Let me say straight off the bat that I was extremely apprehensive when I first heard about Dead Ahead, I am by no means saying prejudice came into it, but I was worried, “An endless runner that has zombies”. At this stage let’s be honest, the App store doesn’t need any more endless runners or games that feature zombies, and to be even more honest, now that Dead Ahead is released you don’t need any other endless runner on your iOS device. This game is fantastic, an orgy of points, guns and gore. There’s zombies, violence and pixel art, all my previous writings and spiels should tell you that this game was made for me.
The game is let down in one major way, it harasses the user into taking them up on ‘In App Purchases’. After nearly every run, whilst I was connected to the internet on my iPad, I was greeted with a full-page advert for some gambling sites and web services. Endless runners generally pride themselves on being able to be pick up and play and utilise quick restarts, instead thanks to these adverts you are hamstrung every time you screw up. Annoying doesn’t begin to cover it, in the shop section of the game you can, for 69p, remove the adverts; this is probably going to make me sound petty, but, I would rather pay 69p up front and support the developer rather than make the decision to pay in app. The idea that I’m being forced to purchase this because of overly pushy methods feels like manipulation rather than rewarding a developer with my custom. I know this isn’t the worst crime in humanity but having to spot the tiny “close window” cross on each advert is annoying and breaks flow.
The zombies are back wandering the Earth, virus, global warming, nuclear war any of these could be the reason, at this stage of zombie overload in gaming do we even really care? The point is you’re a boy with a bike. You need to take this bike and ride, ride for a very long time, technically forever (hence endless runner). If you don’t know what an Endless Runner is then it is a game where you have some control over movement but the path you take is forming in front of you and there is no endgame, the point is to score hi points and complete mini objectives. Endless Road, Temple Run and Jet Pack Joyride are all games that have nailed this genre, and Dead Ahead joins them, the game feels a lot like Jet Pack Joyride a mixture of the objectives and the obstacles blocking your route feels familiar.
As you ride along you are given tasks like “kill 50 zombies” or “ride 3000m”, these are your bread and butter in this game, complete the three given objectives and you can go up a level, this has the potential to unlock new bikes, guns and locations. To kill zombies you have two options, run them over, which as you would expect, slows you down somewhat, or alternatively you have the option to fire your gun behind you. As well as zombies littering the roads ahead causing a nuisance, we have some “28 days later” sprinter zombies that somehow can keep up with a 40 miles per hour bike. Your final obstacle is the road itself and its detritus. Old cars and busses, road works and holes (which double as ramps) all have the potential to work against you if you hit them or in your favour if you can send your zombie followers into their path.
Upgrading is the key in this game, and to be honest the only real point to keep playing, yes you have score whoring and what not but that can only last so long. Buying new guns that do more damage is a must if you want to survive a sprinting horde, having a fast bike to outrun the occasional boss is essential and to build up the money to do these things you need the double coins bonuses from unlocking different levels like the woods, urban, city.
The problem is that some of the objectives come at far to lower level, I was at one point required to do a 50 kill combo when I was to lower level to get a gun that was suitable for it, after hours of trying I finally managed it, but then I was stuck trying to kill 300 zombies in one run when my best ever was 195. Some nerfing is required by the developers here, the opportunity to do these harder ones later in the game when you have better weapons is needed. My hope is that down the line Mobirate release some free updates that bring in more weapons and bikes, Jetpack Joyride should be the target for this game with its amount of costumes and novelty.
Pixel Art can be seen one of two ways these days, the bane of indie development, a crutch that all fall back on, or alternatively it’s nostalgia, an homage or a rebellion against the overly “count the polygon” attitude of today. I’m in the latter camp, pixel art doesn’t really age for me, sure Atari games and even NES games look a bit ropey, but SNES games are as great looking now as they were in 1994. Dead Ahead takes this style and works it like a man who likes to oil himself dances for a crowded hen party. The background locations are relatively pointless, the roads stay the same and the vehicles change location but not style so all that really changes is the difficulty and the bit of art whizzing past at 60mph. It does make for a nice change of scenery and gives the user the feeling of depth where maybe there isn’t really any.
The game lacks customisation and ‘extras’, yes there are new bikes and guns, but the cost is so high it can’t be an impulse purchase. As I said before this game is comparable to the great Jetpack Joyride, but it doesn’t nail the silliness, or the fun of having a steam rocket on your back or a Dog follow you around. There are In App Purchases in the form of ladies that sit on your bike and shoot for you, but that seems like it would make things easy, plus you have to pay quite a bit, finally there is one bit of DLC that is great, a bike. This bike is special, it is a replica of the bike from the Manga Anime Akira, as such it is awesome, but at £1.49 it’s just too much, with no option of using in game money it is another case of feeling like I’m being manipulated into In App Purchases.
This game is great, it has all the fun an endless runner should have and with the retro pixel art style it’s a game that wont date itself easily. The problem is the hamstrings itself with a mild lack of depth, being an endless runner and all, and the holding back of things for In App Purchases. The way I look at it is people would be happier to pay 69p for a game outright, rather than be tempted with the prospect of a free game and then given the ol’ bait and switch and punishment in the long run of a really badly implemented advert scheme. In App Purchases aside I would recommend this game to anyone, as it is free there should be no reason this doesn’t fly up the iTunes chart, the game is simple, fun, violent and features zombies, there’s nothing not to love.
+Great game with littered with opportunities for tactics
+Objectives and Upgrades
-Flow breaking adverts in the free version
+Menu soundtrack is great atmospheric
-Drone of in game engine is slightly off putting