Often indie developers ambitions are beyond their means to deliver the scope and quality they seek for their games. Badfly Interactive’s new release Dead Effect 2 is a bittersweet case and point. Ported from its original mobile release, Dead Effect 2 is bursting with potential to be a stellar sci-fi undead shooter, but gets lost in its substandard execution. Bogged down with super sluggish controls, a finicky poor UI, and choppy visuals, Badfly Interactive attempts to place Dead Effect 2 into shoes that were just much too large to fill.
The storytelling for Dead Effect 2 has a certain B movie style cheesiness that almost gives its own sense of charm. You can play as Gunnar Davis, Jane Frey, or Kay Rayner. Each one equipped with their own style of gameplay among the heavy weapon, shotgun, or melee variety type. I chose the generic, lame one-liner spouting Gunnar Davis, and enjoyed every cringeworthy moment of it. Back again on the ESS Meridian ship, you are confronted with much more than a zombie horde this time. There seems to be all sorts of monstrous experiments gone wrong trapped aboard with you by twisted scientists, and its your job to shoot your way to some answers.
Dead Effect 2 tries to blend gameplay styles and influences from many great modern shooters, but culminates in an underwhelming version of each. The weapon and gear mechanics are eerily reminiscent to Destiny, while the shooting and upgrading system feel like they fell off the back of a Borderlands truck. Revolving around a hub world in between missions similar to the Tower in Destiny, you visit multiple vendors to supply yourself with armor, weapons, performance implants, and ability upgrades. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the weapon and gear designs are unique, but the implantation of these systems don’t hit the mark like they should. They lack all the intuitive and ease of access they need to possess to keep the player engaged. Unresponsiveness, slow, and inconsistent navigation really withdrew me from what I thought was actually a really cool concept.
One thing that I give Dead Effect 2 credit for is its depth in character customization. Along with armor and weapons, you can install performance implants to different parts of your body to enhance your player. You are also given multiple class skills and abilities. Gunnar can use Shockwave, Storm, and Stasis for example, and they can be pretty helpful in combat, and fun to use. There is a certain joy in watching a swarm of zombies get uprooted from the ground and launched into a wall from a shockwave blast.
I think the one crucial component that really holds Dead Effect 2 down from high praise is its unbelievably clunky, sedated controls. The game contains so many cool core concepts, that you sadly don’t even want to divulge into because experiencing it can be painfully flat feeling. The movement from the player, down to the NPCs and AI feel like they’re 20 paces behind from what the game is trying to do. Even after troubleshooting multiple control configurations, nothing really satisfied the smoothness I sought after. I truly feel that if Badfly Interactive were able to craft more responsive and fluid control mechanics in a next entry, the Dead Effect series may catch some positive attention.
You can tell Dead Effect 2 aimed to be a sci-fi shooter with gleaming visual prowess, but ultimately settles with a shoddy fidelity. Everything in the world looks like modern versions of last generation models. The characters models are dull and bleak. Halfway through the game I started to notice the environments look like the same dreary, grayish silver corridors copy and pasted from level to level. I will say that the gun models were actually pretty interesting, but overall Dead Effect 2 doesn’t hold the caliber of visual quality a console shooter should obtain on the Xbox One. Indie or not.
Sometimes even when other elements bring a title down, the sound design can really help re-engage the player and right some wrongs. The wrongs just stay wrong here. In all seriousness, I did wonder for a bit if Badfly Interactive themselves voiced the characters. The uninspired voice work just comes across so misdirected and woefully done that I threw subtitles on and the sound off by the end of the game. Even the game sounds bring nothing to the table that draw you in. The automatic weapons reminded me of some toy guns I used to play with as a child, and the explosions sound like they were recorded in another room.
In the gaming community, it’s important that we respect the contributions and releases from our aspiring indie developers. With that said, it’s just as important that these same developers truly understand, and grasp the tools at their disposal. Balance out the vision and scope of their games, with the quality and reality of what the final product will actually be. Dead Effect 2 may carry a cool loot system, RPG lite mechanics, and amusing run and gun combat, but it falls short in the overall performance to fully enjoy them.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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