I have described Dead Ahead as the deep south Plants vs. Zombies I never knew I wanted. Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare is a strategy game by Mobirate Studios. Zombie games are a dime a dozen these days, but Dead Ahead stands out by being a strategy game. It’s not the most intricate systems in a game like this, but it doesn’t need to be. A fast-paced, cartoonishly gory adventure, Dead Ahead kept me hooked the whole time. Unfortunately, some of the features carried over from its original mobile version are its biggest hindrances.
Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare centers around a group of survivors all shacked up on a bus. They try to escape using said bus, which is easier said than done considering there’s a zombie outbreak. The bus inevitably runs into obstructions, and its up to the survivors to break through the barriers.
Each mission begins when you place your first troop onto the field. Unlike Plants vs. Zombies, where the troops are static and act more as defense, the survivors in Dead Ahead are active fighters. They will run up the field to get rid of any barriers in their way, going after zombies while doing so. Of course, these heroes aren’t free, but instead cost courage points, which increase throughout the mission. Another meter increases as you continue to kill zombies, allowing you to engage in actions ranging from dropping a barrel to unleashing a machine gun.
There are a wide variety of heroes to use, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Characters can engage in ranged or melee combat, and cost a varying amount of courage to use. For example, the redneck character is fast and is the cheapest hero, but is easily overpowered by zombie attacks. While it’s not the most strategy-heavy game out there by far, there is some level of decision-making that needs to be made.
As your main mode of transportation, the bus is the thing you need to protect at all costs. The driver can shoot to defend himself, but that can only do so much when there’s a literal horde coming at you. Do you use the redneck because he’s cheap and fast, or do you sacrifice the time and wait for the lumberjack to be available who is a tank (yet slow)? It’s this fast-paced decision-making that kept me engage through my whole time playing. There were times where I was legitimately overwhelmed, and had to use last-resort measures like the barrel or machine gun.
How well you can protect the bus determines your rating at the end of a mission. If you make it out without a single scratch, you earn three stars. The more stars you collect, the more challenges you will be able to unlock, which allow you to open up the map even more. The map contains various supplies you can use to level up your troops. Be sure to upgrade everything, because the game can get quite hard and stressful at times.
And it’s more than the heroes that are varied, too. The zombies come in all shapes and sizes, and all skills and speeds. Some are slow, some run relentlessly toward you, some are electric. The different zombie types really keep you on your toes, and help factor in the decision of what troops to use, and when.
As someone who doesn’t consider themselves a fan of strategy games, something like Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare is very appealing to me. There is a level of decision-making involved, but it really only amounts to what troop to put on the field at what moment. But for me, that was enough to keep me engaged.
Unfortunately, there are some holdovers from its origins as a mobile game. The original version of Dead Ahead was released for free, and included micro transactions. Dead Ahead’s console release is a paid game, yet also includes micro transactions. Thankfully, I never ran into a situation where I felt like a I needed to pay to progress, but it is a little eyebrow-raising.
The question is, did Dead Ahead need to be ported from mobile? I’m not too sure. I love how Plants vs Zombies is a game I can just pop open and play around in. Dead Ahead is a little less hands-off, so it’s definitely not a totally casual experience like PvZ is. While I definitely didn’t lament having the game tethered to my PS4, it did make me curious as to see if the game would feel any different on the go.
Despite its issues, I did thoroughly enjoy my time playing Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare. A game that’s a little more hands-on that most mobile strategy game, but also not one that’s completely bogged down by complicated systems. The inclusion of micro transactions are a bit of a head-scratcher, but not a deal breaker. Dead Ahead can get legitimately hard at points, maybe even a little frustrating, but I never got the inkling to quit. I always wanted to forge ahead in this zombie wasteland.
REVIEW CODE: A PS4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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