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Urban Dead (PC) artwork

Urban Dead (PC) review


"The frantic plight of new characters trying desperately to scrape up enough experience to buy those all-important skills is easily the most thrilling chapter of Urban Dead."



That Pole Mall fell while I wasn’t looking is coincidence, but it’s too perfect not to take the 'robbed hero' route on. Yes, hundreds of zombies clawed through the makeshift barricades and mauled all inside, but, had I had been there, I could have stemmed the flow. I could have blown the attackers into giblets with point-blank shotgun blasts and steady pistol shots, unloading clip after clip into rotting bodies. I would have disposed of the shredded corpses and repaired damaged barricades with vending machines and bits of old shelving. I would have rallied troops behind me and been a one man wall. I would have saved the day!

Would I, bollocks. When the LUE zombie clan flooded the building with unstoppable numbers, the battle for the Mall was lost. While I slept peacefully in a nearby fire station, the people with whom I spent a full week defending the precious location with where chomped, chewed and disembowelled by the walking dead. And when I woke up, my previous home had become a graveyard. I didn’t run away as so much as I retreated. Strategically.

Defending the mall was a full-time job before the bulk of LUE washed over and wiped everyone (but me!) out. Daily, forces of zombies would charge at the barricades, ripping and tearing their way through while we scrambled desperately to try and re-enforce it. Each survivor and zombie alike gets a fresh Action Point every half an hour, so it was a case of which force has the more active team-mates and the biggest reserves of AP that won. The zombies outside numbered in their hundreds and eventual break-ins were a given. Dealing with them once they got in revolved around a strict code: build up the ‘cades to stop others intruding, heal the wounded humans so they wouldn’t get infected, kill the rotters that had got inside and dump any dead body – human or zombie – back outside before it re-rises and chomps brain.

Even though the undead forces swelled by the day, the Mall was held steadfast for longer than anyone expected. A mammoth pile of bodies mounted outside stacked up on the walkway; former humans finding themselves zombified lurch off to find a revive point where Necrotech scientists dispel the virus and reinstall humanity. A steady line of the re-risen sneak back into the mall, ready to take up the defences again. Fresh recruits come armed with whatever they can lay their hands on: pistols looted from police stations, knifes grabbed up from forgotten motel kitchens; fire axes, pool cues, cricket bats – whatever they could find. Mashing the undead not only keeps the human populace safe, but was the best way to gain the experience necessary to buy new skills.

The frantic plight of new characters trying desperately to scrape up enough experience to buy those all-important skills is easily the most thrilling chapter of Urban Dead.

Before the epic struggle at the mall, me and a group of survivors held a Police Department from much smaller zombie forces, crippled not so much by the undead as we were our fledgling characters. Without maxed-out firearms stats, unloading an entire pistol clip at a zombie might only result in a few bullets finding their mark. Without the Free Running skill, we’re unable to move seamless from building to building by clicking on the MS Paint-built bubbles that represent areas, denying us access to any safe havens employing impassable, heavier barricades. Our ability to heal ourselves and others was limited, the swings of our fire axes clumsy. We were unable to build anything but the most basic of barriers to keep our buildings safe from the lurching dead.

But every action had consequence. Each blow we landed moved us that little bit closer to the next stage of shotgun training, or the ability to use reviving syringes to bring comrades back to life. When zombies didn't come for us, we searched for them, lending aid to under-siege buildings, a local hospital being a favourite attack-point for the local brain-munchers as well as a nearby Necrotech building we used as a revive point. Sometimes we would have to help retake these positions, blasting, stabbing and punching the settled zombies within. The few of us with the barricade skill purchased made the building safe and secure again whilst the others dumped the corpses.

There’s a careful balance to be maintained. Melee-based characters deal less damage and have a lower chance of landing blows than their firearm-packing brethren, but those specialising in pistols and shotguns waste time searching police stations and gun shops for fresh ammo. Where characters can be left in an inactive sleep to build up AP, 50 is the maximum that can be squirreled away, and humans on the hunt need to ensure enough mobility is left at the end of their travels to either return to their home base or find shelter elsewhere.

Or, when you no longer need the experience and have purchased all the skills, ransack a library and curl up with a good book. Maybe even hit a liquor store and get wrecked on cheap wine.

Because Urban Dead isn't just about surviving the undead hordes, it's about trying to live. Buildings can be outfitted with portable generators that need to be topped up with fuel periodically. These not only provide light, increasing the odds of finding items within when searched, but can power radio transmitters, keeping contact with other survivors. It's also about trying to keep out of the way of human-based 'Player-killers', who target fellow humans sheltering in safety rather than the lumbering zombies outside.

And should none of that interest you, then join the ever-swelling ranks of the undead. Throw away the worries of survival and view the big locations such as concrete-encased army bases or packed-out malls as all-you-can-eat buffets.

I've since made my way back to the outskirts of Pole Mall after helping secure some of the strategically important buildings around its perimeter. All the skills on my character are maxed out and a lot of the drive to seek out and kill zombies has gone; my experience mounts up with nothing to spend it on, but although that aspect of the game has lost its appeal, I'm still playing. I could have saved Pole Mall, you know, had the swine not cleverly monitored my online habits and attacked knowing that I would be inactive, but that's okay. Around the edges of the Mall sneak in likeminded others that have been revived after the attack or fled to safety after. A nearby pub is heaving with life; a motel is full of plots and schemes. Fire depots and libraries serve home base for humans chipping away at the zombie defences. Watching, waiting.

I want my Mall back. And I am not alone.

Rating: 7/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (October 26, 2007)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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