Dead Effect – Review

Title   Dead Effect
Developer  BadFly Interactive
Publisher  Bad Fly Interactive
Platform  Windows PC (reviewed), Mac
Genre  Action
Release Date  17th December, 2014

Steam is literally full of thousands of games and recently adding to that varying mass of quality is Dead Effect, which certainly isn’t Dead Space or Mass Effect or any other game set in space. It’s a totally original product from developers Bad Fly Interactive, and although it began life as a free-to-play mobile game, it somehow warranted a priced released on the PC. I say somehow because I’m all for mobile games coming across to the PC and making an impact, but with that in mind, this isn’t exactly the mobile equivalent of Half-Life (but, alas, very little is).

Dead Effect starts us off coming out a stasis pod of sorts, aboard a space craft where something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. You’re aboard a space ship on its way to Tau Ceti F, the first planet to ever be colonised outside of our solar system. Now, there’s nothing wrong with stealing someone else’s ideas but at least try and copy someone else’s work in your own handwriting – the opener to the excellent System Shock 2, has you wake up from a stasis pod, where something has gone horribly wrong, following a distress call from Tau Ceti V.

I appreciate that we’re probably running a tad thin on original stories these days, given that we’re seeing more ‘re-vamps’ and ‘reboots’ than the NHS, but this still comes across as a half-hearted attempt to chuck some story in for good measure. The story itself from that point forward, is pretty drab by all accounts – zombies, mad scientist, earth in peril – you’d probably care more about the story if everything that accompanies it wasn’t so by the numbers.

Gameplay is actually half decent given that this has gone from a mobile platform to the PC, but that doesn’t come without its own set of problems – your character moves like a sloth in treacle and runs like someone is swinging a fridge from a side to side. They can’t jump, which, to a degree, makes sense on a mobile platform (lack of buttons, giving the sense of space and size without allowing you to access it) but on the PC this seems archaic, especially in a first-person title.  Things pick up a bit when you starting using weapons, as they are pretty responsive and seem to pack a punch. The actual shooting and combat, however, can get a little dull but, luckily, the weapons you use and the effects they give off is one of the high points of the title. I should imagine that if I’d played it on my phone it would have presented quite a challenge to handle some of the weapons that were fully automatic. Here it’s less of a challenge but still enjoyable.

You get a variety of weapons throughout the adventure, all of which can be upgraded through credits and gold you pick up as you play. I should imagine that the gold was tied into the in-app purchases from the mobile version, as credits can be picked up in hefty amounts during the levels. It seems a little strange that despite the fact that the whole ship has turned to rat shit, you can still pay some non-entity to upgrade your gear. I’m not going to dig too deep into this, but surely some cowardly engineer could have been knocking around, too afraid to fight but smart enough to give you a hand.

Still, never mind – you access the upgrade sections at the end of each level, and it features a rather unintuitive scroll system with which to move through the menus (which, of course, is left over from the mobile version, and had me scratching my head because it represents the stupidest way for someone with a mouse to access a menu). Speaking of poor design choices, opening various lockers and cabinets by hammering the spacebar made me miss QTEs and the comforting feel of my ‘E’ and ‘E’ keys that have been used to unlock doors, cupboards and just about everything since Quake was released.

Enemy AI isn’t anything to write home about either, opting for the ‘strength in numbers’ strategy that most zombie titles go with. These zombies don’t represent anything you’ve not seen in other titles, and when one came out of no-where brandishing a chainsaw at the end of the second level, I almost scoffed at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. I can’t think of many reasons to have chainsaws lying around on a space ship but, alas, they’re here anyway because… you know… it’s a zombie game, so lets cram in all the clichés we can. If it wasn’t for the passable shooting mechanics, the actual gameplay element of this title would really be in trouble but, as it stands, it manages to just about tread water.

One of the few highlights, by comparison to everything else, is the graphics, because for a game that started out on a mobile platform it isn’t a bad looking title. The character animations and details are quite impressive, and although the environments are predictable and by the numbers, they’re still good in their own right – I’ve seen plenty of good games fall at the hurdle of creating a believable area to play in and, despite a few glitches, I still felt like I was on a space ship being hunted by the undead.

For all the good work the visuals do, they’re quickly undone by some awful audio work. The voice acting is shockingly bad to a point where describing it as ‘cheesy’ would be doing a disservice to one of the greatest food stuffs to ever grace my gullet. Between your character’s hammy one liners and the strange doctor’s – I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be – accent, there isn’t much to get excited about. Guns sound like guns, zombies sound like zombies – it really is as basic as it comes.

For all the bad I’ve mentioned though, I can’t fault Dead Effect in terms of having things to do. If you don’t fancy the story, there is always the ability to replay selected missions without having to re-do the whole main story. There are also Survival and Biohazard modes, which are timed challenges and last-man-standing modes respectively. This means that if you can accept Dead Effect for what it is, then you’ll have tons of content to get you busy, and while some games offer more for less, plenty of games offer much less than this product and ask you to pay a lot more. I’m looking at you Halo.

    +Combat is average, but alright
    +Graphically acceptable
    +Plenty to do if you want to
    -Story is dull as dishwater
    -Just no to the voice acting. Just no
    -Certain 'mobile' shortcomings are highlighted on the PC

Dead Effect is not a bad game by any means - it was mildly enjoyable for the most part but do we have time for mildly enjoyable? I certainly don't - titles come at us thick and fast and nothing but the best is remembered.

Strangely, while reviewing Dead Effect I found several friends confessing to have already purchased it over Steam and saying they quite enjoyed it as something of a palate cleanser - a mindless romp where they could switch off and enjoy. I can certainly respect that point of view and, equally, I think Dead Effect might be a better package as a mobile title. Can I recommend it to you on the PC? Yes but don't expect to get Dead Space, Call of Duty or any other top quality zombie or first-person shooter experience because you're really not.

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