Bulykpix has thrown their shotgun into the first-person (zombie) shooter genre with Undead: The Last Refuge. You are barricaded in a rundown house with a constant barrage of brain-seeking zombies eagerly trying to get in through the barely covered windows. Starting out with just a pistol, every time you kill a zombie you earn money which can be used to unlock new locations in the house. Here you’ll have access to two additional weapons including a shotgun and machine gun. While opening more rooms means more space to run, you’ll also expose additional areas from which the zombies can attack. Take more than two hits in the row and you’re zombie chow, so you need to stay alert.
Undead’s controls consist of two buttons on the left, the top of which is your fire button, and the other is a virtual stick for moving. Both of these work well, but for some reason the location of the “shoot” button felt a bit awkward at first since it forced me to take my finger off the movement stick, and therefore not allowing me to move and fire at the same time. You can swipe your finger pretty much anywhere else on the screen to aim your gun. When your current clip of ammo runs out, a small reload button appears, or you can simply shake your device to reload. Moving close to an open window shutter triggers another button to appear which you can press/hold to close the shutters, which helps delay the attacking zombies’ entry into the house.
The game’s 3D graphics and animations are well rendered, though the overall lighting is perhaps a bit too dark. Apparently the game engine is capable of rendering “up to 32 shambling zombies at once”, but fortunately I was never in a situation requiring me to face down 32 simultaneous undead enemies to verify this. However I did have several instances with groups of 5 or more attackers, all of which ran smoothly on my second gen iPod Touch. The sound design and effects are also well done, giving Undead a nice spacial quality, creating an aural sense of where the zombies are coming from (even w/o headphones).
The movement and controls are smooth and responsive, but I would have liked to see an aim sensitivity adjustment option that allowed for faster turns without multiple swipes. You have an aiming reticle to assist you in targeting, and when you stay still, this shrinks, allowing you to be more precise and obtain more headshots, which in turn, earns you more money and helps you conserve your bullets (because the ammo is sparse). That being said, the shot detection system still needs a bit more fine tuning as there were multiple instances where I was shooting body shots that were registered as “headshots”.
I did find it a bit difficult to know which areas were unlock-able until I randomly roamed the walls and found a spot where the “money” icon popped up. It would be helpful to either have a popup overview blue-print style map that gives you the layout of the house, to see where you could possibly unlock next. When the game ends, players are asked to enter an old-school style high score moniker of just three characters. The literature we were initially sent with the game mentioned that it had OpenFeint integration allowing you to “keep track your survival skills and compare your scores with others engaged in the game”, but as far as I could tell, this never made it into the final build. I think a global leader board along with achievements would really round out the gameplay. Additional ammo pickups as well as quicker access to (and more variety of) new weapons would help flesh out the game as well.
Undead: The Last Refuge is a solid zombie-themed endurance-style first person shooter, with nice graphics and sound, but needs just a little bit more punch to reach its full potential. After a slow build up, it takes off and with no power-meter, Undead is both challenging and unforgiving. The game is priced appropriately at $2.99, since in my opinion, Undead is superior to a similar title Be Free or die, but it’s missing the scale, features and bells and whistles of more expensive titles like Zombie Infection, Call of Duty : World At War : Zombies or Call of Duty : World At War : Zombies II. Undead : The Last Refuge is mindless entertainment that allows you to just switch off your brain, and then defend it.