Mat Langford’s Gaming World – Zombie HQ

I’ve always been a fan of anything zombie related, especially zombie games like Left for Dead and Resident Evil. Surviving the zombie apocalypse with nothing but a baseball bat or a hand gun always seems so awesome, and I love immersing myself into those worlds.

Zombie HQ for the iOS is another game that had my interest piqued when our editor told me about it, and I had to try it out to see for myself.

Your home base, where you find missions, buy things, etc.
Your home base, where you find missions, buy things, etc.

The game’s premise (or lack there of) is simple. You’re a survivor of a zombie outbreak, and you’re currently living on a rooftop in the middle of a city that has been overrun by zombies. The main goal is to survive, while building your home base into a fortress.
It’s a top-down shooter that takes its cues from games like Alien Swarm on Steam, where you simply run and gun, lasting as long as you can and navigating linear pathways. There’s not much free exploration here. There is an ‘auto-aim’ mechanism in play as well, and it’s greatly appreciated, as often you’re finding yourself struggling with the virtual analog stick (surprise, surprise) to point the right way or run out of the way of a stampeding zombie.

Missions are varied by type. Some missions include “Rooftops”, where the goal is to traverse the roof tops of the city to make it from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, all the while taking out zombies with whatever weapons you have equipped. “Air-Drop” missions task you with defending a drop-zone from zombies for a set amount of time before a package arrives. “Survivors” has you defending innocents from the horde while they escape, and “Barricades” has you mending broken barricades while killing off a crowd of incoming zombies. The missions are fun, but soon get a little repetitive.

The "map" screen, where you can select and take part in missions.
The “map” screen, where you can select and take part in missions.

What keeps you interested is the games’ upgrade system. You complete missions to earn ‘Zollars’ – the in-game currency. You can then use them to buy things for your roof-top fortress or upgrade your weapons. A little confusing though, when you consider you’re separated from everything else, secluded on a roof-top, yet you’re still able to buy a couch or a generator from…where exactly? Let’s suspend belief for a while and focus on the weapons. There are a lot of them, and they have MANY levels of upgrades that cost a LOT of ‘Zollars’. You’re going to be playing this game for a long time if you want to get near completion – that is – have everything and all the weapons/tech.

Being free to play, Zombie HQ succumbs to the ugliness of pretty much all games like it – the ones that survive on micro-transactions. The game has you relying on energy to complete missions, and if you don’t have enough energy, you either have to wait until it builds back up (hours), or buy it right away. You can also use real world money to upgrade weapons and buy items for your fortress. Now, this would be ok if it was optional, a way to upgrade fast if you were impatient, but the fact is, it’s almost mandatory to play the game. You’re quickly out of energy and stuck waiting. It’s frustrating when all you want to do is play the game, but you can’t without spending more money or waiting ridiculous amounts of time. Just sell the game for $1.99 and take out the stupid energy aspect. The game would be much more fun and infinitely less irritating.

Out of energy...time to wait.
Out of energy…time to wait.

This is actually a fun game regardless, and the upgrading system is pretty fleshed out. The list of purchasable items in-game is huge, and all of those items allow you to replenish energy and stamina, as well as earn money. It seems like it would even out, but the problem is simply running enough missions to get the money to buy them WITHOUT running out of stamina. It’s a delicate balance that could be solved with a purchase price, and taking out the micro-transactions. Ina world, however, where games will all eventually go ‘free to play’ with micro-transactions, the unlimited financial ceiling that the mini in-game purchases give the developers is far to lucrative to pass up.

It seems that the battle between keeping the players happy and the money flowing will be a tough one, but it could produce some interesting game-play models if someone can figure out how to do both well.

Try it and see what you think!

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