Outer space, zombies, and a lone survivor? We’ve been here before… or have we? Dead Effect, developed and produced by Badfly Interactive, is another first-person sci-fi horror game packed with an above average number of undead. It follows the same linear archetype as almost every other game in the genre, but the amalgamation of each feature adds up to be a surprisingly fun play through. For such a small, indie developer, Badfly Interactive clearly has a strong grasp on why sci-fi horrors are so much fun.
We follow a classic story, familiar to any gamer worth their salt. After you choose between playing as Gunnar Davis or Jane Frey, members of an elite security team known as Unit-13, you wake up from cryo-stasis. Making your way through the ESS Meridian, a colonization shuttle, you realize the passengers have become volatile monsters who attack anything that moves. Your advanced combat suit alerts you to an anomaly in your bloodstream; you’re infected. Queue Dr. Wagner, a mysterious Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator who guides you through the ship as you cut down anything in your path. As far as you know, the primary mission is to find Wagner and stop the virus from spreading to Earth.
Dead Effect may not blaze any gory, brain-eating trails but it has a certain charm that holds on to the player’s attention longer than a $7.99 cookie-cutter should. The developers are clearly sci-fi fans, and they show it with unique creative elements and homage to the classic Doom series. Instead of resigning to the usual melee weapon, clobbering its way through a sea of zombies, Dead Effect starts you off with a wrist gauntlet that shoots lightning. It has unlimited ammo but needs to cool down after each use. Hands down, it’s the most satisfying weapon in the game. And What’s a zombie game without some chain weapons? The obligatory chain gun and chainsaw are part of the ensemble of murder as well.
Customization options in Dead Effect are interesting for a sci-fi horror game of its caliber. You unlock, restock, and upgrade weapons in the post/ pre mission store using two forms of currency found during missions; credits and gold bars. It’s never actually explained where this store is, or who you’re buying from, but it hardly matters when there are so many weapons to choose from. Lightning, explosives, bows and crossbows… things can get pretty spicy.
Graphically the game fluctuates, depending on what you look at. The enemy models are vivid, and there’s enough detail to see what sectorof the ship they came from. From scientists to military personnel, there’s a diverse cast of toothy friends to blow away. The surroundings are detailed as well, depending on which part of the ship you’re creeping around. Recovery beds in the medical station and hazmat barrels in the research facility; the effort shows. Then, sadly, we get to the weapon and player textures. Your hands, while detailed with reflective lighting and tessellation, are misshapen and strangely sized. Each weapon is displayed in the shop with a 2d animation, most of which look fantastic, but in the player’s hands they look incredibly bland. The detail disappears and you’re left with an earth-toned polygon that spews projectiles.
Similar to the graphics, Dead Effect’s sound has its ups and downs. The menu screen has a beautifully intense symphony of strings and percussion to get your blood pumping. The in game music is fast paced when combat erupts, but eerie when you’re making your way through poorly lit hallways. Once you hear the first drop of dialogue, everything goes downhill. Frey and Davis, depending on who the player chooses, talk to themselves constantly and it sounds like the voice actors didn’t take the job very seriously. Dr. Wagner has a comically thick German accent, which can sometimes remove you from an immersed state. This is the lowest point of production value in the game, but doesn’t drag it down too much.
You’ll be using the classic WASD layout that most FPS use, so it’s easy to adapt. The weapons, while neat, aren’t terribly satisfying. Often times it feels like you’re shooting rubber bands instead of bullets. Shopping for new gear is awkward at first, but once you get used to dragging to scroll a new world of destruction opens up. Initially, when Dead Effect was released, there was no sprint key. You just had to gingerly stroll through the ESS Meridian. Because of player feedback in the Steam Community, Badfly Interactive added a very satisfying sprint feature… though it does take a decade to recharge.
It’s important to note that there are bosses throughout the game with their own unique mechanics that require adapting. Not all of them are an enormous challenge, but they keep you on your feet, especially if you turn the difficulty to hell. The grunts you face throughout story mode aren’t particularly hard, as they just shamble towards you and lunge when they’re close. Where the challenge lays is within the overwhelming number of zombies, combined with your lack of ammo and manual dexterity. Reloading is slow and you can only carry two weapons, which makes killing forty of those buggers a task. One mechanic the developer needs to add is a grenade indicator. You’ll get into the zone of lining up shots to scrag some domes and, out of nowhere, you’re instantly dead. This is due to the grenade lobbing undead and the lack of counter-play.
Don’t let the hackneyed plot and phoned-in voice acting fool you, Dead Effect has plenty to offer. It sets itself apart with a library of customization, which in turn adds replayability. Regardless of the skeleton crew that developed this game, the graphics are impressive. It could use a little more horror and lot less action, but it’s still a solid sci-fi horror playthrough. For $7.99 on steam, this game’s a steal.
Review copy provided by Badfly Interactive.