Zombies Monsters Robots has Zombies, Monsters, and Robots

The undead, the should-be-dead, and the not-really-alive.

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Zombies are popular. Monsters are big. Robots get a fair amount of attention, too. It only makes sense, then, that video games would want to throw all three into a disgusting stew and cook up some craziness.

Zombies Monsters Robots is another video game incorporating this terrific trio. The title may bring to mind a top-down shooter, the kind the once dominated the console downloadable marketplaces, but this upcoming free-to-play extravaganza is a third-person shooter that feels a lot like Gears of War. In fact, Zombies Monsters Robots isn't made from wholly new ingredients, but rather shares many of the same features with developer YingPei Games' PC shooter Mercenary Ops. And of course, a developer once known as Epic Games China would know a thing or two about Gears of War.

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Publisher En Masse (known for the action-focused online role-playing game Tera) calls Zombies Monsters Robots the sequel to shooter Mercenary Ops, previously released as an open beta in China, and it will even include all of Mercenary Ops' content in addition to its own. And talk about a lot of content: ZMR will feature up 60-odd maps playable in 15 different modes, some of which have you piloting mechs and controlling monsters in addition to shooting up meanies on foot. However, where Mercenary Ops focused on player-versus-player combat, ZMR is centered on cooperative play in which you and up to seven friends take on waves of the titular enemies, Horde Mode style, in one-off scenarios or entire campaigns.

But who's the real monster here? Oh wait--you are. Sometimes, anyway.
But who's the real monster here? Oh wait--you are. Sometimes, anyway.

I recently got to take a five-player co-op map out for a spin with other members of the press, and I was excited to do so after En Masse called the game "frantic and crazy," and told me that "nothing is too outrageous." Unfortunately, the cooperative scenario wasn't as crazy and outrageous as I'd hoped, in light of the trailer En Masse presented in advance, which featured awesome-looking monsters and an appealing bloody-beautiful vibe. It wasn't that my time with ZMR wasn't decent fun--it was that it was so very expected. My teammates and I first chose our characters, each one featuring a different loadout, and then we sauntered into a dank dungeon harboring zombie people, zombie dogs, and other Raccoon City escapees.

En Masse calls ZMR a "console-style shooter," which in this case means third-person action so clearly inspired by Gears of War that the game boasts an active reload feature, in which you reload your weapon faster by performing a properly-timed button tap. ZMR also uses a Gears-style roadie run, a sprinting style that works when you are thrusting your impossibly muscled, heavily armored body into cover, but seems out of place in a fast-paced zombie scenario without cover mechanics. (Apparently, the PVP matches feature cover, while the cooperative match I played does not.)

Nevertheless, there's nothing wrong with some good ooze-splattering fun, and the five of us spilled a lot of zombie goo as the undead charged us, their bright orange vulnerable spots begging to be torn open. The halls and rooms we charged through echoed with the sounds of earsplitting machine-gun fire, growling dogs, and grunting zombies. I could also hear the clanking of tools on metal, the result of my teammates repairing the broken windows through which the undead would otherwise have leapt through. Environmental repair was one of two features that helped freshen up the tried-and-true action, the other example being the various traps we could activate. One of these traps was a giant spiked log that rolled forward, stabbing and crushing anyone--including my teammates--that stood in its way. Another was a giant blast of fire that incinerated its surprised victims. Guns are great, but guns, spikes, and flames are another trio I can truly get behind.

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The battle ended with a boss fight versus a hideous armored meatbag that swung thick chains around and had a nasty habit of electrocuting anyone who happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. He could also pull the walls inwards, crushing us between them if we didn't rush in close to the very mutant we were trying to defeat. The slow response times when sprinting and tumbling elicited some frustration, but rarely does felling such a giant foe not bring with it a sense of reward, and reducing this giant freak of nature to a pile of flesh was appropriately satisfying. You'll be able to meet the meat in May for yourself when Zombies Monsters Robots hits early access status.

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