Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising is a slick little top-down, turn-based strategy game pitting the military against a swarm of zombies. Though we’d love the option to play it in the reverse, you control the army dudes navigating and defending their base in the midst of the undead invasion.
Despite bearing a surely less-than-coincidental titular resemblance to another zombie game (Capcom’s Dead Rising), Undead Rising is a game unto its own. You’ll begin the game as a singular soldier and go through normal army training at your base camp before the invasion begins. And even though every single military game in history begins with basic training – usually with a super jerk commanding officer like this one – the characters and dialogue are interesting enough to hold your attention even after undead hell breaks loose.
The invasion begins almost immediately, but you’ll already feel confident moving around the grid-covered battlefield (to the extent you can before your turn runs out, at least). When you’ve moved or executed the maximum amount of actions allowed per turn, it’s the zombies’ turn. They’ll keep moving closer until they can attack, a situation you can easily reverse when the turn is once again yours and you get to double-tapping to shoot (that is how the movies taught us you’re supposed to kill zombies, isn’t it?). You also have the option to automatically fire in a certain direction, instantly nailing zombies should they be foolish enough to wander into your blast radius.
Over time, you’ll find more companions, some of whom you can control and some of whom you cannot, and earn skill points through leveling and loading up on stat-boosting gear and new weapons (check that sick blood splatter from the shotgun!). All of which helps keep the experience feeling fresh and fun.
Graphically, Tactical Soldier Undead Rising looks a bit like something that should have died a long time ago. The 3D map is smooth enough, as you zoom in and out in order to get a better view, format a long-term strategy or do a precision tap to get some health power-ups out of an ammo locker. But the chunky 3D characters, with their sharp edges and muddy textures, are not pretty. Ah, well, you’ll get all the pretty you need in the comic book-style cut scenes. Okay, those aren’t that pretty either, but they’re bloody and they look better than Nintendo 64 dudes in camo.
The strategy never feels too tough or too easy: it gives you just enough of a challenge to have to go through levels more than once to beat them, but not so much that you’ll need to do it all of the time or feel frustrated by it.
It’s a bit pricier than the average iTunes game, but you’re paying for quality and depth here. Yes, this even hits that Holy Grail: the iPod game with an interesting storyline. Not only that, but I actually looked forward to unlocking these achievements, which we usually don’t care about in handheld form but fiend for on consoles. Yes, you may be used to spending 99 cents a pop on your iPod games, but you won’t be disappointed if you take a little leap of faith on TSUR.
May 18, 2011