Rating: ESRB – Teen
I can’t deny that they’re right, after all you are guaranteed hours upon hours of zombie shooting fun as you journey through more than 18 large levels in this zany adventure. And with 4 characters to choose from, seven wonky vehicles to drive, tons of stuff to pick up and collect (read as “cash”), and a wickedly cool store to patronize to buy the latest weapons and gadgetry, Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia (MM:BFS) will be a game to remember.
And, if you can live with the rather irksome camera views in the game – a top down behind the back and over the shoulder view or a top down skewed perspective, then you’re set to enjoy the often cool battles with the hordes of zombified terrors.
PS – If you are looking for an alternative zombie game, try this review.
- Adventure – play solo or with three other friends in this zany campaign that takes you through Suburbia.
- Versus – 1 to 4 players will battle it out in 6 different arenas on a single computer.
- Local Network / Internet – if you thought the previous mode was limiting, well you can always try playing with up to 15 players on a LAN or the Internet. Choose from a choice of 11 maps (only two of these offer the 16 player match-up).
- Extras – Looks like there are quite a number of extras to unlock. You can get for yourself costumes, movies, new levels, and even access a bestiary to see all the monsters you have met in the game.
To tell you frankly, I never had a chance to try out these modes against other players – Versus (I did not have an extra controller), Local Network (I have no LAN set up), and Internet (and I could find no one to play with). So, the rest of the review is assessed based on the Adventure mode.
You start your adventure with a comic strip. Not that there’s an impressive story to the game, it’s more like you’re thrown into the thick of things as you start off in Zack’s House. For reasons not revealed to us, our four characters – Zack, Carrie, Andy, and Jennifer (all in their mid-teens) must face off against a sudden attack of zombies.
Playing solo has its disadvantages as the first level demonstrates. You will be attacked on all sides after the doors break down, and the zombies start to swarm in. Luckily, each hero has an affinity to a certain weapon. Zack loves swinging his axe, Carrie was probably an undead samurai in her past life (don’t ask), Andy prefers a plunger or hockey stick, while blonde Jennifer is the regular dual baton twirling junkie.
Just listen to the tutorial voiceover, read the instructions, follow them to the letter, and you’ll be alright. Your first task is to find your favorite melee weapon lying somewhere in Zack’s house. You then learn how to use your weapons to slice and dice and survive your first level. You can pick up almost anything else and use them as a makeshift (melee or missile) weapon. Just hit the E key to perform an action (like picking up a makeshift weapon). You also learn about your power bar that gives you a special move that helps take out enemies with your melee weapon. Look out for a thumbs up icon to invoke this power move.
Movement is quite straightforward. W, S, A, and D keys to move, while the mouse changes your point of view. And don’t forget to dodge as well with the space bar. The controls can be reconfigured if you desire.
Later on, your adventure takes you into town and you will acquire your first weapon – the nailgun. You will be getting it from Larry Tools, a mysterious benefactor who drives a mean looking trailer. Larry is sort of like a merchant who sells stuff to the ragtag survivors of Suburbia. To buy anything from Larry, you’ll need to collect parts including nails, screws, wire, tape, batteries, and more.
Weapons typically have three levels, so try to find as many parts as you can. If you find enough of them, you can either upgrade your existing weapons, or purchase new ones such as the pipe shotgun, rocket launcher, cellphone tazer, grenade slingshot, sonic shield, and other far out home-made weapons.
The zombies in MM:BFS are definitely not what you’d expect in a zombie game. These guys come in all shapes and sizes, and I literally mean it. There are slim zombies, fat zombies, indian chief zombies, jack-o lantern zombies, zombie dogs, evil clown zombies, demons, and so on. Zombies are usually introduced in a grainy sepia-toned movie, complete with a stylized car plate that displays the zombie’s name.
The zombies that rush you are easily defeated and will drop you turquoise monster tokens (1 point), while the bigger blokes like the Fat zombie and Big foot zombie, net you red (5 points) and green (10 points) monster tokens. These tokens are shaped in the form of a hexagonal gem, so can’t possibly miss them. You’ll need to spend the tokens at Larry’s or at vending machines that dish you health and ammo. So collect as many tokens as you can; you can’t leave home without ’em.
Here are some other interesting moments in MM:BFS –
- Monster fest – You enter a mini barricaded arena where the only way to exit is to kill the number of zombies printed at the bottom centre of your screen.
