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UK-based developer Doublesix is poised to deliver their new title, an "arcade-RPG," dubbed All Zombies Must Die this fall, and I had a chance to see the game in action last week. According to lead designer David Dow, All Zombies Must Die is both similar to, and also a robust departure from, their previous arena-based shooter, Burn Zombie Burn.
The gameplay in All Zombies Must Die! centers around killing enemies by using and combining a number of different status effects that are based on a risk/reward mechanic. Each of the game's playable characters has a different primary status effect: fire, sonic, shock, or radioactivity. The on-the-ground action is fast, furious, and skill-based. Dow noted that somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty zombies could appear on-screen simultaneously.
Using a shock-based status effect on zombies, for example, makes them more likely to drop more power-ups than their non-electric counterparts. The risk, explained Dow, is that electrified zombies are also a lot faster. The various type of status-effects can be combined to manipulate the zombies in a number of different ways, depending on which effects--and in which order--they are used. These status effects can also be caused by parts of the environment. Dow also pointed out that an irradiated zombie that is set on fire, shocked, or hit with a sonic blast can become a much more powerful variant.
I was actually a bit overwhelmed at the number of possible status-effect combinations, especially when factoring in a slew of different weapons that can also be powered-up with a number of status-effects using the game's crafting system. Players can expect to get their hands on a huge variety of destructive tools, ranging from more standard-fare like assault rifles to unique weapons like ray-guns.
Players will start the game as Jack, who begins the adventure with the "Gamer" character class, and is a shotgun-toting wise-guy who's out to prove to the other characters that they're all in a video game. Jack's ex-girlfriend, Brian the scientist, and Luxo the alien are additional playable characters unlocked by progressing through the story. Each character has a distinctive personality and special abilities. The characters will periodically level-up as well, allowing players to assign points to attributes.
Each of the four main characters will also have their own series of side-quests to complete, Dow explained:
So like, Luxo, the alien character: he doesn't speak English when you meet him. And he's got a previous relationship with [Brian] the science guy, who's been stealing all of his technology to make all this stuff. Luxo doesn't speak English, but the scientist can speak to Luxo. Luxo's side-quests are all about him learning how to speak English. So the first side quest, you get him alphabet blocks, and then he can say really crude stuff. And then you get him some comic books and he gets smarter. And then finally he asks for a copy of The Big Lebowski. Just because we wanted an excuse to have the alien say "Dude" all the time, and swear a lot.
Characters that have been unlocked in single-player will be available for friends to play in four-player local co-op. If you've got more players than unlocked characters, additional co-op friends can play as generic soldiers with assault rifles. "We initially set it up so that you basically unlocked all the characters as fast as possible," Dow explained, noting the depth of the title. "There's quite a lot of stuff to play with. It was totally overwhelming to do that. Just to make the game such so that you can sort of learn it at a nice pace, we had to stretch that out."
Whereas Burn Zombie Burn was an arena-based shooter, All Zombies Must Die takes place across nine dynamic levels, each in different parts of an urban setting. Levels will also change throughout the course of the experience to reflect new status effects, based on in-game events. Players can even set up a home base in certain levels by taking on an "All Zombies Must Die Quest." After completing such a quest in a given area, the player will have access to leveling up, inventory management, and crafting. Don't like the base you've chosen? Just complete another quest and set up shop elsewhere.
Though my time with All Zombies Must Die was brief, it seems like a solid twin-stick shooter with a good deal of freedom. The dizzying number of available combinations will likely ensure that players can approach the game in a number of valid ways, depending on their personal tastes and play-styles.
Folks looking for some frantic couch-based co-op might want to keep an eye on All Zombies Must Die, which is scheduled for release this fall on PC, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade.