It’s safe to say that the Wii U is lacking representation in certain genres, and that makes Chasing Dead seem, at first glance, an enticing title. It’s a first-person shooter in the vein of Resident Evil or Zombie U, with a unique sci-fi element thrown in.
Let me preface this review by saying that I’m not particularly keen on this genre personally, though I do own Zombie U and genuinely thought it was good. Still, I started playing Chasing Dead with an open mind – I was, sadly, disappointed.
Let’s start with first impressions. The intro music is quite haunting, with a slow and deep beat that grows steadily until it sounds a little like a long-lost Nine Inch Nails out-take. The audio quality in the game is decent too, with actors used to voice the main characters. This is a nice touch that comes across as quite professional – apart from the fact that some of the acting is so terrible it’s beyond B-grade, and very distracting. Luna, your “guide”, starts things off but later you meet Natalia, who falls squarely into this category. It’s almost funny and you have to wonder whether it was done on purpose, since it’s so unbelievably bad, Then there’s awful script – at one point, Luna asks what type of attackers you’re encountering, and when you tell her it’s some sort of mutant she says “I know”. To be fair, main character Jake’s voice over is much better.
So audio is definitely OK, terrible acting aside.
The visuals are mixed, to say the least. Generally speaking, the graphics are decent during intro clips or while standing still, with space ships, zombies, and planes on fire all looking above average, without breaking any new ground. Sadly, when the action starts it is so marred by frame rate issues that the quality simply doesn’t matter – it renders the game frustrating to the point of being useless.
There are times when zombies pop up out of nowhere, and when too many are on screen at once, everything slows down to an almost bullet-time pace, but not in a cool Matrix-y way. Items like guns and health refills look odd and out of place, and are difficult to pick up. Some items require a hand icon to grab it when you’re close, others are just picked up automatically when you pass over them. It’s inconsistent.
Other seemingly minor visual issues persist that just add to the overall feeling that this game is unpolished and untested. For example, the color contrast is all wrong, with the designers choosing odd color combinations that make it very hard to read – like blue text on a background that’s another shade of blue. Italics are also used liberally, which is harder to read on a screen, and the transcript for the audio doesn’t even match the voice overs. Overall it just presents a poor quality production.
Initially you start with 5 missions to choose from. The intro actually seems promising enough – like I said, the video is OK quality when you’re not in control – you’re a pilot named Jake, crash-landing your ship when another Earth appears. Your first mission is to take control of another aircraft – a passenger plane that’s on fire and ready to crash-land too.
As you begin playing, your initial fear of being eaten by mutant zombies on a burning plane is soon replaced with frustration as you realize that you’ve been thrown in the deep, deep end. The controls are terrible, with no tutorial or even a guide to the button configuration, let alone customization. Aiming is ridiculously hard, monitoring your ammo is a guessing game, and changing weapons .. to be honest, I never actually worked out how to do that.
Even simple things aren’t done well, like why doesn’t the B button let you go back on the main menu? Or why does the minus button stop your mission and restart it? It’s an option on the pause menu so why dedicate another button to this function, especially when you’re trying to work out which buttons do what and accidentally restart instead.
Some of the above issues may seem like minor gripes, but I have to ask myself – if you can’t get fonts right, how can you program a game? It’s the little things, in my opinion, that make games stand out from the crowd and make a good game great. A genuinely good game could be forgiven for such things as B grade voice overs, for example. This is not that game – it has no redeeming features. In this case, every little thing just adds to the overall noise of the game, making it something that is not fun to play and should be avoided.