- Checkpoint system – Look out for a flashy “Salvation Coffin” that allows you to save your progress in a level. You’ll need to use these often as some of the levels are large, the zombies are obnoxiously vicious, and often, you’ll spend a lot of time backtracking to satisfy the many sub-objectives.
- Vehicles – You will discover 7 different vehicles in the game. You will either love them or hate them as you find the physics governing them to be challenging to drive.
- Playing as a monster – There will be a couple of instances in the game when you have to play as a monster, so get ready for different rules sets. For example, playing as a zombie means you get to try out the projectile vomit attack… cool!
Powered by the Unreal Engine 3, I was expecting a lot more from MM:FBS. I think it’s probably because the models look and move rather jerkily (well, they’re zombies after all). And, the modeling of some of these creatures are quite ordinary. The art direction is definitely unique and may grow to be an acquired taste (especially if you grimace at the sight of them in the first few levels).
Some of the levels are pretty large and have an open-ended approach to their design. They are also adorn with loads of props (static obstacles), parts, and objects (makeshift weapons). It will take you a long time to even pick up every single part in the game. The developers have gone really wild when it comes to placement of parts and objects.
The two camera views you get are decidedly lame. You can’t zoom in or out; the mouse wheel selects your weapon instead. You will feel overwhelmed in overhead mode the first time, but if you stick with the schtick, you’ll get by.
When it comes to operating the 3D vehicles, all I can say is that driving some of these will build up your frustration level. The worst vehicle stage involving the buggy can be considered an almost show stopper for me because of an unforgivable bug. Fortunately, I managed to sneak past that level by chance. I would think a controller might help alleviate the wonkiness I felt driving some of them (with the keyboard and mouse), but I must say you just have to bear with the insane bouncing of the buggy.
Finally, there’s the reasonable 2D art work, monster movies, and animated comic strip tale, all these help to add up to the game’s distinctive style and may turn MM:BFS into a possible cult favourite.
I found the music (composed by Afshin Toufighian) to be rather charming for a horror game of MM:BFS’ stature. It definitely has it’s cute thematic moments mixed in with the horror-themed bass. As for the characters, I found all the voiceovers to be reasonably bearable. The best acting would probably go to Larry Tools and the narrator, both voiced by Steve Brooks (who incidentally sounds like Macho Man Randy Savage – at a pinch).
- MM:BFS has a pretty long adventure comprising 18 large levels. Most of the later levels take quite a while to complete.
- There’s an interesting selection of zombies and bosses to battle.
- Interesting sub-objectives help to add some variety to the game. Expect to hunt for parts in a parking lot, destroy a ferris wheel by bashing at it’s structural supports, race along the highway, hunt for specific zombies, and so on.
- The keyboard and mouse controls response is not as responsive as other Unreal Engine 3 games. My character’s movement just felt a little too jerky for comfort and I attribute this to the large number of objects in the level – see tips below.
- The available camera views in MM:BFS only makes control more troublesome.
- Driving some of the vehicles just doesn’t seem right.
- If you can get past the first three problems, then you have to worry about meeting game stopping bugs. At world 1, level 4 – while escaping the gnarly vehicles with your buggy, you may encounter a bug that does not restart you at the correct location after you get killed by the gnarly spikes.
- You get a real shallow story with pointless but funny one-liners. If you don’t mind the script, by all means go for it and get yourself entertained.
- Game play improved when I lowered my resolution to 800 x 600; even the bouncing feeling I felt driving the vehicles went away a bit.
- At world 1, level 4 – Try to get into the safe zone at the start to stay out of the way of the gnarly vehicles as it drives past you (see picture above).
- If you want to get past all the problems I listed and truly enjoy the game, get a more powerful gaming rig – that directly applies to me as well.
I never thought I’d enjoy Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia, after encountering some of the problems in the game. I attribute some of my complaints due to my computer being taxed to the limit. The game was definitely more playable at a lower resolution. So I have adjusted my final score to that of a 7 instead of a 6.5.
There is no doubt that there is some serious fun to be had in this game – Unreal style. My predictions is that people will treat this game as a cult favourite in the future. If you persevere, you will find that beyond the action, the silly antics of the zombies, and the reported problems, this game can also qualify to be a rewarding thinking man’s game as well.
Save Suburbia today!