iPhone Game Review: Alive 4-ever
You are all that stands between humanity's survival and endless zombie hordes in this immersive survival shooter. Play as one of four heroes fighting against impossible odds and hoping to come out alive. The entire game feels like you're in a dark, gritty zombie movie and is an altogether wonderfully immersive experience.
Once the game loads, the Main Menu presents 4 fairly standard options: Start, Ranking, Options, and Help. Ranking displays your highest scores. Options lets you toggle music, sound, and amount of blood, and Help presents you with a series of 6 screens explaining the interface and how to play the game. Overall the Help screens are really helpful and I encourage you to look over and read all of them.
Pressing Start takes you to a loading screen where you can have up to 4 active characters. This is definitely nice if you have to share your device or want to experiment with different character setups. Touch a slot and you are prompted to enter a name for your character. One thing I don't understand is that you can only have up to 6 letters which really limits your possibilities.
Once you've given yourself a name, you'll be given a short background story that explains fairly generically what has happened and why you find yourself here fighting zombies. No spoilers here...you'll just have to read it for yourself. Now you're at Base Camp where you will do all of your character management - you'll be returning here a lot during the course of gameplay. First select "Characters" to choose from 1 of 4 characters to play. Each one of them has a boosted stat and different gun setup from the others. Next is "Abilities", you have 12 points to spend here; note that each skill has a different point cost per skill level. You're done with character creation at this point since you have no money to spend on weapons and have not won any equipment to equip so press "Let's Go!" to get to the fun.
Next, you select "Let's Go!" again to start the single player campaign or you can decide to join or host a bluetooth multiplayer game. I have not personally tried out multiplayer, but from other player comments it works really well; although, both players should probably reboot their devices before joining up.
There are 30 levels total with 3 boss fights at levels 10, 20, and 30. The levels are each presented as scenes in the "Lobby" and the current scene must be completed to unlock the next. You can choose to replay any unlocked scene. This is very helpful in grinding for money or experience to help increase your character's level or build up cash for a better weapon. Each scene has a main objective and a secondary challenge. You must accomplish the objective to unlock the next level and while passing challenges is optional you will want to complete these since this is how you unlock your equipment. Drag up and down on the scenes to view them, tap to select one to play, and press "Let's Go!" to start.
Alive 4-ever is set up as a top-down, dual stick shooter. The left dial controls character movement and the right dial controls the direction you are shooting. Overall the controls work well and are nicely implemented; however, there were times when I would be moving along and the controls would snap back to center and stop responding to my touch. I would have to then lift and reseat my thumbs to begin moving and shooting again. I noticed the problem really manifests itself if I played for an extended period and my iPhone started to get warm. Also, the controls seems to work best when you use the tips of your thumbs to control direction; I had trouble when I used the pad of my thumbs. No one else that I know of has made comments like this so perhaps it's just me; however, the control issues did cause me lots of frustration when they occurred. My advice - don't let your device get too warm and use the tips of your thumbs on the controls.
Now one common complaint was that the mission briefing window was way to easy to open. At the upper left, just under the Pause button, there is a small briefcase icon. Press on it or anywhere to the right of it just above the left stick and the briefing window explaining the objective and challenge for that scene is opened. If you're not careful and brush the area with a fingernail or thumb tip, you can find yourself opening this window repeatedly in the middle of combat and obscuring around 1/3 of the screen until you tap to close it again. The game does not pause while the briefing window is open so you can quickly find yourself dog piled by zombies you can't see.
At the upper right, are the icons for your two-handed and one-handed weapons. Simply click on the icon to switch to the other gun. If you run out of ammo for your main gun, you will automatically shift to the pistol which has infinite ammo. You also auto reload and each gun will take a variable amount of time before you can shoot again. You can manually reload by pressing the Reload icon found at the bottom center.
The only other button available to you is only visible when triggered by nearby events. It is a pickup/drop button and will be located to the right just above the right stick. You will use it to pick up items like ammo powerups, quest items like vaccines, or to get a survivor to follow you. Again, use your thumb tip to press on it as I found it also became somewhat unresponsive when my iPhone got hot or I used my thumb pad.
There are only a few basic mission types in Alive 4-ever. They include killing a set number of enemies, retrieving items like vaccines or gold bullion and bringing them back to the Rescue Zone, retrieving survivors and escorting them to the Rescue Zone, or surviving for a set amount of time. When you pick up an item, you will only be able to shoot your pistol and your movement speed is slowed. I really wish there were more story type missions where you have to get from one point to another or explore an area. This would give the game more of a story feel to it and give it some real depth.
Once you've risen in level, received equipment through challenges, or earned enough cash to purchase weapons you'll need to return to Base Camp to make any necessary changes before returning to battle.
The graphics in Alive 4-ever are all presented from a top-down perspective and really help provide an immersive setting. The ground is littered with debris, blood, or wrecked vehicles. The environments are fairly dark except where beams of sunlight happen to appear. The zombies look nice and deadish. The only thing I don't really enjoy are the fast zombies; they look like disco rejects wearing purple outfits.
The blood and weapon effects are also well done. When zombies are shot, there are nice sprays of blood, muzzle flashes from the guns, and knockback with the shotguns.
While the graphics provide the setting, it's the sounds that provide the mood. If you've ever seen a George Romero zombie flick, the game's music will certainly make you feel right at home. The zombies all sound appropriately feral and the guns have an appropriate punch to them.
The only areas that fall short in my opinion are the zombie dogs which snarl like a wild big cat when they die and the shotgun which doesn't sound like it has enough oomph to me.
-immersive zombie movie experience - nice graphics and sounds
-overall, controls work well for both movement and shooting
-rpg elements - earn levels, equipment, and cash to spend/equip as you see fit
-30 levels and 3 boss fights
-4 characters to play
-variety of enemy types each exhibiting their own behavior
-no global scores, just a local leaderboard
-had some issues with the controls
-briefing window is way too easy to open by accident
-repetitive missions types
-there is no on-screen update showing you how close you are to fulfilling an objective or challenge - you have to open the briefing window to see that and did I mention the game does not pause when the briefing window is open...
Overall, Alive 4-ever is undoubtedly one of the nicest dual-stick shooters available right now for the iPhone. You get an immersive setting with some nice rpg elements with the character customization. With 30 scenes, 3 boss fights, and four different character types to choose from, you are certainly assured of a lot of zombie slaughtering action. The developers are already listening to the community and assessing ideas for adding new weapons, a survival mode, and hopefully some story-based elements that will add a lot of depth and content to an already nice game.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -4.5- provides a nice 'zombie movie' feel
Sound: -4.5- music is very nice, the sound effects work well and sound good
Controls: -4- too easy to accidentally open the briefing window, potential issue with controls not responding
Gameplay: -4.5- good zombie killing fun, but the missions can be repetitive
Playing Hints and Tips:
-These zombies are fast and aggressive and will swarm you if you do not keep killing them. Think Dawn of the Dead 2004 and not 1978. Make every shot count. You cannot afford to spray and pray.
-Critical hit percentage is your friend. I recommend maxing this skill.
-The M500 is a nice gun to use. Stay away from grenade launchers.
-Don't let dogs bite you since they will prevent you from moving while they attack. Shoot them first.
-Be aware of reload times. Don't let yourself get surrounded and then find you are out of ammo or need to reload that gun.
Developer: Meridian Digital Entertainment
Release Date: August 26, 2009
Price: $0.99 (introductory sale price until next update)
Buy Game: Alive 4-ever
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