I admit, I was saving this one as a palate cleanser. After a stream of simple puzzle games, micropayment-focused irritants and a couple of games which now make me wake up in a cold sweat, a title about blowing zombies up with rockets and stamping on the remaining goo seemed like we were back in my territory. Home is where the heart is, as well as a couple of dismembered limbs crossed prettily over the garden gate.
In fact, we were more in my territory than I could ever have imagined. Unkilled wears the word “generic” like a coat of arms, proudly offering nothing new to the medium of doofuses combating the undead. Instead, it works to make any contribution clean and comprehensible, refining it into a product that generally does the important stuff right. Other people can bother with risky ideas like innovation.
Because the story feels like such a cliché that I wondered if that was the point; a subtle wink and a nod to an audience who immediately knows what they’re in for when they see the tropes proudly on display. There’s a couple of ruggedly handsome white guys with large weapons that they use to kill zombies, a lady on a headset who tells you where you go to kill zombies, and a version of New York that’ll be in need of a diligent street-sweeping team after somebody goes in and kills all those zombies.
So the killing of zombies can certainly be called the focal point around which everything is roughly centred. There’s also the usual brigade of special zombies who shuffle behind the general horde – the fat one that indulges in a bit of suicide bombing, the little one who sprints around like the roadrunner, and the huge one with so much muscle mass in his upper body it’s a wonder that his legs don’t give out from the strain.
And you shoot them. Or stab them. Or blow them up, or kick them, or whatever takes your fancy, all in a fairly bog-standard first-person shooter. I admit, I found myself grimacing when I saw that the game was using virtual analog sticks and buttons (a system that captures all the elegance of a newly-born foal trying to run on an icy lake) but the layout is sufficiently large and responsive that it avoids the worst of the problems that come with such designs. It does help that the game takes over the actual act of shooting for you, having the members of Team America pull the trigger automatically when you position the crosshairs over a target. There’s also explosives, knives, an adrenaline syringe that doesn’t act like adrenaline in the slightest – the default arsenal of zombie-grinding gear.
And between missions you upgrade that gear and your characters, which is where it edges away from being a zombie games and focuses more on being what you’d expect from an iPhone game. So of course there’s micropayments, advertisements, delayed rewards, randomised content, benefits for turning on the app every few hours… You know, all the rubbish that annoys those who endure it. But considering they generally keep to the background, it is less obnoxious than most products you’d see them in and doesn’t intrude to the point where the whole thing just feels like a platform for scraping pennies out of player’s pockets.
It’s funny. I remember getting one of the first iPhones when I was a teenager, and something like this would’ve blown my mind. Nowadays it comes across as far less revolutionary, but I won’t say not to download Unkilled. It’s perfectly serviceable fun, if rather shallow and unadventurous, and will suffice for anybody who wants entertainment without having to cough up their hard-earned cash. If you want an approximation of what you’re in for, play Left 4 Dead, then lower your expectations a couple of notches to compensate for mobile hardware micropayments. It might not be a fillet steak, but a fast-food baconburger is better than nothing.