Pandemic Express – Zombie Escape by TALLBOYS
Pandemic Express is an online 30-player zombie survival game with battle royale elements. One random player at the start of each game becomes a zombie, and their goal is to kill as many humans as possible. Once players are killed, they become zombies and have to hunt down the remaining humans. In order for the humans to triumph over the zombies, they must hop on a train which eventually hits the edge of the map, allowing them to escape.
Rock Breaks Scissors, Human Shoots Zombie
Zombies and humans play differently, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Much like a battle royale game, humans can defend themselves using guns and ammo found within structures around the map. Guns all feel fine to shoot and are useful at taking down zombies from a distance. Human players also have to constantly be aware of their ammo count, because zombie players can respawn after they die.
When I played as a zombie, I was able to melee attack and pick up and throw humans or explosive barrels around. Also, when you die multiple times, you can acquire a temporary power-up of invisibility or explosive damage. These abilities are useful whether your team is aiming at killing all the human players or focused on momentarily stopping the train.
Whether you’re dealing damage or taking damage, I felt weak playing as a zombie. But since you can respawn in various points on the map, it’s not necessarily a big deal.
I found that playing as a zombie wasn’t as enjoyable as being able to shoot guns as a human. There is a decent variety of guns of the standard fare from pistols to machine guns. So finding weapons around the map is a randomized element that makes the start of every game interesting.
Also, when I was a zombie if I was shot with a gun up close, it would deal this push-back effect, which is basically a stun lock, leaving me helpless and open to more gunshots. I believe that the game would benefit from more power-ups to make playing as a zombie more rewarding, thus helping mix up some of the monotony.
The Mob Rules
The interesting thing, though, is that playing as a zombie was fun when we attacked human players in swarms. It’s chaotic but really pulls off the zombie epidemic feeling; working as a team was a lot more fun.
The same can be said about playing as a human. Since I found that this game is dependent on your teammates, whether fighting alongside each other or working towards stopping or moving the train, enjoyment is going to rely heavily on them. This is a good thing if you’re a fan of team-based competitive games, but not great if you’re more of a solo competitive player.
The map that was available to play was expansive, but since the winning goal revolves around a moving train, the map isn’t utilized to its fullest; the train becomes such a constant focus that the rest of the map is ignored. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the design intent, but for this train escape train mode in particular, the map isn’t a big factor. The map only really comes into play when you’re looking for weapons within the various familiar man-made structures.
Things Are Looking Zombiefied
Visually, the game’s smooth but muted, low-poly look was a bit too drab for my tastes. The issue I took with this art style was that structures and various other map details didn’t stand out enough. It’s a tonally dark, moody look that reflects the zombie vibe but still feels…uninspired.
Hopefully, the developers will implement a more striking art style that doesn’t take away from the map design but also retains the creeping dread of a zombie-infested world.
The overall core idea of this game is neat, but after my time with this alpha build it’s clear that this game still needs some work to reach its full potential. The developers need to build on that core idea more and make sure it’s a game that has enough variables to make sessions unique and fun. It’s designed to move both teams to a specific point on the map, thus forcing them to work together.
With enough gameplay mechanics and this forced cooperation, the game can be fun if teammates work together. If the game continues to be developed with care and tuning, I can see Pandemic Express becoming a fun multiplayer game.
Pandemic Express is available in Early Access on Steam.
Watch the official trailer for Pandemic Express – Zombie Escape below: