Posted by on September 9th, 2009 in Reviews

I was going to give Darkest of Days a run tonight, but a friend got me to try Nation Red. A new action game by independent developer Diezelpower, that was released only five days ago (on Steam).

The basic premise seemed promising: a zombie shooter in the style of games like Alien Shooter and Shadowgrounds. Basically a top-down action game with countless waves of zombies to slaughter, crazy pickups and several game modes.

Shadowgrounds is one of my favorite indie-games, so I had some hopes for this top-down shooter. But taking the full version for a test run turned up some less desirable traits…


The zombie craze is in full swing with games like Left 4 Dead, Killing Floor, Plants vs Zombies and now Nation Red all brushing up against the theme from varying perspectives.

Nation Red certainly plays different than other recent zombie games, with it being an oldschool arcade shooter. But its setting takes after Killing Floor, with its more gritty approach to zombie slaying. There are no humorous dancing zombies or witty one-liners in this game…

It does offer a well-presented post-apocalyptic world, with surprisingly decent graphics for an indie-game and a perfect musical score. The sound effects are solid. You can easily identify what weapon is being used by the sound it makes, and the zombies sound like zombies should.

nation red boss fight Nation Red Review

Boss fights are included...

And that’s when trouble rears its ugly head. Nation Red is supposedly a highly replayable game with its 18-mission singleplayer campaign including boss battles, two additional game modes, and unlockable alternative scoring mechanic. Survival presents an arena with nothing but a machine gun and challenges you to survive. And free play offers an unlimited zombie arena.

But the campaign lacks any semblance of a story, there isn’t even as much as an introductory text to the game. As a result, I wanted to quit the campaign after the first six (1-3 minute long) missions. There is no reason to play through these missions other than to unlock the Blood Drive scoring system. Which changes so little of the actual game mechanics that its truly not worth the effort.

The huge variety in weapons (pistols, uzis, machine guns, nailguns, etc.) and pickups (sentry guns, grenade caches, health and ammo, cloaking, etc.) helped keep things interesting for a while. And the RPG element seemed like a nice idea, offering a random list of special abilities to choose from on each level gained. But it fails in practice, mostly because your choices aren’t saved between missions (you revert back to level 1).


One redeeming element of Nation Red is its difficulty scaling. On normal difficulty it’s not very hard to reach the end, but at maximum difficulty it’ll take a while to go through all of the missions.

Clearly it was made with replayability in mind, which makes it the polar opposite of Foreign Legion: Buckets of Blood. Nation Red has the replayability, but it doesn’t have the fun gameplay mechanics that will keep you playing beyond, oh… the first five minutes.

Because in the end, Nation Red was just incredibly dull. Yes you can take down hundreds of zombies in a few minutes, and some of the guns (the steam gun in particular) are kinda cool-looking. But the gameplay just didn’t manage to grab me. It’s certainly no match for the likes of Alien Shooter or Shadowgrounds. And it doesn’t include multiplayer either.

nation red mass slaughter Nation Red Review

You can rack up quite the body count in Nation Red

So I’m sitting here, having finished the campaign, and played a few survival/free play games. And I can’t find any real reason to recommend this game.

It costs nearly 7 euro on Steam (with discount), but I can’t see why you would pick this game over the likes of F.E.A.R. 2: Reborn, Knights of the Old Republic, Majesty: Gold, Plants vs Zombies or Shadowgrounds. All of these games share a similar price tag and are infinitely more worthy of your attention.


Unworthy

Pros Cons
+ Interesting RPG skills mechanic - Short campaign (less than 1 hour)
+ Varied arsenal - No story
+ Good production values - No multiplayer
+ Great music - No fun
+ High replayability - But you won’t want to (re)play it
+ Difficulty scaling - No online leaderboards
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    22 Responses to “Nation Red Review”

    1. Joshua says:

      Yeah, I agree. This game kinda sucked big time. I bought it thinking it was gonna be similar to L4D and KF, but my face literally drooped when I saw the camera angle. What a waste of £6.

    2. alqx says:

      it’s not about the camera angle.. there are games that use this isometric view and are very enjoyable. look in the review.

    3. Droniac says:

      Indeed, there are plenty of action games with an isometric view that are well worth playing. The Shadowgrounds series is well-worth a go, as is Starscape.

