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Life on the Death Road To Canada

Oregon Trail with zombies and gun-wielding dogs

Last week I asked you: which of the games I had installed should I play and write about? The overwhelming winner was Death Road To Canada [official site], a zombie shooter that I've been listening to RPS staff talk about for months but that we've never written a feature about before.

Things were going pretty well. We had wheels, fuel, food, our health and morale was high. A recent scavenging trip had turned up a shotgun with plenty of shells, which was my first experience at killing the undead with something other than frying pans and wrenches. Perhaps things would have continued to go well, if Gina, our leader - me, in other words - hadn't decided it was a good idea to try to steal from one of the traders at a rest stop.

Stealing things was Gina's special skill after all, but this decision set off a chain reaction. For starters, she was instantly caught. ad the trader responded by opening his coat to reveal that he was covered in explosives. He ignited them, which seems a little hasty, blowing himself up and badly wounding both Gina and her travelling companion, Jacinto. We were forced back onto the road.

Death Road is split into these two halves: wandering around on foot in search of supplies and in combat with zombies; and uncontrolled driving to new areas, in which resources deplete and you encounter random events which offer you interesting decisions that help or hurt. The two halves speak to one another: low on health after the explosion, our morale took a dip, and events on the road consequently turned sour. Health packs ran out, food supplies dwindled, Gina and Jacinto began to get on each other's nerves. I can't remember how, but a particular encounter morphed Jacinto into otnicaJ - to what effect, I've no idea.

At the next explorable area, the pair met a new survivor, Bruce, who lightened the mood somewhat, but not enough. Back on the road again afterwards, otnicaJ stole the car and most of the supplies, leaving Bruce and Gina for dead.

What this means in real terms is that you travel the road slower. There's always a counter at the top of the screen telling you how many days away from Canada you are, but the closer you come and the longer you travel means larger and more violent mobs of zombies at each visited location. Even in the early stages though, it's easy to find yourself swarmed by the slow-moving zombies, as ten or twenty of them fill the screen at once and you mismanage your stamina during melee attacks.

Case in point: despite finding a new car after a couple of locations, Bruce died in a house to a zombie swarm. I like Death Road's combat for the way zombies pop when defeated, but the game doesn't explain much of its systems and I'd not been paying attention to Bruce's predicament because I was trying to work out why my newly discovered chainsaw wasn't working.

Back on the road again, and now driving a fur-lined van designed to look like a dog, Gina is alone but not for long. While driving, she encounters Rolande, a former bodybuilder who wants to join the team. She comes aboard and within minutes the pair have come across a gas station under siege. Sieges are on-foot areas which can't be fled until the siege is over, which means violently dealing with a steady onslaught of zombies rather than simply avoiding them as normal. It also normally means a heavy load of supplies, which the group is in dire need of at this point.

"HORDE SIZE: Massive!" says the pre-mission message. This was probably another bad idea.

Gina and Rolande are dead within 30 seconds.

It takes watching a video frame-by-frame after the fact to work out what happened, and even then I'm not sure.

We appear outside the gas station and take a few potshots at the rapidly assembling crowd. I decide it's better to move inside the building and use the chokepoint of the door to line the zombies up. Inside, there are lots of supplies littered around and I'm picking up health kits and food and gas when...


Oh no.


I'm still not 100% sure what happened. I guess those two white jars on the ground were explosive, that a zombie swiped at one of them and it blew up and in turn caused the one nearby to also explode, which killed us all? But I'm not sure what those white jars are and I am not sure why they would explore like that.

Of course, I know exactly why I died. It's because I tried to steal from that trader. If I hadn't done that, Gina and Jacinto wouldn't have been injured; if they hadn't been injured, their morale wouldn't have fallen; if their morale wouldn't have fallen, Jacinto (or otnicaJ) wouldn't have stolen the car and the supplies; and if the supplies hadn't have been stolen, Gina and Rolande wouldn't have been so keen to enter into a gas station siege with a massive horde.

Oh well. This was just attempt number one. The trailer for the game shows me it's also just the tip of the iceberg of a game in which you can play as a dog, find flamethrowers, unlock characters who seem to be able to use magic spells, and much, much more.

Let's try again.

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