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.
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.
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.
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