      Granted, those games have actual levels and singleplayer campaigns, not a random assortment of tiny arenas. In a way, Nation Red plays more like a game of Asteroids or Geometry Wars, with non-stop shooting in a tiny arena. Only it’s not anywhere near as good – and it’s a lot more expensive.

    4. Tantrix127 says:

      Got this game on Steam – loved it. They expand the game with user feedback, forum there is huge!

      BTW Steam version has leaderboards, achievements already and coop coming. etc. This review isn’t very accurate stating these as negatives?? Weird.

    5. Tantrix127 says:

      Forgot – this doesn’t allow me to edit my post, but if I want to kill zombies, suggesting games like starscape and geometry wars isn’t really useful. Why all space games? I don’t see the connection?

    6. Droniac says:

      The review was accurate at the time. Looking at Steam now I see that they’ve added achievements and leaderboards, but none of that was in at release – and therefore not at the time of writing.

      As for recommending games like Geometry Wars. The connection should be obvious: boxed-in arena’s where you shoot at things. It’s virtually identical in terms of the base gameplay concept, except the setting and difficulty differ a little. As for Starscape, it was an example of a properly executed isometric game.

      The added motivation of achievements and leaderboards would be great, if Nation Red were fun to play. Unfortunately, it’s not, so even with these additions I wouldn’t raise the score unless the game has been redone from the ground up since the review was written.

    7. alqx says:

      Try Crimsonland. A really old game, no fantastic graphics, no storyline at all, but the gameplay is hardcore.

    8. Tantrix127 says:

      @alqx Crimsonland is exactly the reason I got Nation Red. The graphics in Crimsonland are too outdated (even tho the game isn’t that old really, it was made only a few years ago) and I like Nation Red’s pickups (mines, sentry guns, rammers, etc which are all missing in Crimsonland). I checked out a few reviews of Nation Red before buying (first saw the game in PC Gamer mag) and this review here’s the only negative I came across.

      Funnily enough, 99% of the negatives in the above review apply to Crimsonland, and you could add graphics to the list.

      I still think my point is valid: Reviewer should at least suggest similarly themed games (SmashTV, Crimsonland), not Star Wars knights of the Republic, etc. or AAA games which after years have been heavily discounted.

      Geometry War’s setting differs ‘a little’? lol.

      Anyway nice review just noticed it is the opposite of the rest of them; this is why I commented. Thanks for the reply. Cheers!

    9. Joshua says:

      I realise it’s not about the camera-angle, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a rubbish game. If I had known what it was going to be like, I wouldn’t have wasted my money on it.

    10. Kurt says:

      Smash TV + bloody zombie graphics + multiplayer = Do want! Sadly, it doesn’t have multiplayer. Still though, $10 isn’t bad and that old Smash TV coin-op was RIDICULOUSLY good times…

    11. Docdra says:

      Honestly after looking at several reviews, all of them seem to knock the same thing this reviewer did, e.g. the lack of a story and the lack of multiplayer (now fixed). They also gave props in the same areas, e.g. okay sounds and graphics, nice selection of weapons, etc.

      In fact the only thing different is the overall score and the comment about buffs not carrying over to the next level, which has me wondering if this too was fixed.

      All in all this was one reviewer’s opinion and I feel that it was balanced and in no way overly negative in nature…

    12. Threefeet says:

      I realise this is an old review, but I just bought the game on Steam for €4.49 – now with added “co-op”. To make this clear, I bought this game specifically for the “co-op”.

      “Co-op” is in inverted commas because it’s just multiplayer. You don’t play through the single player campaign with a friend like actual co-op games – you play specially designed (four, to be exact) arenas with a buddy. Note the bracketed comment, there are FOUR multiplayer “levels”. Well, two levels in one gametype and two levels with two other gametypes.

      I managed 29 minutes of play before I regretted spending even €4.49 on this game. It’s a solid concept – isometric zombie shooter – and the game does have redeeming qualities, but overall the “co-op” is little more than an afterthought to glean more sales.

      If they release some multiplayer updates with more content I would be quite happy, but as it stands it’s a waste of money if you’re looking for a zombie themed Alien Swarm/Breed.

