina and stops bleeding, without healing. Beginning with only a single character and no healing ability, the game is quite difficult.”

      Different characters have different abilities. To heal characters you equip the doctor with a medkit and use it on himself or another character.

  12. godgoo says:

    hmmph. you know, I’m playing AssBro (or Bromancing the Ass, as I’ve named it) and it just keeps reminding me how refreshing it is to find a game in a new and interesting setting. zombie apocalypse has now officially joined the ranks as an abused setting in games imo.
    what a shame!

  13. Torgen says:

    For me, the happiest part of this article is finding out that I was confusing this with Dead State, and that Dead State is NOT this game.

  14. Wulf says:

    I thought dinosaurs were supposed to be the new zombies. Whatever happened to that? Eesh, zombie games are getting old, now. Perhaps the reason that the gaming industry is failing in some regards is that it keeps doing the same thing over and over and over.

    If you want your game to not be immediately forgettable, make something strange, new, and wonderful that, you know, won’t be immediately forgettable.

  15. clumsyandshy says:

    What a shame, I so like the looks of this game :/.

  16. HeadupGames says:

    I won’t comment on the games quality as I am biased :-) Please just remember, it is an indie production and Crenetics first core game.
    So purely on some of the mentioned points in the comments:

    Demo: http://download.headupgames.com/demos/tdd/en/demo.html
    Bug Halfway: fixed by the latest patch (and install the English patch for the English version, and the German patch for the German version, dont mix them up). Already fixed many other issues mentioned above.
    Game can be paused at any time
    Pricing varies over different portals and channels. For us and the developer, best is if bought directly via our page.
    Multiplayer issue: open the correct ports
    For anything else, you can always contact us through our page / forums :-)

    Cheers,
    Headup Games

  17. PodX140 says:

    … I just wrote probably 2000 words on what I would love to see in my dream zombie sim, and the comment was deleted. I am broken :(:(:(:(

    • PodX140 says:

      OK. This is attempt TWO! of trying to say exactly what I would love to see in a zombie sim. This was written in notepad, so please forgive any formatting or spelling errors you might
      come across. I apologize in advance if this absolutely shatters some character limit that is enforced, or if this covers 10 pages. Feel free to delete it mods (but please contact me afterwards).

      Alright! So. The reason that people should still try to make zombie survival games: They aren’t good enough yet. Below I’ve highlighted the absolute perfect zombie game (IMO), and what aspects make it unique. It could be isometric, FPS, third-person, whatever. Just so long as the core gameplay follows.

      General rule: The game has to be procedurally generated, it wouldn’t work without it. Don’t just make the city blocks procedurally generated, but the containers and thier contents (or lack thereof).

      Survival!

      -Primary goal. Player (as well as A.I. (AT THE SAME RATE!)) must eat and drink, as well as sleep daily in order to stay alive. Doing thier #1′s and 2′s are also crucial, as both are quite the nasal attack and will attract attention, so choosing the right “corner” is crucial. Not doing any of these things will lead to adverse affects, and eventually death. The player should have a stamina bar, as well as health to individual limbs (Legs being injured by falling or a slip should slow the player, Arms hider carrying, ect.). The player should be able to be infected by a single bite always, but there should be ways to stave off the infection (moderately available) or even cure it (rare and valuable).

      Barricading!

      -Absolutely necessary in a zombie apocalypse, I would love to see the ability to use tools in conjunction with materials to lead to realistic barricades. For instance, if I use a blowtorch and some metal pipes, I could make a skeletal backing for a barricade that could be covered in anything for really good protection. I would then love to be able to attach these barricades together, via rope or welding, to create a single strong (long and/or tall) barricade. I would then be forced to carry (if I even could, if not, I’d have to build it on-site) the barricade to the desired location, and hope it fits through any paths along the way. I would also love to see the ability to move normal objects, such as desks, couches, fridges, and even cars at a realistic pace to create (or add to) barricades. A pretty good example of this is seen in Rogue Survivor(still in alpha, but shaping up pretty well).
      -This clearly then requires a good physics engine to back it up.

      Traps!

      -Small section, but crucial. The walking dead are a perfect stupid target to fall for a pitfall trap (sorry for the pun :P), all you need is a small pit, some spikes, and a blanket to cover the hole and you’re set! Similar traps would be interesting to create, but I’d love for this to involve the player creating dynamically them rather than the game saying “PLACE PITFALL TRAP HERE WITH 1 SHOVEL AND 3 HOURS” (I would prefer the game to say nothing at all that would break any realism short of health and stamina tbh, unless tips are activated)
      -Again, this clearly then requires a good physics engine to back it up. More on barricading is down below, it applies better down there.

      Inventory!

