Review: Zombicide: Tactics & Shotguns30 Apr 2019 0
Review: Zombicide: Tactics & Shotguns
Released 24 Apr 2019
Zombies are a bit like Heinz, in that they come in a variety of different types (and generally go well with jacket potatoes-ED). There are the classic slow-moving shamblers made famous by George A Romero. The fast-moving ones from the 28 Days series of films, and the mutated abominations of Resident Evil fame. There’s also sometimes toxic ones and fat ones, who, I guess, have no self-control when it comes to eating brains.
Inside the Zombicide physical box is an impressive total of 70 miniatures, which represent the spectrum of zombiekind in addition to the unfortunate survivors themselves. It is enough to put the fear of God into any self-respecting gamer, especially if you plan on painting them all. Thankfully, we digital gamers do not have to concern ourselves with such issues, leaving us free to concentrate on the business in hand, namely hacking our way through wave after wave of the restless undead.
Zombicide: Tactics & Shotguns isn’t a direct conversion of the boardgame. It has evolved from the multiplayer cooperative set-up into a campaign-driven single-player experience. The basics, however, remain the same; a group of survivors travel across the devastated city completing objectives and polishing off a few zombies along the way. The game explains the basics by handing the player control of Doug, an SMG touting ex-office worker. Doug is hungry; unfortunately, the only food worth foraging appears to be canned dog food. The zombie apocalypse means that beggars can’t be choosers but at least Doug will be sure of a lovely glossy coat and a healthy wet nose.
On each turn, every survivor will have three action points to spend. It takes a single action point to move to an adjacent space or room. If zombies hem you in then your movement options will be further limited. Other actions include picking up a new weapon or breaking down a locked door but be prepared for the possibility of a nasty surprise. Combat also requires the expenditure of action points. The survivor’s abilities, alongside the characteristics of the weapon, will determine the range, the number of attacks, accuracy and amount of damage inflicted. Another thing to bear in mind is the amount of noise that the weapon makes. The sound of a shotgun blast is obviously going to alert any nearby zombies and get them heading in your direction.
Most zombies will only have a single action point, which means that any survivors will only come under attack if they end their turn in a space occupied by the enemy. Be careful though because the fast zombies have extra action points and the survivors’ health points are strictly limited. The big difference between melee and ranged combat is that in close combat the survivor gets to select individual targets. Ranged combat usually results in the survivor, firing into an area without a specific target in mind. The problem is that each miss has a chance of hitting any unfortunate survivors that may also be in the same space. Every time that you defeat an enemy you will be awarded additional tins of pet food and the danger level increases. This means that more or tougher zombies are likely to spawn into play. It also means that your survivors may be able to trigger their skills, this may make them more effective in combat, allow them to travel further or permit them to heal wounded team members.
It’s a nice simple system that works really well and still requires some thought. Zombies may be stupid and predictable but they definitely have numbers on their side. You will want to try and keep your party together and stay on the move, otherwise you face being overwhelmed by hoards of the undead. The threat of friendly fire and the range of different enemies add some much needed variety. It is just a pity that the sound-alerting mechanic isn’t used to its full potential. There isn’t that much point in sneaking around when a few blasts from a shotgun gets the job done. Indeed, alerting enemies often makes things easier by drawing more cannon fodder into your sights. The line of sight system is instinctive, although when battling a mass of zombies, targeting an individual enemy can be rather hit or miss.
At the end of each level, cans of dog food can be used to upgrade the survivors or their weapons. As they advance, their abilities improve and they may learn new skills. Get to level five and you will have the option to equip a weapon in each hand. This is especially fun when you kit out a pair of the same weapon as you can use both simultaneously. The site of a dual machete-wielding roller-skating waitress is sure to strike fear into the unbeating heart of any self-respecting zombie.
The survivors themselves fall into one of four classes, each with their own preferred weapons and unique skills. Butchers inflict minor damage but hit a lot of targets; in contrast, assassins cause a lot of damage to only a few targets. Hunters have great long-range accuracy; finally, scouts are fearsome wielders of melee weapons. Some fellow survivors soon join Doug in his quest and there is also the option to use cash to purchase new members for your team. Although by no means essential, it is going to cost over double the price of the game itself to acquire them all which feels like a bit of a cynical cash grab.
The day-glo comic book graphics and raucous guitar-led backing track do a grand job of evoking 1980’s horror films. There are eight different zones, each of which has five stages. This means that in spite of the low difficulty curve, getting through to the end is still going to take a considerable amount of effort. It is a pity that a lot of environments just reuse the same graphics. It reinforces the repetitiveness of the missions, which usually require the player to reach specific points on the map or destroy a set number of zombies. Another minor niggle is the monotonous comments that the characters make; Yes, Doug, I know you need new shoes; you’ve told me one hundred times already.
The developers get a thumbs-up for producing a game that isn’t just a straight conversion of the board game. They have instead created a solo campaign that is a much better fit for mobile platforms. It is just a shame that the constraints of the board game appear to have prevented them from going even further by way of adding a little more variety to proceedings.