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 cliché 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.