      -You know what I hate? Playing X game and seeing Mr. Johnson, the 80 year old retiree with arthritis pick up and carry 12 crowbars and a shotgun with no hindrance, or a bag to carry it in. I want a realistic inventory that involves having to have both the strength to carry the item, as well as the SPACE to carry it. I also want the size of that item to be a factor, so lets say carrying sheet metal is actually possible in a bag (roll it up and hold it vertically), but it’s uncomefertable as hell and it sure as shit ain’t quiet. I don’t care about actually seeing it stick out of the bag (wouldn’t hurt though :P), but I would like to see me make additional noise moving and make moving around harder, and make low spaces un-navigate-able.
      -Also related, the world has variety. I thought Fort Zombie had it right when I saw the randomized city blocks, and looting was exceptionally intriguing, but hell did it miss out on one thing (or well, it was a mixture of things for me, but still an amazing game IMO). Variety in items. Food comes in all shapes and sizes, and so does everything else. The only source of food extends beyond Don’t just say “Your one power tool is this small blowtorch and that’s it”, give me a large sized version too! Give me varieties of items that appear to be useless (TV sets, speakers, chairs, computers (not all that useful in the z-apocalypse, sorry guys :P), and just a whole dumpster of junk and useful items that I have to think about to use. That computer? It’s got quite a bit of metal in it. And that TV is mighty big and heavy, quite the barricade! I want to use my wits to survive, not just hope that the next store is a gun store.
      -Looting is also here, again I’ve got to tip my hat to Fort Zombie for one of the best systems out there, and I’d love to see the same in my dream zombie sim. Basically, you looked around a small area around your character, and items that were useful or carryable became highlighted. So that cabinet that you couldn’t click on before suddenly says “HEY! Something good here!” Not only did the system take time, but it limited you to very small spaces to search. In the same system, it had another exceptional idea. HUMANS AREN’T PERFECT. That cabinet? Yeah, it had a cool item, but the one to the left does too! Did you find it the first time you searched the area? NO! You missed it because you didn’t double or even triple check! This was key, because now you have that element of self doubt making you think “Hm… But I could swear this has to have SOMETHING in it… I’ll look again.”

      Hiding!

      -Absolutely crucial. Sound, light, smell, and sight are all senses at a zombies disposal (though their strength should prefferably be moddable to the player’s taste). Creating a safe zone for yourself or others (more on that below again! It just keeps going!) is extremely dependent on how out of sight and how dampened the area is to the senses. I want to be able to hide from zombies and not be some sort of magical magnet to every single goddamn one in the city, somehow knowing I’m at the top of some skyscraper in a room with no windows. I want every raid for supplies to be what it should be, a quiet forray for food or supplies, not some zombie killing spree (C.B. Yet again).

      Group Mechanics!

      -Please, please, PLEASE, PLEASE! make this not critical to survival. I don’t need a thousand guns covering my back to slink around town and hunker down, so don’t force it on me!
      -Make this system as natural as possible, allowing for everything the player does to be done by the A.I. I also wan to be able to delegate to the A.I. what I want them to do if I am going away, and them to decide whether or not to rather than acting like mindless fools and doing it to the letter. I want some random human error faked in there, like a pit width being the length that I wanted, or just a stupid mistake that someone pulled. As annoying as they are, they’re part of life and I want to have to live with that if I’m going to get the help of these people. I also want enemy human A.I, be it cannibals, raiders, thieves, spies, and the like. I want to be able to go out on a raid and see someone else or even a group doing the same, maybe even with more success.

      And finally, the two most important things!

      !THERE ARE A LIMITED NUMBER OF ZOMBIES!

      -An extremely crucial aspect, there is a limit to the amount of people living in a city. It may be huge, up to a few million, but it’s still a max number. I want to be able to kill a significant portion of that population and NOTICE. There will always be more zombies walking in from neighbouring cities, buta small number and always less will be coming. I want to be able to clear out a neighbourhood of zombies and expect to see less activity after (provided I don’t attract more). Sure, you may see the odd straggler, or even a dangerous roaming mob, but I don’t want to come back to the same street to find it jam packed to the brim with more zombies. Especially if access is hard to that area. Leading to my next point.

      !ZOMBIES ARE STUPID!

      -To be blunt, they are creatures driven purely by the urge to feed, and I’m sick of playing games where anything even connected to still live human activity is torn to shreds regardless of that human being miles away. If I build a barricade that’s sturdily made steel, tall, and difficult to damage, I don’t want to see some zombie try to break the thing for any reason but me standing on the other side whistling. And even then I expect the thing to try other routes before damaging itself to feed. I want to be able to create a wall of barricades around a block, and clear it, and not see any zombie in there for years, aside for the occasional straggler (Again, unless I pull some really stupid shit like light some dynamite on a roof). I don’t expect zombies to be able to operate complex locks, or locked doors, and unless there is immediate food behind it, they shouldn’t break them either!

      But. All of this is pointless (To me at least) unless there is some sort of final goal. Death is failure, but life is impossible to go on forever. So what I propose is that the game is finally won when the player (or his group) is able to become self sufficient, growing thier own crops using re-purposed gardens (and finding the seeds for them) and creating enough food to start feeding more than thier own people. This should take months-years, as crops are slow to grow (I think) and growing food is not the absolute first priority. The area would also have to be safe, meaning that getting these crops would not be dangerous (so you can’t just go out of the city (if the game even extends that far) and say I’m able to grow food here, I win). This is the re-creation of society, and that’s good enough for me.

      PS. Word count gave me 1904 or so words before some minor editing, phew. It’s still in the 1800′s I think :/

      PPS. If you took the time to read the entire post, Thank you! I put a lot of effort into this, and I appreciate any feedback or discussion!

      PPPS. If you TL;DNR’d this, I can understand, but please don’t try to comment to the subject. Thanks.

  18. The Sero says:

    Huh, last week? I’m sure I’ve had this game for a couple, maybe even a month, grabbed it from impulse for about a tenner…

    Didn’t find it too bad a game, but never got too far. Saved just after I found the doctor, and despite the game running fine normally, whenever I load the save, the game just lags, at a completely unplayable level.

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