The zombie genre. With the success of such classics as the Resident Evil series, the Hunter: The Reckoning series, and the Silent Hill series, developers in the industry look for any reason to develop a horror game and make a killing (pardon the pun) in the genre of the undead. What better reason than to make a game based off the latest movie from one of the greatest Zombie-film makers of all time, George Romero? Alas, like most movie-based video games, Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler?s Green was nothing more than a great disappointment to zombie enthusiasts everywhere.
You play the role of Jack, a stereotypical farmer who finds himself in a sticky situation. Looking out his window, Jack sees a sickly-looking stranger standing in the middle of his yard. However, upon further investigation, Jack discovers that this is no ordinary syphilis-infected drifter (though they might stumble around mumbling, they usually aren?t so desperate for a meal that they resort to eating brains!) Jack finds his farm slowly being overrun by the living dead (zombies aren?t known for their speed). After trying to contact the neighbors and consequently finding their remains, Jack hears a broadcast of a refuge where the remnants of the living are assembling. Running low on food, Jack decides to try and make it to the City of the Living. Once there, Jack is hired to rid the zombie population from Fiddler?s Green, a skyscraper complex for the high-class society. In exchange, Jack will be given a room in Fiddler?s Green, so that he doesn?t? have to live on the streets. So where does the movie tie into the game? It doesn?t. There are no prominent characters or storylines found in game! The only connections are zombies and the building known as Fiddler?s Green. There is the entire game plot for you. Now, you will never have to play this game out of curiosity. Life is much too precious to be wasted playing this $30 disc, which is now used for target practice?which of course is essential incase a zombie horde arises!
Land of the Dead is a first person shooter that just doesn?t measure up to this decade?s standards. An essential element to a FPS is the A.I. This factor can make or break a FPS. An intelligent A.I. can make a FPS one of the most popular games of all-time (i.e. Halo), while an ignorant A.I. can earn a game a spot in the bargain bin at your local Wal-Mart. Needless to say, I hope Wal-Mart didn?t order too many copies of Land of the Dead. ?But wait,? you might say, ?isn?t the whole premise of zombie games that they are ignorant, flesh-craving, motor-challenged targets?? Not quite. As those who have seen the movie already know, the whole premise of Land of the Dead is that the zombies are gaining intelligence and starting to interact as an undead society, mimicking the living in their actions. However, as stated earlier, the zombies in the game retain no semblance of intelligence. They slowly lurk towards you, stopping dead in their tracks at times for no apparent reason. The zombies have two attacks, a swing and a double swing?scary, eh? These attacks are easily avoidable by anyone who is awake while playing the game. There is one more factor that can redeem the enemy design in a zombie game, the horde factor. But alas, on average you will probably never encounter more than 2 or 3 zombies at a time, hence no horde factor. In short, the enemy A.I. is an utter disappointment and a stain on George Romero?s name.
The combat system doesn?t fair much better than the enemy A.I. Melee combat consists of two types of attacks: weak attacks and strong attacks. Weak attacks are absolutely useless against the undead. No matter how much you hit a zombie with the weak attack, it may only show a slight reaction to it half of the time, allowing it to lumber towards and leaving you open to attack. Therefore, you will find yourself using strong attacks for the majority of the game. Though Jack starts off with no weapons and only has his fists against the zombies (which do NO damage whatsoever), there are a number of melee weapons that can be found throughout the game, each with different length and damage attributes. These weapons include hammers, shovels, baseball bats, golf clubs, fire axes, and lead pipes. As for the reactions to the strong attacks, the zombies fall down after every hit?EVERY hit?and it takes anywhere between 2 and 5 hits to take a zombie down permanently. You do the math. Regardless of the weapon, after re-killing each zombie, there is one extra-exaggerated death animation where the zombie goes flying backwards. After a few seconds of twitching, the zombies simply vanish into thin air.
Projectile weapons are also quite abundant throughout the game, contrary to the ?limited ammo? appearance the game puts forth. Like the melee weapons, a variety of guns can be collected and utilized, varying in the damage they deal and the range at which they are effective, including revolvers, shotguns, M-16s, and grenades. (These weapons will be found in the weirdest places, including gym lockers and desk drawers. It sounds like there were some disgruntled employees before the undead started to rise if you ask me.) The game claims to use a location-specific damage system. However, I find this system to completely random at best. Shoot a zombie in the face point-blank range and watch an arm fall off. Shoot a zombie in the chest and watch his head explode. There doesn?t seem to be any rules to the system.
The graphics in Land of the Dead look like they were designed a decade ago. Visually, this is one of the worst games ever released for the Xbox. For example, you start out the game on your farm. To get to the neighbor?s farm, you must travel through a cornfield?a 2-D cornfield. There is no excuse for such laziness in an Xbox game. The level design is horrendous. For the environments, the developers must have created one small template of a tile for the floors, one for the hundreds of cabinets found throughout the game, and so on and just had a field day with the copy and paste function. The zombie design is not well developed either. Many of the zombies are supposedly covered in blood, but it looks like they just got messy at the Olive Garden and spilled their lasagna all over themselves. Not only are the zombies poorly designed, but there are not that many different zombie designs found in the game. In fact, it wouldn?t be uncommon for you to find identical zombies chasing you. The framerate isn?t very consistent, once again taking away the tension factor from the game. Part of the joy of games like Resident Evil is that you never know what you will find around each corner. In Land of the Dead, the game temporarily freezes as it inserts zombies into the level. Scared yet? No? I didn?t think so.
The audio in Land of the Dead fairs just as bad as a vertically challenged man in a height contest. The music is a loop of a few different synthesized notes. Being as the only voice acting is Jack and the zombies, there must be something good to say there, right? Nope. As for Jack, his monologue is boring and monotone. As for the undead, they have a few grunts and groans (as expected) and hence, there is no reason to rely on them to save the audio score. Basically, the audio is just as horrible as the graphics, if not worse. Want some advice? Mute the TV and put a Rob Zombie CD into your stereo while you are playing. This combination makes for a much better auditory experience.
Here is a hypothetical scenario. Let?s say you and a friend are fans of the zombie genre, and after seeing the movie, go out and purchase the video game, completely oblivious of the consequences. Therefore, you both have bought a horrible game, but at least you BOTH bought it. Lucky for you, Land of the Dead offers a full multiplayer mode for both Xbox Live and system link. Xbox Live offers four options: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Invasion (where players co-operate to take down waves of zombies), and Capture the Flag. One good feature can be found in the Deathmatch. While hunting down your opponent, zombies roam the level attacking you both. As a result, you find yourself with two different enemies to be concerned with, as does your opponent making for a much more interesting game. However, this is where the compliment ends. It was fun while it lasted. The multiplayer modes are infested with poorly designed maps, randomly spawning zombies, and recurrent lagging.
Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler?s Green is the worst Xbox game I have ever played, period. It is a perfect example of what a modern day FPS should NOT be. Unfortunately, George Romero is as much to blame as any developer by slapping his name on the product just to make a few bucks by deceiving gamers into buying something they would at any other time assume was good quality. I was more disgusted and terrified by the atrocious gameplay, graphics, and audio of the game than I have been of any of Mr. Romero?s movies. Even the most hardcore fans of Mr. Romero?s work would be appalled at this game. Therefore, I can not recommend this game to anyone, and I encourage anyone who was deceived into purchasing this game to write Mr. Romero a letter detailing his/her dissatisfaction towards the lousy product he associates himself with.