In Com2uS’ recent zombie filled blast-a-thon, Dead City (out now, free), you control a man on the run through apocalyptic streets as he shoots – and occasionally drives over – everything he can in the name of survival. The game itself is a dual stick shooter in the vein of former arcade classics such as Robotron 2084 and Smash TV, with one virtual analog stick to control your movement and the other to control the direction of your endless gunfire. I have thus far more or less described the absolute entirety of Dead City’s controls, and they function brilliantly such that circle strafing around a throng of zombies becomes an absolute cinch to pull off.
It’s definitely a good thing that you have precision movement and shooting controls, as every decaying gauntlet that you run through will feature members of the undead relentlessly coming at you from both your front and back sides. The amount of zombies you face in a given stage is largely connected to how fast you exterminate the undead, as fresh animated corpses constantly show up in response to earlier ones being eliminated. The safe-zone at the end of each level is finally reached after a certain amount of time has elapsed, after which you are assigned a letter grade based on how many of the shambling dead you successfully put down during the course of the stage.
The basic tenant of advancement in Dead City is that performing well in your zombie slaying endeavors, assuming you also survive the stage in question, will reward you with in game cash that can be spent on various pieces of gear. Better equipment will then in turn allow you to survive later stages where the undead hordes are worth even more money than before, thus the dance of grind house style money grinding repeats endlessly. As is also to be expected of most games for iOS devices, particularly ones that are being offered for free, Com2uS is furthermore willing to sell you in game currency for real world money.
Dead City is designed so that the zombie blasting action is most enjoyable when you already have the equipment needed to advance, and that is where the in-app purchases become more of a problem here than they do in many other titles. The cash grinding in this game is a long and tedious process that quickly devolves from fun into an unrewarding chore, presumably a design choice by Com2uS to encourage players to open their wallets instead of getting the money through in game means. This decision was probably not a wise move for Dead City, for anyone who does spend much time replaying the game’s levels over and over will quickly discover how little diversity there truly is in the title’s gameplay.
While you will constantly go up against zombies of a wide variety of shapes and sizes, the only things that meaningfully separates them are how fast they move and how much damage they take before they’re finally dead again. Outside of these matters of stats, you will – for example – otherwise never experience a single behavioral difference in the movement patterns of overweight police zombies in comparison to much smaller zombie crows. Because of this there’s little reason to ever develop newer strategies to effectively deal with new enemy types when they show up, the solution to each new foe is to simply buy the newest piece of ever increasingly expensive equipment as it becomes available.
However – due to the rapidly increasing costs of each new tier of gear that unlocks over time – you’re just going to be giving the game more and more money to avoid the grinding monotony, unless of course you choose to skip all of that and simply pony up cash for the super weapons that aren’t even purchasable with in game money at all. As advertisements will constantly remind you from the level select screen, for just $9.99 you can have your very own flame thrower – or a laser gun for people who want something more sci-fi themed – for ultimate zombie blasting power straight from the beginning of the game. Com2uS certainly did not take any measures to keep Dead City from blatantly wearing its heart prominently on its sleeve, they will even display pop up ads that obscure the main menu you when you first turn the game on.
iFanzine Verdict: I understand and respect that the entire point of making a free game is so that developers can recoup their development costs through micro transactions, but I have seen games be far more successfully built on the premise without becoming this annoying in the process. It’s something of a shame as the action is actually enjoyable at first until you get into the second and third set of stages, after which the constant need for new gear forces you to either do long stretches of painful grinding – which leads to you quickly realizing all of the zombies behave exactly the same – or ultimately opening your wallet yet again so that you can get back to the blasting action before your patience gives out. While you can make the game cheaper – and less stressful – in the long run by simply giving the developer cash for the almighty flamethrower, what’s the point of playing a game anymore when victory becomes virtually ensured from that point forward?