Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trapped Dead: First Impressions

There are a number of things that make a game great.

The obvious one is the game simply being a polished product. Oozing quality in graphics, control mechanics, story and what have you. Games you can look at and read a review raving about it, buy it and know you're in for a treat.

But there's one other factor that determines whether the game is a must have or not that can not be judged by such scales; and that's the "subject matter" coupled with "interest".

For instance, I've got a friend that'll play anything with robots in it, that's his thing. If it has a ten for robot that fires guns and blasts other 10 foot robots, he'll play that game with a 10 foot erection. And what ever the game review score is, it immediately receives +10 points because it has robots.

That how games work for me. If it's a horror game, or more so, a zombie game... I will check it out. Especially if it fills a niche that was lacking.

Trapped Dead fills such a need.

Made by German developer HeadUp games, Trapped Dead is not just another zombie game... it's a farking Real Time Strategy game.

Right of the bloody bat, that had my attention. I caught news of Trapped Dead some time ago, and had been casually following it's development since. When I finally got my grubby little hands on it, I will tell you that I wasn't blown away by it... but I played it for 2 hours straight fully sucked in.

This game is basicaly a playable B movie zombie flick. You're out with your friend one night just driving around, when suddenly you run out of gas. Lucky for you there's a gas station near by. So you get out of the car and decided to have a look around for some gas and maybe some snacks.

Along the way you learn the basic movement mechanics of the game, which is similar to most RTS games; where you control the camera with W,A,S,D and rotate it with the middle mouse button. Soon you've navigated your hero to the gas station, you go in side and what this? A FARKING ZOMBIE EATING SOME GUY IN THE CORNER!@#

Pick up the baseball bat! Now bash that damn things head in. Now get out of there! Fark! the doors locked! There's gotta be another way out! Shit there's another zombie in the next room, Don't run... it'll hear you. Walk... walk up slowly behind it. Now bash it's farken head in! Get outside to your friend. O no! his being attacked... don't walk man... run up and help him. O shit man... his been bitten and his loosing a lot of blood. We've got to get him to a hospital, there's one not too far from here. But god knows how many of those rotting flesh bags are out there.... lets find out.

If you bother to keep up with this blog, you have to be wet by now just reading that.

Eventually in Trapped Dead you have a group of survivors that need to be guided through a small town over run with zombies. Along the way you will gather resources, fortify surroundings and basically do everything in your power to keep these guys alive.

The story is told through a series of comic book panels with some cheesy "B grade" voice over work. It has a sort of 80s horror movie feel to it at first, though it does get a little lame after awhile, but not enough to distract too much from the game.

As far as game-play goes. You pick up items, collect shizz to get you through the level and right click on zombies that you want dead. It's not the most innovative game-play, but when was the last time it was applied to a zombie game?

Strategy comes in because different weapons have different fire power or range and depending on the number of zombies, you might be forgiven running in guns blazing... or you might need to fall back to a secure part of some building to hold off the undead at some choke point. Don't get bitten though, cause if the zombies smell that blood, it will attract more undead nasties.

You end up in control of four players in your little horror party, but if one of them should get their brains eaten out, then it's sadly game over for everyone. I thought this was a little lame; it would be cooler if you lost a guy and had to play the odds with whatever you have left... eventually ending up with one man (or lady) struggling to stay alive. But I guess the game was designed to have four players hacking it out and to replace a fallen comrade might complicate things.

You can sneak past some threats too, or if you wanna risk being heard you can run. But you have a Stamina bar that exhausts when your player does too much, this slows him down and renders him zombie food.

Adding a little bit of the survival horror aspect, you won't find too many ammo clips and such lying around, this forces you to pick your battles and not just stand around shooting everything in the face. Environments also have traps and various hazards that you can use to your advantage when dispatching the undead.

Things do get a little hectic at times and giving orders to four different people in the heat of a zombie massacre could have been a pain in the ass, but Trapped Dead has a Dragon Age kind of pause function where you can stop to give out orders and then un-pause and watch it carried out (most of the time)

The graphics aren't the flashiest either, but the environments are very detailed. From every day homes to hospitals, fully decked out with everything you'd expect to find in them, but with an added bonus of bloody messes here and there, a bloody trail leading to someone's death or signs of a struggle that definitely didn't end well. Sound wise too the game manages to dish out what you need to get things done. But all these things put together really hits home the classic zombie movie feel.

You meet a few people and who you put together to form your team of survivors gets interesting. To get a little more fun happening you can invite your friends to play with you, thus turning the game into a 4 player co-op. So there's something to do when you're not all playing Left 4 Dead. The controls are a little tough getting into, but aside from this the game-play it's self has a sneaky way of letting you think you got the whole thing under control... before turning around and biting you in the neck.

Make no mistake... Trapped Dead is hard. It is a hard, tricky ass game, and this challenge alone was one thing that kept me going. It's not hard in the way where things seem impossible and adjusted to make you fuck up. But instead it's hard because the developers actually did make a strategy game that you have to think your way through.

As far as RTS games go, just because you're a StarCraft fan doesn't mean this will be something you would want to try. This is one for the horror/ zombie fans that want something fun to kill the time with. I don't normally grade stuff but if I had to grade Trapped Dead I'd give it a 2/5 in terms of it being a RTS... but then add a +1 for it being a zombie game, thus making it 3/5. Which means as a horror fan this would definitely be worth checking out.

In the end Trapped Dead is a very fun game, and exploring new areas while dishing the hurt on zombies is made to be a lot of fun. Meeting new survivors is fun too, because each one brings something fun and unique to the mix.

The game actually won an award for Best Action game of the year in Germany, so that's pretty cool. All in all ... If you look past a few flaws here and there; there's a bloody good time to be had with this one.
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