by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Oh the humanity
I try and find the best in everything, but National Zombie Park is really putting that aspect of me to the test. It’s going to be hard to criticize just about everything about this survival roguelike game without seeming mean to the developers. They’ve put the effort in and made a... reasonably functional product. But you shouldn’t pay money for this game, despite it being fairly cheap. At one point I had to check the store page on Steam and check it wasn’t in a very early stage of Early Access. It’s not.
You start out in a barren desert. Oh wait, the textures and objects just haven’t loaded yet, it’s a randomly generated forest. Hopefully you’ve read the controls in the options menu, because you’re not going to be getting any help from the game. You’ll also have to quit out to the main menu if you want to do that. Once you’ve done that, you’re looking at a guy from a top down perspective, you’ve got a little aiming reticule which you move around with the mouse, and you can walk around using WASD. A few objects materialise around you, a couple of weapons and two bulletproof vests for some reason (picking up a second merely replenishes you back to 100%, consuming the first one).
And that’s it. I guess you’re just supposed to intuit the backstory from what’s going on around you. I had to read some patch notes to find out that you’re looking for a lost friend. Other than that the objective is to simply survive as long as possible. If the game had been called something more imaginative than the name of the only enemy type followed by the location it’s set in, I wouldn’t have known there were zombies at all until I encountered the first one. It barely animated as it shambled towards me, and I barely animated as I walked towards it and swung a baseball bat. After two hits it fell to the floor.
On the next one I tried using a gun. Nothing happened. You have to manually load each weapon, even when you first pick it up. If it’s a weapon that doesn’t have a normal clip, like a double barreled shotgun or a crossbow, you have to load each individual projectile. I know you’re all about the ‘realism’, National Zombie Park, but can’t we just assume I want to load up another bolt into my crossbow after I’ve fired it?
Oh, I’m dying
Sometimes zombies will drop more items, or you’ll find them littered around buildings. Usually ammo or weapons, but sometimes antidotes. Apparently you have some sort of virus that will kill you, shown by a meter in the top right. I had no idea until the screen started flashing red and the game finally gave me a tutorial. Other than that you’ll find batteries for your flashlight, which will last for maybe a minute before running out. It’s not like it illuminates the environments very much anyway.
Which brings me to the visuals, which are largely terrible. When the textures aren’t popping in and out, you’re looking at a bland forest, with lighting and shadows that blur together in a really nauseating fashion. You’ll come across cookie cutter buildings with the same tileset inside, and if you’re really lucky you’ll stumble upon a broken down vehicle. There are “dungeons”, which are just underground buildings with a selection of corridors and empty rooms. There’s a day night cycle, with more zombies randomly appearing at night. Maybe they crawl out of the floor or something.
Please make it stop
Apparently I unlocked a ‘new suit’ by reaching Day 2. I’m not sure whether that was automatically applied to my character and I looked exactly the same, but I can’t find any mention of it anywhere in the menus. That said there’s not many menus. You have three graphics options, a volume slider and you can look at the controls. Oh, and you can direct join someone else’s multiplayer game, but there’s no matchmaking.
Once I tried to enter a building, the door swung open and I immediately died. So much for that bulletproof vest. Another time I found a katana, and it seemed to do exactly the same thing as my machete. Some time later on the game wouldn’t randomly generate an antidote for me, so I died. When I next spawned I picked up a grenade launcher and tried to end it all by aiming at a wall, but the barrel was poking through the geometry so the explosion happened outside. I took a step back and tried again, but there was no splash damage. National Zombie Park exists. My advice would be that you don’t buy it.