If you're a horror fan, you might think that a game featuring a horde of hungry zombies, a vast arsenal of anti-zombie weaponry, and a 3D graphics engine couldn't possibly be bad. Well, you'd be wrong. SegaSoft's Flesh Feast offers all of these things and more, but despite a few positive points, the game is about as lifeless as the zombies it hurls into your path.
Flesh Feast is a third-person action game viewed primarily from a top-down perspective, similar to Mageslayer and Take No Prisoners. The game includes 14 levels in which you must lead three teams of humans through a vast army of zombies, who trudge along after you and rise up unexpectedly from the ground. Apparently, something has gone horribly awry at the island headquarters owned by Nutrition Applied Science and Technology Inc. (NASAT), where people are mysteriously dying and returning to life as zombies. Your three teams must stop these creatures and put an end to the crisis.
The basic game design is simplistic but with a pretty good difficulty stepping built into the framework. The levels are split up into three sectors with each one being the responsibility of a different team. Also, each sector represents a level of difficulty, so you can gradually build up to the final level by making your way through each sector in order (which is not required). Starting out in a graveyard, an airport, and a dockyard, you'll eventually hack and blast your way through a variety of locales, including a mall, a hotel, a laboratory, and of course, the NASAT factory, which seems to be the root of all this rampant evil.
You begin each level with a team of three humans, one main character and two others. How you are supposed to keep all of them alive is a mystery. In fact, there doesn't seem to be much point in trying, as the game is one hell of a lot easier if you sacrifice the supporting cast and concentrate on arming your main characters to the gills. Weapons, ammo, and the occasional power-up can be found lying all over the level maps, and you can home in on them using the game's radar display.
The game provides two methods for controlling your characters: strategic or direct. In strategic mode, you point to a location or a zombie, and your character will move or attack. This mode, like the concept of team survival, does not seem to have much purpose in the game. Direct mode, where you control every move and action yourself using the keyboard, is much more effective for getting anything done. If nothing else, your characters fight like a bunch of inept wimps in strategic mode.
Though the game utilizes a 3D engine with Direct3D support for hardware acceleration, the graphics aren't anything to shout about. For one thing, the game's fogging effect seems to take effect far too close to the player, though I'll chalk that up as an effort to simulate poor visibility at night. Also, the player and monster models are low-polygon, rudimentary shapes at best. It is true that many of the zombies move and shuffle along in fine fashion (some dragging a bent foot behind, some with their hands held out, some with no hands at all), but they all tend to look the same after just a little while. The game does convey blood and gore fairly well - though with a name like Flesh Feast you'd have to hope they'd get that part right.
The gameplay itself is not too bad and can be fun at times. The level design, on the other hand, is downright annoying. There isn't much complexity to most levels - just find weapons, locate keycards (or some equivalent), and kill zombies while looking for an exit. The problem is, these levels make you run all over the place trying to figure out the proper way to exit. The first few maps aren't so bad, but third-sector levels border on the ridiculous. You'll end up running from point A to point B, then to C, back to A, over to B again, and then back to A before heading over to C one last time. Gee guys, it might be nice to include an in-level save feature if you're going to design "memorize the path" levels.
Flesh Feast does include a decent array of multiplayer options, including cooperative and deathmatch play (where you can "eat your friends"). Two to eight players can participate over LAN and Internet links via HEAT.net. The only trouble is, the game crashed every single time we tried to test multiplayer support - and this was after installing the 1.02 patch that was supposed to fix some of the multiplayer issues. This patch also made the game a lot less stable than it was out of the box, as we encountered frequent crashes at random spots during solo play as well.
Simply put, Flesh Feast is a game that had some potential as a quick-fix action game where you could take out your pent-up aggressions on a horde of undead zombies. Instead, it makes an unsuccessful effort to combine action and strategy, throws a poor graphics engine in your face, and asks you to memorize a bunch of uninspired level maps. The game's multiplayer problems and inherent instability are just thrown in for good measure. Now, where did I put that copy of Resident Evil?