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Rock of the Dead review

AT A GLANCE
  • Campy tone and some genuine laughs
  • Meatier than most rail shooters
  • Peanut butter/chocolate novelty
  • Painfully bland graphics
  • Lo-fi sound
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition

But it's funny. Funny in that fourth-wall-breaking, self-deprecating way that lets you know Epicenter knew it was making something light and low-budget. It's just a shame that the simple concept of playing increasingly complex strings of notes to take out enemies ended up being driven into the ground. When it starts out, things seem so simple - and they are; taking out enemies before they can reach you releases health and special attack meter ammo, so simply being quick is often enough to stay alive (at least until the game decides to throw an impossible number of targets at you). By tilting the neck up, Star Power-style, a shield is thrown up, and by holding the top four colored buttons and strumming, a screen-clearing attack can be unleashed.

Simple, no?

Except all that simplicity ends up becoming the game's Achilles' heel. Once the basic skills are banked, there's little to keep things interesting. Each level has its own challenges for killing big waves of enemies or saving survivors, and the longer you can go without taking a hit, the higher your combo will climb, which adds to the medals you can get at the end of the level to upgrade those shields/screen-clearing blasts. Ditto for things like getting a high score or keeping accuracy up, but it's that last one that's the source of so much frustration.

Simply put, there's a feeling that Rock of the Dead isn't quite paying attention to what you're pressing, or rather it tends to simply "miss" inputs. Pair that up with the fact that the game has its own finicky handling of quick button presses and things can become increasingly cumbersome - especially when there are dozen or more targets on screen. Playing with two players helps ease some of this frustration, but it can be all but impossible to see who has latched onto a far-off target even in HD, leading to confused "is that you or me?" moments while playing with a friend.

Again, though, these sorts of things feel somehow acceptable when a game is truly budget priced (sorry, even in this era of $60 games, $40 is still a little steep) and delivered sans disc. Instead, Rock of the Dead seems almost burdened by the fact that it's been pressed and boxed, and the end result is all the little niggles we had at the start (lame public domain tracks, repetition of the Rob Zombie ones, cut and pasted segments, the complete lack of challenge in miniboss battles) compounded into abject rage.

This is a fun game, but that fun is siphoned out slowly as the game increasingly falls back on old tricks. By the time it's all over, you likely won't want to go back through it to earn more unlocks or bump up the challenge because so much of that initial peanut butter/chocolate "why didn't someone think of this sooner?" appeal has been sapped. With more variety to the actual gameplay instead of the environments, Rock of the Dead could have been something as genuinely special as the devs wanted it to be.

We hate ripping on something that's such an earnest effort, but the stark reality is that Rock of the Dead was released in the wrong way at the wrong price with nowhere near enough complexity to justify its length. Should a downloadable version priced dirt cheap and with just a few more licensed tracks (and the fidelity to make them pop - this is a music-driven game after all) happen to come together, we wouldn't hesitate to suggest this. As it stands now, though, the game simply asks too much of its audience.

Nov 5, 2010

More Info

Release date: Nov 19 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: Conspiracy Entertainment
Developed by: Epicenter Studios
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Crude Humor, Violence, Mild Lyrics

14 comments

  • BigBoss213 - December 4, 2010 6:59 p.m.

    .....guitar hero and zombies.......(face palm)
  • Sy87 - November 8, 2010 8:47 p.m.

    Really its games like these that ruin the zombie genre. We got enough guitar games, not enough zombie games because I am still not satisfied with them. Not until there is a zombie game with open world survival exploration and true dead zombies where damage to the brain kills them. Until than there are not enough zombie games. Stop guitar games and get some lessons.
  • AncientCanada97 - November 8, 2010 5:38 p.m.

    Haha, what if this got like a 9 out of 10?? That would be insane lol.
  • newjoisey - November 8, 2010 7:18 a.m.

    this looks awful
  • WTeen8 - November 8, 2010 12:45 a.m.

    tragic, I was hoping this was gonna be good when I first saw the trailer video. Oh well. There are better games out there.
  • power_ranger_porno - November 7, 2010 11:44 p.m.

    This looks indeed weird! And i was also hoping to buy this and a nice little plastic guitar. But now i am not so sure about it. Also when are they going to re-release typing of the dead!!!! I want that game back on my pc dammit!
  • SerpentineZERO - November 6, 2010 10:05 p.m.

    Such an original and interesting concept, it's a shame it isn't executed well, as it seems from all the negative reviews.
  • JLThatshilarious - November 6, 2010 9:39 p.m.

    You know what I was thinking? The next James Bond game should be in a zombie apocalypse. That'd be interesting, yet at the same time, be exactly like every other FPS in gaming... but I think that they would mesh well. Resident Evil X James Bond 007, anyone?
  • Japanaman - November 6, 2010 2:32 p.m.

    First, Typing of the Dead, now Rock of the Dead? What's next? Fishing of the Dead? Bowling of the Dead? Geez... Give it a rest zombie games.
  • thedonut - November 6, 2010 5:44 a.m.

    This is something that Sega should've done, haha.
  • ThatGamerDude - November 6, 2010 4:40 a.m.

    One of the most retarded concepts for a game, period.
  • Tranquilbez34 - November 6, 2010 4 a.m.

    I was expecting worse reviews than a 5
  • tomservo - November 6, 2010 1:35 a.m.

    Second!!! Doh!

Showing 1-14 of 14 comments

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