Dead Effect: Dead on the inside, Dead on the outside - Games Weekly

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dead Effect: Dead on the inside, Dead on the outside

As with any game genre, first-person shooters have spent years evolving into a  variety of forms. However, the founding principle of the genre has remained largely, unfortunately, intact: To mindlessly shoot stuff. Dead Effect by Bad-Fly Interactive is no exception.

Dead Effect is very much an attempt to capitalize on the earliest roots that defined the genre: Linear level design, narrow corridors, and endless waves of enemies for you to blast through. Its environments are heavily influenced by Dead Space, and it plays just like Doom. It doesn’t waste any time throwing you into the action and getting right to the point, but it never amounts to much beyond that.

Players wake up abruptly from hibernation injured and in need of immediate medical attention. Before long, it is discovered that the spaceship you’re on, the ESS Meridian, is infested with zombies (how typical). Weapon in hand, players dive into the sole objective of the game before they know it: Mowing down hordes of zombies.


Isolated and alone, you’ll inch through the corridors of Meridian, aimlessly trying to find a purpose as to what’s happening. You then come into contact with someone else on the ship via radio, who is only there to give you a reason to progress through the story. Much of the 12 missions you’ll blast your way through consist of the same thing: Encountering locked doors that require you to find a code so you can progress, and an occasional boss fight. That’s really about it.

From the start, you’re allowed to pick from two character types: Gunnar Davis a war hero that specializes in using an assault rifle and semi-automatic weapons, and Jane Frey a “perfect killing machine” that uses shotguns and revolvers. The only difference between the two, aside from gender, is the starting weapon selection. In terms of extra abilities, each character has a “bullet time” effect where you can slow down time, and the power to let out a deadly energy blast in a radius around you. Both of which have a cooldown factor.

Each character features voice acting, which is passable. Actors deliver their lines with enough to get the bare minimum of emotion across; it never gets too dramatic or heartfelt. After all, I’d say the game’s purpose isn’t to tell a captivating story about a character’s emotional struggle. It’s about killing stuff, and at that, it’s deadly effective.

You’ll frequently use a flashlight to maneuver through the dark, pipe exposed corridors of the moody ship. The flashlight has a limited time of use, until it has to be recharged again which is a cliche that has existed in too many games for no reason. It’s small mechanics like this that really make Dead Effect feel like nothing more than a rehash of shooters that aren’t even a decade old. Much of the appeal of the game will lie in its deliberately nostalgic game design.

Enemies are never too varied, featuring only a handful of zombie types: Ones that shuffle, ones that are a bit stronger, some are fat and puke red balls at you, and you’ll occasionally come across the one with a chainsaw. They’ll typically show up in a herd of 20-30, piling down a single narrow hallway as you empty clip after clip of ammunition, occasionally freezing time before letting out a satisfying burst of energy, causing a dozen of them to blow up into bits and pieces. Though enemies are generic and often extremely repetitive to fight, they thankfully feature erratic movements that change up combat, but even that becomes tiring and predictable after a while. Sometimes they’ll dodge out of the way, or go from dragging themselves on the floor to on their feet and leaping at you.

During each mission, you’ll find tablets scattered about, each one holding a brief message from someone stationed on the Meridian before the zombie outbreak. While much of the game is extremely linear, these tablets are refreshing to discover, giving a little background to Dead Effect’s universe. You’ll also collect credit (money), often found in lockers that require the player to break open. Credit can be used at the end of each level to upgrade weapons. If you’re killed, the credits are also used to respawn you, otherwise you’ll have to start the entire mission over again. Occasionally, gold bars are dropped after killing enemies, which can be used to buy special items like a healing factor, or weapons including the chainsaw and minigun.

The ending of every mission is very reminiscent of completing a level in the original Doom. You’ll enter a small room, divided from the rest of the level, that houses a singular button that you press, causing the level to end. At the end of each mission, you’ll be briefed with your results: Time it took to complete, headshots, credits found, etc..

Instead of collecting health packs, levels contain healing stations that you simply step into. Halfway through the game, there is also a station that allows you to upgrade parts of your body like health, sprinting stamina, special moves, and bullet time. It’s a bizarre mechanic to throw in at such a late stage, but it admittedly offers some solid opportunity for upgrading.

Aside from the Campaign, there are Survival and Biohazard modes. Survival mode allows you to play through each mission and see how long you can go without dying. Biohazard offers a more arcade style approach, where you must survive wave after wave with limited supplies.

The overall production value of Dead Effect is extremely impressive. The game looks fantastic, and performs extremely well, even on a lower-end laptop. Music is extremely well produced, roaring with movie trailer sirens and infusing a sense of suspense and drama into facing a horde of monsters. The game features a look and feel that could easily be mistaken for a AAA-produced title.

Dead Effect is surely aware of what it is, and doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a straightforward zombie shoot-em-up, and that might be something to appreciate. After all, sometimes you just want to aimlessly mow down the undead without reason. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have fun playing Dead Effect, but there’s only so much aimless zombie killing I can do without a strong narrative. It’s a throwback to the old-school FPS, with just a hint of modern amenity. I’d have to say that Dead Effect is best geared to a casual audience, looking for a mindless fix. So if you’re looking for the next Dead Space, look elsewhere.

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