This game fails to deliver even the most garden-variety zombie-killing thrills, due to its inept combat, bad visuals, and cripplingly stupid artificial intelligence.
- Offers things like online multiplayer, 480p resolution, and surround sound.
- AI that somehow manages to make the game's zombies look stupid in comparison to other zombies
- Flat, listless combat
- Horribly glitchy hit detection and physics
- Flat-out nasty-looking graphics
- The worst in-game music in the history of the Xbox.
There is an almost pseudo-brilliance to the sheer awfulness of Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green. Loosely based within the same universe as zombie pioneer George Romero's Land of the Dead film from earlier this year, Road to Fiddler's Green isn't just content to be another completely unplayable movie-to-game translation. It's almost as though the developers wanted to capture the essence of the zombie through each and every aspect of the game. It feels like it was once a regular, workaday, full-featured Xbox game that was horribly murdered by zombies, and then resurrected into a shambled, decrepit, undead version of its former self. Every component of this game is slow to react, dumb as a doornail, and basically broken. It shuffles along at a sluggish, depressing pace while pieces of it literally fall apart at the seams. And the only thing going through its figurative mind is the unquenchable instinct to attack and feed on your free time and money. This is either one of the most avant-garde pieces of gaming artistry to ever find its way to the retail market, or the absolute worst game of the year. Actually, it's probably just the latter.
The protagonist of this hapless zombie tale is Jack, a regular country bumpkin thrust into the role of zombie vanquisher extraordinaire when a slightly ripe-looking stranger happens upon his doorstep. When this stranger turns out to be a brain-hungry zombie, Jack is sent fleeing around his property, looking for guns, ammunition, and, of all things, his keys. Clearly panic-stricken, Jack then finds himself neck-deep in zombie action, with mildly threatening corpses flocking onto his meager farm. He takes off to a neighbor's property, by way of a completely insane haystack maze and a badly textured cornfield, only to find--yes, you guessed it--more zombies! Perhaps you can see where all this is going. Wondering where the film tie-in comes into play? Well you do eventually find yourself in the guarded city of the scant few living humans remaining on the planet, which is featured prominently in the movie. But before you can get there, you'll have to travel through a slew of horrendous-looking environments, navigate terrible level designs, and shoot a never-ending army of the stupidest zombies you will ever encounter.
Stupid zombies? How is that even possible? Zombies are, after all, lumbering dimwits by nature, driven purely by the instinct to feed and with no real form of intelligence. However, the whole point of the Land of the Dead movie is that the zombies are slowly evolving into a more organized society of the undead. They're supposed to be smart zombies. But let's forget that fact for the moment, and just understand there are rules that govern zombie fiction at large. In just about every form of zombie anything you'll ever see, the creatures are largely aggressive toward any creature with living flesh, and they tend to travel in overwhelming packs. Save for very rare instances, you will see no such behavior in this game. Oh sure, they'll attack, but it's an absolute rarity to find yourself in a situation where you're overmatched. The zombies have one or two really lame attacks, which can be quite easily avoided if you're not completely surrounded. And even when you are, all you need to do is run and find a piece of the scenery that the zombies just aren't smart enough to circumvent--you know, like an open doorway, or a pile of garbage that sits maybe two or three feet high. And this is all assuming the zombies even come after you in the first place. Half the time, they're content to just stand completely still, dumbfounded as you pick them off from silly distances.
To make matters worse, the game completely destroys any measure of satisfaction you might get from offing these bloodthirsty creatures by making the combat a complete and utter bore. The game tries to create some measure of tension by severely limiting the amount of ammunition you can pick up, leaving you to fight off the zombies with shovels, golf clubs, baseball bats, and fire axes. Yet somehow, the action of slamming a blunt object into a zombie's brittle body is just screwed up. There are both weak and strong melee attacks, and the weak attacks are completely useless. You can sit there whacking away at a zombie, and half the time it won't even react to the shots it has taken, leaving you completely vulnerable.
So, you're stuck using strong attacks at all times. The trouble is, these strong attacks look completely stupid. When you're using a shovel, you look like you're giving the zombie a firm poke--a fact made even more hilarious by the overexaggerated animation of a zombie flying backward from the attack. Every time you use a hammer, you see Jack flip it around to the claw side to make his strong swipe. For the love of god, why can't he just leave the hammer on its claw side? And somehow, someway, the act of chopping hard at a zombie with an axe is done so flatly, so devoid of satisfaction, that it's barely even worth using the weapon, given how long it takes to wind up for the hit.
Gunplay is even worse. There's a decent variety of weapons, but there is just no predictability to their effectiveness. The game purports to use some manner of location-specific damage model, but it's also completely broken. Shoot a zombie in the chest, and his head will magically explode. Shoot another one in the chest, and it will react like it just took a shot to the shin. Shoot yet another's arm off, and it won't even flinch. Sometimes you have to shoot a zombie seven times in the head to bring it down. Other times, two shots to the legs will kill it. There's just no rhyme or reason to any of it.