    13. constantin says:

      i disagree completely with the negatives stated in the review. firstly its highly contradictory to say “high replayability” and then say “you wont want to replay it”. the campaign and story aspect are obviously lacking, but there are so many great aspects that make it addictive:
      -different game modes
      -different strategies to master each one (and you never TRULY will, but tasting it just makes you wanna try)
      -lots of great weaponry
      -loads of perk combinations
      -the will to make it to the top of the scoreboards
      -lots of fun steam achievments
      -good graphics and production value (considering its an indie game)
      -minutes seem like hours in the vast zombie carnage! which frankly is mind bogglingly awesome!
      -diverse enemies

      i think this is more than enough to compensate for the lack of story and campaign. i picked it up for 5$ during steam deals and i know i’ll be playing it for a long time, especially if i only have a little break! definetly worth the buy. play the demo for a while till you get the hang of the game, if you dont like it then, dont pick it up.

      • Droniac says:

        It’s not at all contradictory to say that a game is highly replayable, but that you’ll probably not want to ‘replay’ it. Nation Red has a lot of game modes and weapons that add a lot of variety and thus replayability to the game. The fact that I didn’t find the game to be fun, or addictive, in any way makes me not want to ‘replay’ it.

        Still, I’ll probably give it another go sometime in the near future seeing as how they’ve added achievements, leaderboards and multiplayer since launch. Hopefully they’ve also tweaked the game to an extent that it’s now actually entertaining rather than dreadfully dull.

        Nation Red probably deserves a re-review now that so much about it has changed, but I’m not holding my breath for it to compare favorably against other low budget indie shooters like Alien Shooter or Beat Hazard. That would be nothing short of a miracle.

    14. RetroGamer says:

      I’m with Constantin on this, and so it seems are gamers on Steam. I bought it for 8.99 only a week before it went on sale and it’s probably one of the games I played most over the last few weeks.

      OP: Alien Shooter is way, way, outdated compared to this. It has no smooth movement, no targeting, poor presentation, no user feedback added features, perks, and more. Nobody’s buying this on Steam, check the forum as that much is clear. Beat Hazard is great but it’s a completely different game. A game being top-down or side-view doesn’t make it the same.

      As mentioned the review is horribly outdated but from your comments it’s clear you’re not approaching this game objectively (you’re already saying: it’ll be miracle to like this). Why so biased?

      When I started checking the forum 3 weeks ago, it’s clear the extras added to Nation Red are all from 1000′s of gamer’s ideas. How can they be wrong and you’re right? Makes no sense.

      Anyway check the forum and see for yourself, you’ll find you’re in a minority.

      • Droniac says:

        After reading your comment I took the liberty of checking some recent topics on the Steam forums. And it’s certainly much more positive than back when this review was written, nearly a year ago. But there are still numerous complaints and far more negative opinions than my old review even now that there’s a free demo on Steam!

        I think it should be plenty obvious that this review was in no way biased against Nation Red. As I clearly stated in the very first paragraph of this review, it was bought on a whim after recommendation by a friend and checking out the Steam store page. I had hoped for a sweet little game, but after forcing myself through numerous hours of play for a complete and unbiased review, the best I could give it was the result it ended up with.

        And I freely admit that I doubt that any future re-review would suddenly see me endorsing the game as the greatest thing since sliced bread. If I claimed otherwise then I’d be saying that I’d simply dismiss my earlier play experience and this original review as if it never happened. That would make me a liar and an absolutely terrible games critic.

        But I have revised my opinion on games I loathed before. I absolutely despised Modern Warfare when I first played it, but now I’ve played several hundred hours of Modern Warfare 2 and I think both are fairly decent shooters. My opinion of Modern Warfare was much harsher than this review of Nation Red – and the developers have already eliminated several of my original complaints: no leaderboards and no multiplayer. So yes, it certainly look like Nation Red would score better in a re-review. My most recent comment was merely meant to indicate that I deem it highly unlikely that I’d ever see it as the best top-down shooter ever created… nothing short of a miracle indeed.

        I have never stated that the developers did not listen to user feedback, because I’ve actually stated – several times – that they in fact do listen to player feedback and have improved the game in numerous ways. In fact, the very comment you reference contains that very statement! So I’m certainly in agreement with the thousands of gamers who left feedback on the forums: a lot needed fixing and a lot has obviously been fixed. I don’t see where there’s any possible sort of conflict of opinion there?

