Trapped Dead: review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
  • Developer: Headup Games
  • Players: 1 – 4
  • Site: http://www.trappeddead.com

Mixing up the zombie genre with a real-time strategy, role-playing game hybrid was a good idea to breathe hot putrid air back into the undead lungs of the shuffling menace with a penchant for nibbling grey matter. Trapped Dead has a simple enough idea; choose four from a selection of six survivors and go out into the infested towns, churches and gun shops to get supplies and hopefully formulate a getaway plan.

Aside from the new spin on an old nemesis, there are plenty of other good ideas running between the piles of festering corpses and blood trails leading to bad news. The second playable character you encounter is wheelchair bound which actually goes a long way to introducing tactical decisions. Some objectives are of course – rather cruelly – up a flight of stairs that ol’ wheels obviously has a minor aversion to. Do you give him a gun, park him in the corner and hope for the best, or do what you need and rush back to his side? It’s the little ideas like this that make the game new and different from anything else out there.

Unfortunately this streak of good innovation doesn’t last and before long things just seem to get a bit silly. It was an abrupt surprise to find upwards of 30 zombies waiting at the beginning of the third level, especially when all we had was an axe, a baseball bat, and two pistols with extremely limited ammunition. There was no gentle slope to ease you into the challenge, just a graceless roll into deep water – deep water with zombies that swim and chew at the same time.

This man has an extreme phobia of hugging

While the challenge is very sudden, you can sympathise that it puts you in the very disheartening situations that any survivor would find themselves in during a zombie apocalypse. Ammunition conservation, use of melee weapons and careful distribution of plasters and morphine are all skills that you will need to pick up quickly.

Unfortunately (a word that would be very easy to overuse in this review) the main challenge isn’t necessarily due to the overwhelming numbers of the undead, but instead it’s down to how the game lets you deal with them. In most situations we encountered it was simple: kill everything or run through it. Killing courtyards of zombies systematically takes an irritating amount of time because – as any MMO veteran will tell you – drawing the entire horde is easy to do in a rush and very detrimental if you want to keep all of your tasty flesh.

Running through the crowds of hungry anti-vegans is also difficult, helped in absolutely no way by the survivor AI’s ability to navigate. They’ll get caught on each other, on stairs, they’ll even run into zombies and get caught on them. It means that the only realistic way to navigate safely is to go one at a time, and of course this means that you have to leave people behind on different screens, unattended and open to zombie elevenses.

Environmental hazards are good for dropping zombies in bulk

Self preservation is something incredibly low on the survivor’s minds. They have no sense of self defence when they come under attack, even if they are holding an axe and have the stamina of ten Energiser bunnies pepped up on crack to wield it. This lack of auto-attack is monstrously frustrating in an RTS game where you occasionally need to abandon some of your flock on a different screen.

This is only worsened by the fact that one death in your squad of four leads to instant game over. No chance to revive anybody, no way to continue without them, just straight back to the last checkpoint. This could easily be back through the mutilated torsos of the 50 or so zombies it just took you an hour to get through, which will all now be respawned ready for your hacking displeasure.

More problems arise in the fundamental structuring of the game. When you are in-game there is no “Load Game” button in the pause menu, with the unpleasant embrace of zombie overdose being the only way to return to a load screen without exiting. Also, the “Continue” button on the main menu will not drop you back to your previously saved game, only to the point before you started the level you are on. Why it doesn’t drop you back where you left the game – and clearly the point that you intended to continue from – is beyond us.

"I think they like us"

The controls are another aggravating issue. Left-click moves survivors to a location and right-click indicates where you want to use an equipped item. It sounds simple, but there are a few random exceptions to the rule. For example, to use a first aid kit, that’s a left-click and selection boxes are drawn over your survivors with the right mouse button. It runs against RTS conventions that genre veterans instinctively reach for. To make things even more infuriating the survivors don’t always obey instructions to equip weapons. The amount of times we ran into a group of murderous neck chompers bare handed was overwhelmingly annoying.

It would be easy to overlook a lot of these issues in multiplayer, as each survivor controlled by a single player sounds like it would work around some of these major problems. Unfortunately this relies heavily on finding a multiplayer partner, something that we were unable to do all through the review process. By yourself you are going to need some incredible micromanagement skills to not thump your keyboard to bits in frustration.

Trapped Dead is another one of those tragic games that started running with a fantastic idea, only to trip up over its own creativity with fundamental flaws that hold it back. It is a functional game with some great concepts, but with some vital game mechanics overlooked and some rather wobbly AI. It has the appeal of a hug from Angelina Jolie, should she have succumbed to the zombie virus that has rotted her torso and lower jaw away.


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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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