When in doubt, just add zombies. That seems to be the thinking behind Combat Arms: Zombies, an arena-based survival shooter where the undead feel more than a little tacked-on. It’s a simple first-person shooter with solid visuals and lots of weapons and gear to unlock, but the lack of level variety and focus on grinding for cash make it more dull than you’d expect from a game where you’re fighting just to stay alive.
The ultimate goal in Combat Arms: Zombies is simply to survive. Each level consists of a series of rounds that have you clearing out waves of incoming undead. After each round you’ll get your ammo refreshed and a few moments to catch your breath before more shambling hordes come your way. Killing zombies will earn you cash, which can be used to buy new guns, gear, and even new characters with beefed-up stats.
High five, buddy!
The controls are simple. A virtual stick controls your aim and movement, freeing your other hand to fire bullets and reload. As simple as the set-up is, though, the controls just don’t feel responsive enough. Not only are the onscreen buttons tiny, but they don’t always recognize when you tap on them. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when you’re in a situation where you need to reload or switch weapons right away, any slowdown can leave you swarmed with undead.
There’s a campaign mode in the game, but really it’s just two maps that you can replay over and over again. While the number of stages is disappointing, the levels do open up quite a bit as you start playing at more challenging difficulty levels. Doors will open and zombies will spawn from new spaces, forcing you to adjust your strategies.
But even with plenty of variety within each stage, you’ll find yourself playing through each far too many times. And not just because there are only two, but because earning gold to strengthen your character and gear takes far too long, forcing you to grind. Naturally, you can speed up the process through in-app purchases.
While Combat Arms: Zombies looks good, with smooth, Unreal-powered 3D visuals that run well even on older devices, it’s certainly lacking when it comes to atmosphere. The zombies look like little more than slow-moving soldiers with (for some reason) glowing red eyes. They’ll swipe at you if they get too close, instead of trying to eat you or anything zombie-like. They just don’t really feel much like undead flesh eaters. The atmosphere isn’t helped by the arcade-style voice over that announces when a new round starts or you run out of ammo.
Combat Arms: Zombies definitely has an intriguing premise– after all, most people have thought about how they would survive a zombie attack at one time or another. But it’s not as fun as that premise sounds. Finicky controls, far too much grinding, a tiny selection of stages, and a dull atmosphere make this a poor way to train for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.