Shortly after the Desert Zombie Last Stand was released, the developers updated the app, fixing several of the issues we mentioned in our original review. The biggest things they addressed are the game’s lag and the tiny number of maps.
Before the update, we experienced lag severe enough to hinder our actions any time more than three characters were on screen at one time. Now, with the update, gameplay is smooth no matter how many zombies are trying to gnaw your arms off.
The update also improves the controls, adding a trigger button onscreen to make firing easier if you don’t find double-tapping to fire comfortable. While the controls still aren’t perfect, this addition is certainly welcome.
Finally, the update adds two brand-new levels to the game, bringing the current total to four. The update added Canyon and Nightmare levels. Nightmare, in particular, is a level that drastically increases difficulty by forcing you to take on zombies in close quarters.
The Unreal Engine may just be the salvation of hardcore gamers hoping for a console experience on their iOS devices. High-profile games like Infinity Blade 2 have already showcased how amazing they can look when they use the engine to create three-dimensional games with smooth graphics. Desert Zombie Last Stand, a game which deserves an award for using the most hype-inducing buzzwords in one title, uses the Unreal Engine to create a third-person shooter for your touchscreen. Unfortunately, this game proves that an exceptional foundation for a video game does not make the entire game exceptional.
There are several flaws with Desert Zombie, starting with the stunning lack of content. While we appreciate the developers not shoehorning a story into the game, there’s nothing more to Desert Zombie than a survival mode. Your character has to be the last man standing against waves and waves of zombies.
Of course, as you play, you’ll earn money to unlock new weapons and upgrade your character, becoming the ultimate zombie-killing warrior. The waves of zombies can get boring, however, and with only two maps on which to play, there isn’t much variety. A simple campaign with objectives would have been a nice supplement to the game.
All up in your grill.
The controls are rather basic, similar to other touchscreen shooters. Moving your left thumb will move your character, while moving your right will aim. Double-tapping on the right causes your character to shoot. There are several buttons all around the periphery of the screen, allowing you to perform various actions like switching weapons, crouching, or zooming in. None of these buttons feel as responsive as we would like, nor do they take advantage of multitouch.
Second, Desert Zombie seems to miss the concept of zombies. Very few of the zombies you face will be the gnaw-your-arm-off-while-moaning type. Instead, these zombies can use weapons, like rifles and rocket launchers, to blow you to bits. Fans of other zombie games who enjoy the horror movie atmosphere will instead find a science-fiction, post-apocalyptic wasteland in this game.
Finally, Desert Zombie doesn’t run too well. On current-generation devices with A5 chips, the game will run like a champ, but older devices will find the game slogging along once the action sets in. Trying to run, reload, and then pistol-whip a zombie in the face will be a long, arduous process, most likely finishing ten seconds later than you planned. The developers have planned an update to reduce the lag on older devices, so keep an eye out for that.
While this list of complaints may seem like an indictment against Desert Zombie Last Stand, it’s not. The game is still a step forward for iOS gaming, and perhaps Desert Zombie Last Stand 2 will be a Must Have. Desert Zombie shows that the Unreal Engine can be used for an off-rails shooter experience. This game, though, still lacks the spark of creativity that captures gamers’ imaginations and keeps them from being productive.