Mobirate’s Dead Ahead started its (after)life as an endless runner-style mobile game in which a motorcycle rider races to avoid undead hordes. The sequel Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare shifted genres to a Metal Slug Attack-style casual strategy game. Earlier this year, Zombie Warfare arrived on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and Vita as a premium game. Is this zombie strategy game worth the hefty $20 price tag on consoles? Read on to find out.
Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare doesn’t bother with story; it has absolutely no cinematics after the seconds-long introduction. The goal in each level is the same: to destroy the barricade on the right side of the screen while protecting your bus on the left side. Should you break the barricade, your bus can safely leave the level and you’ll receive gold, experience, and possibly items.
Gameplay itself is quite simple. Players can equip up to six units to bring into a level. Each human unit has different ranged of melee weapons, stats, a summoning cost, and a cooldown on summons. The energy needed to summon a unit slowly builds up over the course of the level, so you’ll have to think carefully about the order and timing of calling them in. Once summoned, a unit proceeds to the right, attacking any zombies in its immediate path. Melee fighters will attack the barricade when they reach it, whereas ranged fighters stand back a little and fire at oncoming undead instead.
Zombie kills provide blood, which can be used to unleash various tools such as explosive barrels, Molotov cocktails, and turrets. Each tool takes up one unit slot and has its own blood cost and cooldown times, so you’ll want to create an effective balance of units and tools for the battle.
The console version of Zombie Warfare offers seven sprawling maps, each with numerous regular levels and two challenge levels to take on. Your goal is ostensibly to receive a three-star rating on every level by winning without your bus taking damage. The more stars you earn, the more levels you’ll unlock. That said, the Achievements and Trophies don’t reward three-star victories, so most players probably won’t lose too much sleep when they win with less than three stars.
In bringing Dead Ahead to consoles, Mobirate removed most of the game’s free to play elements. Those removals include the mobile game’s energy mechanic, so you can play as much as you want here. The gold costs of items and character and bus upgrades have also been drastically reduced, resulting in a less grindy experience.
Despite those welcome premium improvements, Zombie Warfare still offers numerous mobile-style in-app purchases on consoles. Players can buy packs of items that include exclusive units and bus skins, or simply buy gold and items – all with real money. The availability of these upsells is a thorn in some players’ sides, but I wouldn’t sweat them. You can get all the Achievements/Trophies and complete every level without every buying anything extra. Loot boxes cost gold here, and gold can be grinded for without too much trouble.
Speaking of Achievements and Trophies, the game only offers a scant twelve of them on each platform. The final Achievement requires players to reach experience level 12, which will take around six hours. Oddly, there are no Achievements for reaching the higher maps or three-starring all the levels. If the console versions ever receive an update, hopefully Mobirate will add new Achievements to work towards. The mobile version’s competitive League mode and a few units are missing on console, so there’s certainly room for an update.
I went into Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare fearful of an unfair free to play experience coupled with a premium price tag. I’m glad to report that the game is balanced well enough to be a paid product, with only a reasonable amount of grinding required to get every Achievement or Trophy. The pixel art style is attractive, and the gameplay is good, simple, and addictive.
The only thing really holding Zombie Warfare back from an easy recommendation is its price. Twenty bucks is a lot to charge for a game with relatively low-fi production values and this volume of content. Mobirate should really drop the standard selling price to $14.99. As it stands, fans of zombie and simple strategy games will want to wait for a sale before going ahead with Dead Ahead.
Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare costs $19.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Vita. The PlayStation versions are cross-buy and share a Trophy list. The Xbox One version of the game was provided by the publisher for review.
Dead Ahead: Zombie Warfare
- Appealing pixel art characters and backgrounds
- Lots of levels and upgradable units to try
- Easy Achievements and Trophies
- Too expensive for what it is, and it still has in-app purchases too
- Needs more Achievements and Trophies to keep gamers playing
- More functions should be mapped to unused buttons on the controller.