Zombie Estate (Xbox 360) review
"B>Zombie Estate is sadistic. It’s pure, overwhelming numbers that know they boarder on cheapness, then double up out of spite, and you’ll love them for it. I’d like to start out by saying ‘things start off slowly’ out of a misguided sense of cliché, but I’d be lying. Things start out manageably. At this point, you’ll only have your basic pistol weapon, and you can finish the hordes off with a small sense of comfort if you find yourself proficient at dual-stick shooters."
Zombie Estate is…
There are so many ways I can start this review. Zombie Estate is the four hundredth dual stick shooter on Xbox Live Indie to feature zombies. Zombie Estate is yet another retro game that wants you to believe the 2D pixels are an artistic choice rather than a design necessity. Zombie Estate is currently retailing at 80mps, which works out to $1. Zombie Estate is a title already muscling in on the homebrew undead throne previously held without contention by Z0MBIES. Or I could just say that Zombie Estate is brilliant.
To get the best out of the game, you need to take full advantage of its four player local co-op, not only because any title is so much better when you continuously top the best efforts of your chums but, because, before very long, you’re going to be up to your eyes in various renditions of rotting brain-munchers. Zombie Estate is sadistic. It’s pure, overwhelming numbers that know they border on cheapness, then double up out of spite, and you’ll love them for it. I’d like to start out by saying ‘things start off slowly’ out of a misguided sense of cliché, but I’d be lying. Things start out manageably. At this point, you’ll only have your basic pistol weapon, and you can finish the hordes off with a small sense of comfort if you find yourself proficient at dual-stick shooters. Even here, though, cliché is slightly nudged out the French windows and into the path of undead cannibals; you move your little 2D sprite around the 3D map with your left stick, but only aim with your right. To fire, you’ll need to pull on the trigger.
This is to work with the limitation of your firearms. Everything has an exhaustible ammo supply, and empty clips can do little to dissuade that rotting corpse from ripping you to shreds. Your starting pistol has a magazine of twelve shots before you need a small pocket of safety to reload in, but an ultimate stockpile boasting infinity. With the huge range of other weapons, you’ll need to stock up on either of the four types of ammunition to run. Some of these are straightforward: shotguns consume shells, rocket launchers need rockets and machine guns will spit out either assault or heavy bullets.
Pluck ammo drops from fallen zombies, or buy them in the shop you can visit in between waves, but it’s the huge choice of firearms that adds so much appeal to Zombie Estate. There are over twenty weapons to choose from, starting with the expected and ending in the surreal, and there’s no way you can try even a fraction of them in a single playthrough. Machine guns and shotguns can be upgraded to laser or bio additions, while rocket launchers can be redesigned from the ground up to spit out life-saving medi-packs instead. Mini-guns sit in the middle of the price range, but save up your cash for a few more waves, and get the mini-bomb: the mini-gun variant than shuns bullets and fires incendiary rounds. Mortar weapons become available but rather than fire passé shells, they litter the area with the explosive corpses of fish or cattle. Squirt guns filled with holy water do extra damage to undead priests while the bubble launcher fires a swarm of soft, soapy bubbles that travel gently on the unpredictable breeze before hitting something undead and destroying it where it stands.
The weapon range makes for some unique combinations and tactics. In a nod to another cute zombie slaughter fest, one weapon lets you summon fire-breathing plants that incinerate any target foolish enough to draw near. It’s handy to have another point of fire, especially when drawing near the end of the twenty five waves, the numbers start becoming ridiculously stacked. It doesn’t help the odds, either, when new breeds of zombies are regularly introduced then left to mingle with the bog standard shufflers. Golem zombies are roughly two times the size of the regular ones, and four times as tough while medic zombies will heal the repair any visibly injured foe, even if you’ve reduced them to nothing more than a confused pair of legs wandering around the map. Gremlin zombies, when killed, spawn a gathering of four smaller versions of themselves while bio-zombies will don hazmats and explode in a bright green cloud of health-sapping radiation.
The twenty five waves all take place in an expansive estate, giving a horde often numbering in their thousands plenty of room to group up and form a nigh-unstoppable cloud of rotting flesh and gnashing teeth. You could try and pin them down in the vegetable garden in the north-eastern corner, but they’ll eventually wreck the fences that confine them and be able to swarm anew. Taking shelter in the house will bottleneck them as they lurch through doors, but they’ll break down unrepairable barriers and, once they get inside, give you nowhere else to run. The environment is simple, but effective, and crawling with targets that very much want to kill you. I could complain about how it’s more or less the same stage every time, but it never seems to matter. It wouldn’t; whatever the environment is, all you need to know is that it contains thousands of psychotic monsters that want to eat your face.
Zombie Estate is a game not really worth your time to play alone, but is an instant crowd pleaser if you own extra pads and possess friends. It’s an unapologetic first-gen version of Left 4 Dead that calls for little else than a desperate scramble to stay alive. It’s a game where you’ll exhaust your ammo supply trying to survive one huge attack of priest zombies, then wonder how you’ll live through the assault of bull-rushing skeletons before finding the answer is you can’t. Not easily, and not without a lot of struggle and bit of luck.
Then, when it’s all said and done, your continues have evaporated and the Game Over screen plays, you’ll go right back to the main menu, mentally file away which new weapon you want to save towards, and try again.
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