        Your reference to the lack of negativity on the forums only tells half the story. The other half is that there really shouldn’t be any negativity at all because there’s a free demo available on Steam now! Who would bother with negative comments on a demo of a low budget indie game? Practically no one. And who would buy a game based on a demo they didn’t like? Absolutely no one.

    15. RetroGamer says:

      Hi Droniac,

      Wow, quick reply, thanks!

      So when I read your review, the main feeling I got was that it came across so negative to the point where it feels like an agenda against the game (I’m not saying you do of course)

      And then unsurprisingly it’s followed by those ‘Yeah, worst movie ever’ reply posts. You know the type, people who don’t include any reasons, probably didn’t even play the game and just agree with the reviewer with nonsense.. ‘it sucks because the camera is bad’, then the same guy ‘no I know it’s not the camera.. but it sucks’. No idea what they are actually talking about, which is disappointing.

      Now it looks like Nation Red is one of the more popular Indie games on Steam. There is no way that can happen without a wide range of people like myself liking it and build up such a popular forum like for example Beat Hazard. If that many people like the game, a review that’s practically the opposite feels off and very surprising (like I think it did to the other poster above).

      A few players can be wrong, but this many? Hmm..

      But anyway, you already know the review is outdated and has some incorrect facts, it’s up to you of course but I’m not sure about a re-review since it’s predictable you still won’t approve of the game, and that makes it easy to guess what it will end up like – Nation Red is better than before, but buy (Geometry Wars, Beat Hazard is my guess, probably a space/sci-fi title from your replies:) if you want to buy a shooter.

      Those are good games, fully agree with you, but so is Nation Red and those space-set games are too different to appeal to someone who wants an arena zombie shooter with loads of perks/scoring systems, etc. This is probably one of the reasons it became popular since it doesn’t really have much competition on the PC. Name a fairly realistic, recent, and bloody top down zombie shooter on the PC which gets this many updates?

      Steam says it’s the most updated game after TF2. Coop just came out so it’ll hopefully get more work done on that. (it needs that, I admit).

      But what Nation Red is doing on Steam is great and I fully support it! I don;t see the negative comments you mention though, 90% of it looks positive except bug reporting which is not suprising given they need to add new features all the time.

    16. Threefeet says:

      Guys, a review is just another person’s opinion. When I want to learn about a game I’m thinking of buying I try to read as many reviews as possible. Some will inevitably have negative points but what I look for are aspects of the game which appeal to me.

      If Droniac didn’t enjoy the game on first review then fine, just let it be. Sure there has been some updates but it’s hardly a AAA title that deserves a re-review.

      My own opinion: these updates are pretty worthless; leaderbaords, achievements and perks don’t change the monotonous gameplay for me. Again this is just my opinion after giving the game more play time.

      Don’t even mention the “co-op” ;)

    17. Leon says:

      I love this game, its alot of fun and has alot of replayability value imho. unlike the review says it does have multiplayer and leaderboards. Especialy since its such a cheap game (about 3$ i believe) its alot of fun to be had for a small price.

    18. dakoslug says:

      This review fails if it was up to date.

      Now there is
      -leaderboards
      -Online
      -Moar missions

    19. Droniac says:

      Alright, here we go again for the 10000th time:

      THIS REVIEW WAS WRITTEN AT LAUNCH.
      See the date at the top?
      Yeah, that doesn’t say 2012 does it!?

      ANY new features added since launch (online, leaderboards, extra missions) are not covered because they DIDN’T exist at the time of review. Does this review accurately depict the game as it is now, 3 years after release? OF COURSE NOT. The same is true of ANY other at-launch review, of ANY other game made in the last decade, written on ANY other website.

      Or do you actually think 2005 reviews of Guild Wars or World of WarCraft in magazines like PC Gamer present accurate perspectives of what those games are like now? I certainly hope not.

      Now stop pointing out the blatantly obvious and try actually reading before you comment. And don’t just mindlessly reiterate what has already been covered, and explained, a million times over.

      Thank you.

    20. Threefeet says:

      Hey what about the leaderboards, online and extra missions???

      (joke)

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