Beautiful Zombies

“Die…again!” I shout as I lay waste to a gaggle of undead, hell-bent on eating my brains. I swing my wrench, landing a mighty blow against the crown of an incoming zombie. With the bulk of my ravenous foes lying in a bloody heap on the floor, I make the call to save the rest for later and rebuild a nearby barrier. Switching to my SMG in case more zombies approach from beyond the 2x4s nailed to the wall, I step to the opening and begin the job. It only takes a few moments, but every second counts. I dash past corpses in various states of decomposition, pump a few bullets into an explosive barrel to buy myself precious time, swallow a fistful of painkillers to up my health and reach my goal.

I’ve already refilled the old generator with fuel, and now I must launch the satellite that will allow me to contact the resistance. It works, and my comms connect to the AM frequency. “If you are hearing this, you are the resistance,” the disembodied voice tells me. “We have small pockets operating all over the globe. We must live on! We must fight! We need every single one of you.” With this new drive to aid the human race, things are finally looking up.

Dead Trigger 2

But my HUD has just informed me a particularly nasty zombie, the Vomitron, is incoming. I turn as quickly as I can, and it is just in time for the terrible creature to lumber into view and spew puke into my eyes. I fire frantically in his general direction as I wait for the mess to clear, and when my vision returns I can see that he’s brought some friends. Damn…out of bullets. With a deep breath of resolve, I brandish my wrench once more and dash heroically into the fray. “You like that!?” I ask as I land the final crippling blow in his melting, undead face.

Developer Madfinger Games’ Dead Trigger 2 enters into the flooded market of zombie apocalypse titles with slick graphics, a massive arsenal, and dozens of little surprises that set it apart from the pack with ease. It isn’t entirely clear where the infection began, but a zombie plague now infests America. You, along with a handful of conveniently specialized survivors, will travel across the South killing zombies, growing stronger, and chipping away at the terrible new world order. You’ll begin alone with nothing save a wrench and a pistol, but the more survivors you come across and rescue, the more options you’ll have for killing off zombies. Eventually you will become a killing machine and one of the last defenses against an army of terrifying monsters.

Once you’ve torn through a few levels, Dead Trigger 2 opens up a bevy of interesting side missions that add lots of variety to the proceedings. In these side missions, you’ll scavenge for supplies, provide sniper fire, or simply kill as many zombies as humanly possible in a set amount of time. The main campaign is certainly lengthy and is a blast on its own, but these bite-sized missions not only provide an informal means to sharpen your killing skills, but you’ll be able to pick up blueprints from specialized zombies that provide new weapons and gadgets. These super-zombies also appear in the campaign, but their frequency in side-missions is notable.

Dead Trigger 2

The hero is controlled with virtual joysticks that, while adjustable, provide the most substantial challenge outside of being overrun by large numbers of undead. Frame-rate hiccups hinder fluidity whilst looking and aiming. There are even moments when the left “joystick” seems to get confused and sends you off in the opposite direction than what you were expecting. Given how absolutely beautiful Dead Trigger 2 looks, this would be completely forgivable if it weren’t for the whole thing simply crashing from time to time. Look, we get that crashes are simply a part of technology and that these things sometimes happen, but more than once these crashes came during a mad dash to the end of a level resulting in a replay of the whole thing.

Casual gamers will surely appreciate the streamlined shooting mechanics of Dead Trigger 2. Complaints levied against the first iteration have resulted in watered-down firing controls. Now, rather than operating the trigger yourself, your weapons fire from the hip automatically when you’ve lined up a zombie in your sights. For gamers who love the genre or, at the very least, have experience in such things, this provides a level of ease that seems to have been balanced by throwing an inordinate number of zombies in your path, which seems cheap. But nobody freak out just yet, because your good buddies at Madfinger Games will still allow you to use iron sights and fire on your own schedule.

Yes, this makes the game noticeably more challenging, but as the entire medium evolves and more gaming fanatics call foul when developers wrestle control away from us, it’s certainly a relief that Dead Trigger 2 gives us the option to play how we wish. Plus, the word “trigger” is right there in the title. Optional overwatch side-missions even go so far as to add an intensely satisfying level of control as you not only fire the sniper rifle, but you have a few seconds of control over the bullet itself. Hell, we’d play an entire game centered around just sniping zombies, so who do we high-five at Madfinger for the awesome bullet control decision?

Dead Trigger 2

A deeper level of strategy opens up between missions when you get down the brass tacks of resource building/management. Each of your comrades has a particular area of expertise, from gunsmithing and pharmaceutical concocting to techy gadget construction and demolitions. There’s even a smuggler who allows you to upgrade passive abilities (damage, health, etc.) for a price. Here in your HQ, you can ask your new friends to build things for you. Things like painkillers for health management, new guns for optimal head-a-splode-ability, chickens armed with bombs (not kidding), and more.

Each new item costs money and takes time to build, but you have the option to speed up production by spending gold earned through discovering golden pigs (also not kidding) hidden throughout the levels. Unfortunately, Madfinger doesn’t make the speed-up for gold process entirely clear and the precious metal is finite. This is where those pesky micro-transactions come into play, and it would feel a whole hell of a lot more like entrapment if it weren’t for the staggering value of Dead Trigger 2. This game is free, folks, and wouldn’t be out of place on consoles like Ouya or even Xbox 360 or PS3.

Dead Trigger 2

Music and sound effects are pretty much par for the iOS course. Yes, each gun sounds different and yes, the thud of a connecting wrench blow is pretty damn satisfying, but these sounds are as tinny as ever. Plugging in headphones will deepen the immersion and give sound effects a little bit of oomph, but Dead Trigger 2 probably won’t be winning any sound design awards soon. At its very best, the soundtrack is unobtrusive and provides minimal atmospheric addition. At its worst, it is completely forgettable.

Dead Trigger 2 provides enough options to suit just about any playing style, and the sheer level of content is jaw-dropping. In every single aspect, Madfinger has created a game that challenges, excites, and impresses. Not only is this game just about the best-looking title on the App Store, but it provides hours of fun in marathon sessions or short bursts. There are some technical issues here and there, but none sully the overall experience and will probably be fixed before you know it.

Zombies have inundated practically every area of entertainment with a level of infestation not unlike the fiction surrounding the shambling monsters themselves, but fans of FPS, undead horror, or just plain great games need to pick this up immediately and revel in the gory brilliance.