Review: Dead Block
Dead Block is an interesting title. It’s a zombie game, sure, but it manages to come off as original. The game’s premise is that you’re stuck in a structure that’s being attacked by zombies. Each level starts with a cutscene that is unabashedly campy. It soon becomes obvious that you’re playing through a cheesy zombie TV series starring Jack Foster, Mike Bacon, and Foxy Jones. The gameplay consists of destroying furniture for lumber and searching objects for parts and upgrades. Lumber is used to create barricades; parts are used to set traps on windows and doorways. Every act has its own quicktime event tied to it. Unfortunately, the most common events consist of button mashing, which means the gameplay quickly gets as brainless as its banal antagonists.
The single player campaign lets you play inside of nine different locations. You start out with control over only Jack, but the others become available later on in the campaign. Here’s a short tutorial of how to play Dead Block: Mash the X button to destroy furniture, mash L2 and R2 to search objects for parts. There are two other quicktime events assigned to gaining new traps/upgrading weapons and earning coins/meat. They’re intuitive and help to add some variety to the otherwise monotonous material farming. The game’s core focus is setting wacky traps to dispose of or otherwise hinder zombies, an easy and satisfying act.
Each character has a unique set of three traps mapped to the directional buttons (up = barricade for everyone).
Frost Trap – Freezes zombies when they pass under it, making them shatterable with one melee hit.
Helmet Trap – Outfits zombies with hardhats, making them destroy furniture for you.
Concrete Blockade – Seems like an unbreakable blockade.
Toilet Trap – Infects zombies who spread the disease and die slowly.
Cardboard Trap – Drops smiley-face boxes on zombies. Boxed zombies get attacked by all other zombies.
Sunbed Trap – Ages zombies into weak, old zombies.
Bomb Trap – Explodes when zombies break through.
Rolling Pin – Halves zombie health.
Microwave Trap – Cooks zombies as they pass through.
If more than one character is in the building, talking to him sets him in motion. The AI character will destroy furniture and search for parts according to his own strengths. For example, Mike will almost exclusively search for parts since his search animation is the fastest of the three. You can press L1 to switch to another character or hold L1 to call your partners into a new room.
There’s not as much strategy as I thought there would be; you won’t be swapping characters to make deadly trap combinations. The objective for each level is either to find three guitar parts to play a guitar or to kill X amount of zombies and start a generator. The guitar parts can be in any three searchable items in the house, so your shoulder buttons are going to get a workout during these missions. I found the kill count missions more enjoyable solely because of how boring searching items gets. Also, when you activate the guitar you have to play a sort of Ocarina of Time-type rhythm game. It’s offbeat and repetitive, not to mention easy. The best part is watching the zombies move it like Bernie till they explode.
The music from Vampyre State Building is decent, but I would have welcomed the option to rock out to my own tunes in this type of game. Their sound is a mixture between Elvis Presley and The Doors; it fits the game quite nicely. The graphics are okay, but they’re nothing you haven’t seen before. The animations are quirky and humorous, but the Unreal Engine has been used in so many games that I can’t help but groan when I see it at a title’s start-up screen. Loading times are lightning quick; no rest for the wicked-slayers!
Dead Block is difficult to place in one convenient genre. It’s a stationary location defense game with helpings of third-person action and a dash of strategy. Its controls are solid, but its gameplay gets a bit old after a few missions. The best way to play Dead Block is with friends. I had a legitimately fun time playing with three other people, and it seemed like they did, too. When the game controls your partner(s), they often do a small bit of positive work then stare at their shoes and get killed. With other players, though, the strategic portion of the game gets its proper attention. It’s not the best zombie game I’ve ever played, but it’s far from the worst. Check out the demo before purchasing if you’re interested. Like I said, it’s a good time with good friends. Remember, though, the co-op is local only, so don’t expect to be able to play with your online friends.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Cool concept executed decently
- The more the merrier: Split-screen is fun!
What I Dislike:
- Button mashing gets old
- AI partners are zombie chow