Review: Dead Effect

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Turns out “zombies in space” is not much of a revelation unless you’re playing Space Pirates and Zombies. There’s potential for revelations, like zombies with alien powers or zero-g zombies or sci-fi guns to mow down zombies, but Dead Effect realizes none of them. Instead it opts to have you blast the same grotesque hordes with the same assortment of guns as you always have, just in front of shiny spaceship walls instead of alleyways or sewers. If the action was competent I could at least give it a pass, but as we’ll go into it can’t even shamble over that bar.

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Go ahead, guess how this space zombie game starts. Close your eyes and form an image of the most generic opening to a sci-fi zombie joint imaginable. Got it? Was it you being awakened from cryosleep to find the ship overrun with the living dead? Of course it was, and of course it is. Once you get your bearings and bullets, a mad scientist contacts you over the intercom and orders you around IF YOU WANT TO LIVE and all that. I assume they explain why the ship is full of green zombie gas eventually but I didn’t get that far, so let’s talk about why.

Each level of Dead Effect is a sequence of corridors connecting small rooms and occasional large ones. A couple of these areas have zombies in them, and you have to blast your way past to make it to the exit. These are Romero zombies for the most part, slow-shambling husks that really take a slug to the brainpan to stop, though they sometimes get excited and lunge at you with a sudden burst of speed. Even taking that into consideration, their animations are canned enough to line up perfect headshot chains with little effort. The only real threat they pose is in numbers, and it turns out that’s enough to not only be deadly, but aggravating.

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You have your choice of male or female character going in, which also determines your primary and secondary weapons. Dudeguy has an assault rifle and pistol while Ladyperson has a shotgun and revolver, so of course I went with a feminine touch. She’s got no problems chewing through hordes at first but her reloads are absolutely glacial, spanning several seconds for the shotgun. Literally the only thing that kills me in this game is having to reload that god damned shotgun while cornered (which happens all the time because of the tight levels and locking doors during fights). You can find credits to upgrade your guns but I wasn’t able to get enough to really make a difference in 40 or so minutes of play.

There’s a bit of stuff to find when you’re not spilling corpse juices, like extra ammo and credits. Lockers require a little button-mashing game to open and there are holographic signs you can shoot as a collectible challenge. You’ll also find gold on rare occasions, used to buy new guns or unlock permanent bonuses. Dead Effect would probably be a better game if not for that, because it’s pretty obviously a holdover from a free-to-play model on other platforms. You’ll never find enough gold yourself to get anything worthwhile, and I don’t even think there’s a way to buy it if you DID want to throw money away.

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Beyond the generic structure and questionable progression, the game feel just isn’t there with this one. Zombie-mashing needs to be rich and visceral to compete these days but everything in Dead Effect feels stiff and canned. Even one-shotting enemies just makes them slump over with poorly-modeled blood sprays out of their neck stump. The weapons don’t feel powerful and there’s very little feedback to scoring hits. The graphics and sound are all serviceable if generic, which is no way to sell a zombie game in this day and age. You’ve got a wealth of better zombie shooters to take up over this one, ones without boring levels, stiff zombies, and loads of other poor design choices.

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