Review: Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone
The first time I saw the trailer for Never Die Alone, I experienced some mixed emotions. For starters, why had I never seen or heard anything about the game (besides for Chris’s E3 impressions)? The other emotion was legitimate excitement. I have 100% of the trophies for the first Zombie Apocalypse game. My roommates and I used to fire it up when we returned from the bar and play late into the night. It’s your run-of-the-mill twin-stick arena shooter with a T-Virus injection. There isn’t much depth there, but there doesn’t need to be. Zombie Apocalypse is a cup of coffee from a fast-food restaurant: It’s bland to the tongue, but it gets the job done. The sequel to Zombie Apocalypse, however, is like rundown gas station’s bathroom: You’ll try it in the most dire of situations, but never on your own accord will you return.
I watched Chris play Never Die Alone on the live stream and maintained my curiosity for it. It looked like there were several improvements to the first game. Instead of being solely an arena shooter, some of NDA’s levels require you to move through the streets, mowing down the undead on the run. Cool. Instead of playing as forgettable characters, NDA lets you pick between four fully voiced people, one of which is Jeremy from Pure Pwnage. Sweet. Wait a second, there are special moves and character progression? Wow, everything about this game seems like a major improvement on Zombie Apocalypse. What could possibly go wrong? Well, do you remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when they open the Ark? Need a refresher?
There are two ways to play Never Die Alone. One is with friends, an experience made bearable by the fact that you’re all sharing it. The second way to play is alone, something I don’t recommend anyone try. The aforementioned four characters are always in play. If you play by yourself, you can switch between them by tapping R1 or L1. The characters (introduced in a series of comic opening cinematics) are as follows:
Jeremy: The star of Pure Pwnage, a gamer who is only concerned with PWNING ZOMBIE NOOBZ and achieving a high score.
Alma: An engineer whose motto is ‘better living through technology.’
Def Money: A British rapper who first encountered the zombies on tour.
Father Bill: A pastor.
Each of the characters has his/her own special move that fills up over time and can be activated by pressing L2. Jeremy pelvic thrusts and does quadruple damage for a short time, Alma sets up a turret, Def Money whacks around with a cricket bat, and Father Bill heals characters near him. The characters also have tossable items that distract zombies. Anyone familiar with the first Zombie Apocalypse will recognize the return of the C4 teddy bear. In this game, only Jeremy can toss teddies (the bears, not the women’s clothing item… though that would probably prove more interesting). Def Money tosses a boombox that plays one of three different songs. I mention this because one of the game’s very few positive points is when Wang Chung’s ‘Everybody Have Fun Tonight’ plays for a few seconds. The rest of the ordeal is cluttered with surprisingly unsuccessful attempts at making humor.
Turn off the in-game dialogue as soon as you can. At first I thought it funny to hear the PSNStores editors talk about how awful it is. Now that I’ve played through the game, I feel their pain. Never Die Alone sports some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard in a video game. The audio quality and voice acting is decent, but the actual words that are spoken are like bee stings to the ear. I now know how Ulysses felt, bound to the mast of his ship, going mad at the sound of the Sirens’ sweetly singing. I was a huge fan of Pure Pwnage back in the day, but the dialogue in this game misses the mark by miles and miles. I was literally shocked at what I was hearing. Every time Father Bill talked, I wished as hard as I could that I had to ability to punch him through my TV screen. The only humor that came from it is when some of the editors and I were playing, parodying Jeremy’s 1337 5p34k over the mic. Speaking of online play…
The biggest problem I had with the first Zombie Apocalypse was its disabled online play. Simply put, the game didn’t work. Never Die Alone works most of the time, but there are a few bugs that make it sometimes unplayable. There was a point where Chris’s game locked up but Curtis and Brad were still playing. The thing is, though, that they weren’t really playing together. That’s right, for no apparent reason, the game split into two instances and Curtis and Brad were each playing in a different one. The kicker? All three of them were still talking to each other. It seems they figured out how to unlock cross-game chat. Neat. Other problems like teleporting zombies and wild shadow graphics make online play slightly enjoyable for the wrong reasons. The graphics are decent but dark unless you manually increase the brightness, and the locales aren’t anything special.
There’s a character progression system that looks good on paper but is a sore sight in practice. It goes a little something like this: Using a skill upgrades it, but not really. At the end of every level, you have the ability to spend the cash you’ve picked up (don’t ask me why the zombies drop cash; I don’t know) to buy the upgrade you’ve unlocked. Besides for the fact that the whole system is redundant, it doesn’t hardly work in single player. AI controlled characters don’t level up their skills. As a matter of fact, AI characters don’t do much but die. The worst part about their constant deaths isn’t the needless revival mini-game, but the fact that the camera refuses to leave a dead character behind. On more than one occasion this caused some very annoying situations.
It’s no surprise that Never Die Alone was almost every editor’s pick for October’s most shameful game. The dialogue is embarrassing, the gameplay is bland, and what were meant to be improvements actually hindered the entire experience. Every now and again I enjoy a mindless twin-stick zombie romp. This game doesn’t manage to live up to even that low of an expectation. Shut your eyes, Marion. Don’t look at it no matter what happens.
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:
- Custom soundtrack support
- The ability to turn off dialogue
What I Dislike:
- Godawful dialogue
- Glitchy gameplay
- Insane difficulty spikes
- Poorly implemented character progression
- Never try alone