I am writing this review and feeling very creeped out, for a couple of reasons. Reason one, is that I am playing Trapped Dead from Headup Games, a rather good zombie RTS, and the low grunts and shuffling sounds of the approaching undead are issuing forth from my speakers in glorious 5.1 surround sound. The second reason, is that my daughter has left one of her dolls in my room and whilst playing Trapped Dead I am becoming more and more convinced that the thing is looking at me with those dark glassy eyes. I don’t know whether to put a pillow over it or remove it? Both seem like pretty good ideas, but what can I expect? Unfortunately, and unlike Trapped Dead, I am unable to pause real life and survey my surroundings in an isometric 3D view to best judge a situation. This is a real shame, as I’m now reaching the same level of paranoia that I felt when battling my way through the zombie infestation. Help!
The game kicks off in the 80’s in a small mid American town called Hedge Hill. An experimental, genetically modified form of corn has entered the food chain and created a deadly virus that soon affects the whole area, turning the victims into the not-so-lovable but much favoured zombies with a taste for Human flesh and brain desserts. We join the game as two college lads, Mike and Gerald, are returning from a road trip, they’re running on fumes so they pull into a petrol station and all hell breaks loose.
The story is played out via a kind of graphic novel text box, with some pretty good voice acting which adds a convincing touch to the eerie and already dark feel to the game. Headup Games has turned the creep factor up to a very playable number 9, with some nicely rendered scenes and environments which are heavily influenced by the George A. Romero ‘Dead’ series of films. A hospital, a prison and the all time favourite shopping mall are featured, each have their own specific collectables, zombies and environmental hazards. It’s the latter that I really enjoyed in Trapped Dead. The ability to lure a group of zombies into a pre-set trap and watch as they either burn, get zapped by a million volts, or crushed into zombie flavoured pancakes. This is the bread and butter of Trapped Dead. It’s a tactical approach that wins the day, not just leaping into the fray with guns blazing. Trapped Dead is a thinking person’s Left 4 Dead, there are no convenient ammo drops, no advanced weapons scattered around to pick up, no super health potions to pick up. That doesn’t mean the action is non-existent, in fact Trapped Dead has action by the wheelbarrow load. Zombies approach, you’re down to your last few rounds, there’s nowhere else to run and the only weapon you have left is the trusty baseball bat. What to do? Pause the game and take in your surroundings, that’s what. Then plan out your escape, whilst luring the hoard of undead into a carefully laid trap.
A zombie survival game wouldn’t be the same without the token characters: Mike Reed – Sports college student and good all rounder; Professor Harper – Wheelchair bound and slow moving, but can heal the others to a better degree; Bo – Survivalist and gun nut, he can handle any weapon with deadly accuracy; Old John – Town Sheriff and out-of-shape, but a good shot; Jo Ann – Slim, athletic and the fastest of the group and finally, Klaus – A big, strong crane operator, whose powerful arms are ideal for close combat. Finding the right balance of character abilities and environmental traits is the way to survive through the chapters of this cinematic horror game.
The controls are mouse/keyboard, clicking a location will move a character to that point and the keyboard can be used to rotate the camera angles and access the character’s inventory. The controls responded well, although when being chased by the lumbering dead you can find your person running into walls just purely from the frantic clicking. The graphics are very sweet. Wonderful looking 3D environments and objects scatter the screen, with blood smearing the floors, walls and doors, the horror element is conveyed dramatically and with a convincing apocalyptic ambience. The characters move well and despite the slow moving zombies you can find yourself with your back against the wall. The AI is very well programmed, each character has a line of sight that can be used to either draw out the zombies or allow the player to sneak past them. The zombies behave according to their own line of sight and the environment around them. If you kill one of them then the zombies in the line of sight will be attracted to the commotion, if you have a nasty wound, then the blood dripping from it will attract the zombies to you. Factors like these have to consider when playing and all add to the tactical survival of the group.
The music and sound effects are similarly wonderful. Grunts, groans, creaking doors and floorboards, dripping taps and the horrible squelch of a zombie’s head under the business end of a baseball bat are enough to have you looking behind you occasionally and feeling the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.
However, the best feature of the game is the online multiplayer. Find a server and grab a few friends and you can tackle the undead in a co-operative chapter that will keep you playing Trapped Dead past the single player campaign. There was no lag and the other players I met were helpful, although the game is still pretty young, so it took a while before there were enough of us online to have a decent fight.
Trapped Dead is a fine zombie RTS and a good attempt at breathing a bit of life back into the zombie survival genre, no pun intended. Prepare to be creeped out. Trapped Dead can be purcahsed via Iceberg Interactive’s shop: http://www.iceberg-shop.com/ Now all I have to do is tackle that doll!
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