Zombies are a ton of fun until they catch up to you — so goes the saying. The city of Safehaven has become overrun with zombies and it’s up to you to restore order and find out what caused the epidemic that’s taken over the urban population. So what’s a girl to do but pick up some firearms and save her town, all guns blazing?
Contract Killer: Zombies 2 Origins (CKZ2) is a mostly-fun 3D third-person shooter from Glu Mobile with plenty of guns, a host of dismemberable zombies, and scores of levels to blast your way through. Let’s take a look at whether this is a contract worth signing on the dotted line for.
Business as usual
Savehaven is like any other American city, save for an abundance of laboratories that serve as the backdrop for many levels in the game. Things are always eerily quiet around here, whether you’re walking through a research facility or scouring through town with all its post-apocalyptic trappings — abandoned vehicles, rotting corpses, and lots of crates.
The game puts you in the shoes of Evelyn, a swashbuckling survivor in the business of kicking ass and taking names. Between rescuing others, helping to set up satellite communication towers, collecting supplies, clearing city areas of the undead, and trying to unravel the mysterious origin of the zombie outbreak, she’s got her hands full.
CKZ2 looks pretty good on tablets, phones and everything in between, albeit a bit bland. The 3D graphics are well executed but generally stick to a limited palette in terms of colors, textures and objects — once you’ve played a couple of different levels, you’ve seen most of what there is to see in the game’s universe.
What is commendable, though, is the character modeling — zombies come in many shapes and sizes, lose limbs when shot at correctly and look ghoulish enough to warrant a shotgun shell or two in the face. Evelyn and the other survivors look great as well, with well detailed bodies, weapons and animation.
The game sounds good too, and paying attention to the audio is recommended — zombies can crawl out of vents and stalk from behind vehicles and walls, and sometimes their guttural muttering will give them away. Weapon sounds and voice acting are well executed too, and making for a game that looks and sounds like a large-budget production.
CKZ2 introduces a novel auto-shooting mechanism that allows players to fire weapons simply by aiming correctly at enemies, thus doing away with the hassle of tapping a button to shoot when you already have enough to do. You could, of course, switch to manual fire, but this control scheme makes a lot more sense on touchscreen devices and opens up this shooter to novices like yours truly — I bailed on Dead Trigger after an hour of playing simply because I didn’t enjoy dying every few seconds.
That said, CKZ2 is no cakewalk — things become increasingly harrowing with each new level, with more zombies, tougher zombies and fewer opportunities to restock your ammo. You’re rewarded in experience points and cash for completing levels, and in gold for achieving goals such as killing special zombies and collecting supplies.
New levels bring new unimaginatively-named zombie types that each have to be dealt with differently, such as the bomber, a scientist trapped in a hazmat suit filled with poisonous gas; the piper, a botched experiment who constantly invites more like him to destroy you; the massive and quick smasher, and the thrower, who has a penchant for hurling deadly projectiles at you.
It doesn’t help that the reward system is unbelievably stingy. There are tons of great weapons including handguns, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, exotic weapons like crossbow and rocket launchers, and melee weapons like fire axes, katanas, and the zombie game favorite, the chainsaw — all of which are great to have for completing harder levels, but way out of reach unless you give in and give away your away your real money for in-game currency.
Zombies can run towards you in CKZ2, and some can take a lot of damage before showing any signs of slowing down. This is where the auto-fire system comes in handy – just aim for their skulls to score headshots and take them down quickly. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, but it’s plenty satisfying.
This town ain’t big enough
Even with the variety of weapons and enemies CKZ2 brings to the table, the game begins to feel repititive way too soon — you’re either collecting supplies from a lab or clearing a couple of blocks of zombies to rescue a survivor. This wouldn’t have been as much of a bother if the levels were set in an open world and Evelyn had a few more things to do.
Also, upgrades are few and far apart for those who skip the in-app purchases. While I can appreciate Glu’s efforts to make money while making their games available for free, weapons and utilities in CKZ2 are far too expensive. Guns can cost anywhere between $10 and $50, and some can only be purchased with gold, which is harder to earn merely by playing. C’mon Glu – doing better at this game can’t be worth that much to anybody.
CKZ2 has a lot going for it, including high-quality graphics and fun gameplay. However, this title relies too much on pricey in-app purchases to keep being fun beyond a few levels. The game also fails to bring anything new to the table — A few more mission types and locales would’ve also helped it to hold my attention longer.
Still, CKZ2 is fun to play for a couple of hours — even more if you’re adept at aiming while running so you can complete the more difficult levels, or if you’re happy to pay for virtual firearms. If you don’t mind the 400+MB download, take this for a spin and see how much you care about saving Savehaven. Good luck!