28th Oct2019

‘Zombieland: Double-Tap – Road Trip’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

As a fan of twin-stick shooters, my love for the genre as a whole was the only thing that kept me invested to the end of this rushed and mercifully (yet, for the price, unjustly) brief cash-in.

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There’s nothing wrong with a generic film tie-in for fans to tuck into, it’s a tale as old as time itself but when the game is as unpolished and short as this, a full-priced title is pushing it. As I made my way through the game in local co-op I struggled to believe that what I was seeing was not a digital-only budget title for around £8…this was full whack and that fact really draws attention to the many issues.

Those familiar with games like Dead Nation and High Voltage Software’s own Hunter: The Reckoning will be on familiar ground here, a top-down, twin-stick shooter with up to four player local co-op (always fun) and lots of things to shoot. In fact, from the dated feel of game play, I can imagine that HVS blew the dust off the ‘Hunter’ engine from circa 2002 when they landed the Zombieland license and knocked this out in a few months as there are a lot of corners cut here that really affect gameplay.

The characters from Zombieland: Double-Tap are all here, although they are mostly comprised of sound-alikes. The story is a sort of prequel to the events of the film on which it is based, covering the groups’ journey across America to the White House, taking the player(s) through ten states which feature as ten in-game missions.

I’ll start with the positives, I am a huge fan of this genre, especially in co-op and the frame rate, although unlocked and never stable, is always pretty smooth. Shooting zombies is always fun and at the very heart of this game, that stands true…for the most part. Everything else is a bit wobbly.

The voice-work is teeth-grindingly awful and a constant threat throughout the game, not a zombie goes by without one of the gang (even those not present among the players) quipping and sniping at each other in dialogue that within minutes I had to skip as it was so cringe-worthy. The heavy use of constant talking was obviously seen as a selling-point by the developers but the writing is so bad and, due to the need to press a button to move onto the next line, delivered in a staccato fashion so that all elements of comedic-timing and flow are removed, resulting in something that boils down to nothing more than irritating intrusions upon the already slight game play.

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With no dodge or standard melee attack, the game consists of strafing and keeping your range whilst shooting. Although new zombies are introduced in the game that look different, the one-dimensional approach to combat results in the same strategy and result for each one so there’s no real enemy variety, you’ve pretty much seen everything in the game by around an hour in. In this game, the camera is your greatest enemy. Set in a fixed view, the camera follows your characters but doesn’t zoom in or out, this means that, as you make your way around the environments, if one character gets stuck behind a car or building, the invisible ‘tethering’ between each player is the greatest threat. As there’s no ‘bash’ or dodge, you are at the mercy of the horde until the other player walks back towards you, freeing up some area for you to move in. As the later levels become narrower and more maze-like, this gets to become a real issue. Especially as, when downed in combat, you only get ten seconds to raise your fellow players and, if there’s only two of you, it’s almost impossible due to the constantly spawning zombies and the requirement to hold down a button whilst leaving yourself completely vulnerable.

The stages themselves are generic and feature a lot of re-used assets. Of the ten, two are escort missions which are identical (even down to the person you are escorting) and others feel pointless, such as one in which a ‘raging inferno’ is supposed to be taking up an entire highway but, after various trips around a scrapyard and some tedious back-tracking, turns out to be nothing more than two cars on fire which need two squirts of a fire hydrant to put out. There’s also missions that, from the dialogue are meant to be quirky such as Jesse Eisenberg needing to go to the toilet but end up feeling like jokey, cheap side-quests. That sense of cheapness really runs through the entire game, 99% of the game is walking on a flat surface around roads and streets, in-game dialogue is constantly re-used and repeated ad nauseum, the music (especially on the title / credits / upgrade screens) is generic and flat and the level design is haphazard and uninteresting. At one point, I won the ‘zombie kill of the week’ and ‘Woody Harrelson’s’ voice was bizarrely delivered in a robotic text-to-speech style, I can only assume that this was down to place-holder dialogue being left in the released game.

The weapons are plentiful and your characters can be upgraded in-between each level to give bonuses to health, speed and damage etc. but all melee pickups in the game are rendered useless as you can’t flick between your infinite-ammo handgun and a second weapon, and so, if you accidentally pick up a baseball bat or sword, you are stuck with it until it breaks. As previously mentioned, there’s no dodge, so your only defence in the entire game is to keep your distance from the zombies….why would you choose to use a weapon that required you to engage in close-quarters combat if the zombies touching you drains health?

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Zombieland: Double-Tap – Road Trip is not a good game. It wouldn’t be a good game for a tenner and at full price, it’s embarrassing that the game can be breezed through in well under three hours (including breaks to pour drinks, get snacks and despair at the voice work) there are also other bugs such as guns randomly not firing, dialogue not matching up to what is shown as text on-screen and enemies getting stuck in the scenery. When we completed the game after a distinctly uninspiring final sequence, we were treated to our prize…some more awful dialogue and a newly unlocked character that plays exactly the same as Tallahassee but looks like Rosario Dawson. Surely they don’t expect people to play this through more than once?

To sum up my review, and give you an idea of how low the bar was for myself and the friend I was playing with, on the last level, the highlight wasn’t the final sequence (there are no bosses in the game, just another horde rushing us for a bit longer than usual) but a moment towards the end where our characters had to walk up a metal ramp and some stairs to cross a bridge and come down the other side. My friend sat bolt upright and said, “Oh my God, a difference in elevation”. When the highlight of a game is walking up a ramp, you know you’re in trouble.

If you do play this game, I really, REALLY recommend that you wait for it to be in a severely-discounted state. Or at least until the Welsh Characters DLC is released and bundled with it, I’m looking forward to playing as Abercwmboi, Blaenllechau, Pontarddulais and Blanau Ffestiniogg.

Zombieland: Double-Tap – Road Trip is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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