The great zombie game outbreak of the 21st century began with a single byte. It spread quickly, digitally infecting games with unprecedented numbers of undead. Before long, you couldn%26rsquo;t click an executable without launching an outbreak. And then the fightback came. Nation Red is a Diablo-ish take on the battle against the undead. Top-down battles against relentless hordes of pick-up dropping zombies. It%26rsquo;s very mouse-clicky, rhythmically pleasing and appallingly difficult.
It%26rsquo;s set in a dusty unnamed US town. Every level is a small, samey arena, beginning with you in the centre and the zombies flowing in. Initially, it feels like a tactics-free button basher. You%26rsquo;re limited to one weapon (always the one you%26rsquo;ve just picked up), and the backdrops have no effect on the flow of the zombies. You can%26rsquo;t hide, you can only run and shoot, and then run some more.
But you can plan ahead. The weapon limitations are reason enough to consider how you%26rsquo;ll fight for the next few seconds: dare you swap over your shotgun for the nailgun or flamethrower when it means a change in the rate of fire and damage? Can you make it to that perk, or are you too low on health to consider a mad dash?
There are two forms of drops. The guns vary from pistols to flamethrowers, and all of them chew through ammo %26ndash; which is infinite, but all too quickly you%26rsquo;re forced to back off and reload. Again, it%26rsquo;s necessary to think about this if you can, so that you%26rsquo;re backing off into an empty corner or through a hole in the undead. The other drops are more varied: pickups that drop mines, or a doppelganger, or slow-motion buffs %26ndash; varying effects that regularly swap provide needed respite. Our favourite is the self-guided turret.
All through this you%26rsquo;re gaining experience, building up points to buy another buff that you select from a menu. The selections are always random. Sometimes they%26rsquo;re not entirely helpful for the situation at hand. You may need to recuperate health, when all you%26rsquo;re given is a choice of different bombs. It seems unfair, but the games are short and the action is satisfying - all things considered, Nation Red ends up being a surprisingly entertaining zom-bomber.
Oct 12, 2009