Updated: Dead Trigger Review

After Dead Trigger went free-to-play on Android, it was only a matter of time before the iOS version followed suit. With this latest update, that’s exactly what happened. The game is now free to download to any and all gamers, so there’s no reason not to play this stunning game.

They’ve also added a few features, including cloud saves, survival arenas, and a rather lame casino section. Also, if you bought the game for a buck when it originally came out, you’re not totally left out in the cold. When buyers open the app for the first time after the update, they’re rewarded with 25 gold and 10 casino chips. It’s not the grandest of prizes, but at least you got to play the game before all the cheapskates.

But on to the new stuff. The curiously labeled “New Hope” area is where you’ll find your statistics, like how much gold you’ve earned, how many heads you’ve shot, etc. It’s also where you can create an account for cloud saves, which lets you continue your saved game from other devices, or maintain your save after deleting and reinstalling the app. This is very handy, but it would’ve been nice if they’d used iCloud instead of their own system, which requires you to come up with a user name and password.

The new arena mode sends waves of zombies at you until you die. It’s fun, but doesn’t feel all that new. They’ve also added an iron-sight button that you can use to zoom in your view a little while aiming. The new weapons are pretty cool as well, especially the chainsaw.

The Casino is where you can go to spend your casino chips. All this lets you do is play a slot machine for a chance to win gold and cash. It’s not nearly as thrilling as shooting zombies, but who doesn’t appreciate the occasional free batch of currency?

So there’s lots of new bits to check out, but the core gameplay remains the same: killing zombies and then killing more zombies. The developers haven’t addressed the hit detection issues or added a multiplayer mode, as we’d like to see done. On the other hand, they’ve made one of the best-looking games ever for iOS absolutely free to play, so everyone should give it a shot.

Dead Trigger makes a killer first impression. The graphics are stunning, the action is fast, and the blood splatters right on cue. At a glance, it really looks like a current-gen console game–but it’s not, and when you play it, that quickly becomes obvious. From the short missions to the pesky in-app purchase offerings, Dead Trigger is very much an iOS game. Is that a deal-breaker?

Not in the least. First, Dead Trigger is one of– if not the– best looking iOS games we’ve ever played. It matches the detail and sharpness of Infinity Blade II, but here you get a full range of movement. Better yet, it’s smooth. We played it on a third-gen iPad, and no matter how many enemies were onscreen, we never saw any slowdown.

The game is mission-based, and each mission is set up a lot like Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies–you’re placed in an enclosed area, and the undead enter through barriers you can’t go past. Your goal varies from mission to mission, but it always involves you running around and killing lots of zombies.

Such pretty eyes.

Only a few kinds of missions are on offer here, and none feel very different from the others. You might be asked to stay alive for a few minutes, or kill a certain number of zombies, or protect something from damage, or bring packages to a drop zone, but the missions all blur together. The lack of variety is disappointing, and makes Dead Trigger work better in short bursts than in marathon sessions. On the plus side, the missions are short, perfect for gaming on the go.

An important question about any iOS first-person shooter is how well the controls work, and in Dead Trigger they’re reasonably tight. Moving around with your left thumb is simple, and aiming and shooting with your right feels snappy. You also have enough health that if you suffer a few cheap hits it’s not the end of the world (which is to say, it’s not the end of your character’s life).

However, just about every time a zombie comes within a few feet of you, it swings and injures you. Something feels off about the game’s hit detection, both when you’re attacked, and when you do the attacking. This varies a little from gun to gun, but oftentimes we’d fire a string of bullets right into a zombie’s head, and it simply wouldn’t die. Mobility is also a concern. Your walking pace isn’t very fast, so it would be very handy if you could sprint, or at least shove encroaching enemies away from you. Unfortunately, neither are possible.

These dudes are relentless.

Although Dead Trigger isn’t free, it’s set up a lot like a freemium game. You have access to two types of currency, gold and dollars. You get dollars by completing missions, picking up loot drops from dead zombies, and finding chests tucked away in certain levels. Money is fairly easy to come by, but the weapons in the game’s shop are pricey. Some weapons and items, however, can only be purchased using gold, which you can obtain by doing annoying stuff like liking things on Facebook, or by buying it through in-app purchase. Naturally, gold is required to buy the coolest weapons (M4, minigun) and the most useful items (speed and damage boosts). This dual currency thing is annoying, but it doesn’t ruin the game even for people who don’t want to spend any extra money.

Perhaps the biggest oversight is that there’s no multiplayer in Dead Trigger. Battling other players online would be a ton of fun, and a nice change-up to the rather dimwitted enemies. The challenge of facing zombies comes from killing them before they overwhelm you with their numbers. Fighting other players online would add a whole new dimension to the game. We have our fingers crossed that they’ll add multiplayer with an update down the line.

If you approach Dead Trigger looking for anything other than an intense, fast-paced bloodbath, then you’re going to be disappointed. It may look like an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 game, but it plays very much like a game built for iOS–which, of course, it is. So check your expectations at the door (and maybe your brain along with them), and you’ll find plenty to like about Dead Trigger.

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