Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Last Stand

The Last Stand is yet another survival shooter game. But this one is different! It's from a side-view perspective!

OK, I'm very tempted to end the review there, but I suppose I should say a few things about how the game works. So you have this barricade, with you on one side and the zombies on the other. The zombies walk up to the barricade and attempt to destroy it; if they succeed, then you'll be easy prey for them. You have to shoot them with whatever weaponry you happen to have on hand before this happens. You're also apparently not very good at shooting diagonally, so you have to move around a fair amount behind the barricade to get the best shots on zombies. Like in all survival shooter games, you have a wide variety of weaponry, distinguished by the number of shots they can fire before reloading, how long they take to reload, and how much damage you do. Your goal is to survive 20 nights, after which a helicopter arrives to rescue you.

Aside from the perspective, there are a couple of additional features worth mentioning. First of all, accuracy is very important also; some of the weapons are very inaccurate at long range, which makes it vital to select your shots wisely. Secondly, the normal mechanic of earning points during the level which are then spent in a shop to buy better equipment is replaced with a slightly more interesting mechanic -- each day, you have 12 hours, which you can split among repairing your barricade, looking for weapons, or looking for survivors. Survivors provide a little additional firepower, though since they don't move they can only help in a small part of the screen; they also make time spent repairing your barricade more effective. Looking for survivors is frustratingly random, though. Looking for weapons is somewhat more predictable -- you get a weapon once you've put in a certain fixed amount of time. However, any searching (either for survivors or weapons) carries the risk that one of your fellow survivors will be lost in the search party, which is also frustratingly random. The weapons are your typical array of weapons, starting with pistols, moving up through a couple of submachine guns and a rifle, and up through assault rifles to the extremely powerful sniper rifle. There's also the chainsaw, which is extremely satisfying to use but of course only works at short ranges. (I'd still call it somewhat overpowered, though.)

One nice touch is that nearly all of the zombies look different -- there's a wide range of heads and bodies, so that you don't just get the same zombie over and over again, and there's a lot of funny ones, like the undead preachers. However, they're nearly all functionally equivalent -- some zombies can run, which means they get to your barricade sooner, and some are fat, which means they can take more damage, but that's all the practical difference there is. As for the rest of the presentation, the graphics are not bad; there's no background music during the levels, only the moans of the undead and the shots of you and your fellow men; these are fine, but nothing special. There is a little spooky ambient music in the menu screens. The interface is nicely done, except for the weapon selection screen, which is rather clunky, but there are a lot of cute touches which clearly show that some thought went into the interface; overall, it's definitely better than average.

Anyway, this is enough better than the typical entrant in the genre that I didn't feel like playing it was totally pointless, but on the other hand it doesn't really add enough to the basic conventions of the genre to make it a really good game, either. It was fun to play to get the badge, but that was about all.

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