It's Z-Day, baby, and the cure for what ails the undead populace isn't going to find itself. In SKS Games' upcoming survival-horror title End Night, you play as a grizzled marine dude on a simple quest: find the core components of a vaccine that might end the crazy stuff that's going on outside of a cozy lab. In a not-so-unusual video game turn of events, most of these ingredients have to be discovered in the wild.
It ain't going to be easy. It's the apocalypse, man; Z-Day. The dead have risen and are roving anxiously. Some are even armed or armored. These aren't your typical slow-walking types of creeps, either. In my short preview session, I met runners as well as amblers, and even had the pleasure of running into one or two seriously hopped up bullet-sponges.
Zombies are bad and all, but SKS heightens the tension with a few tried and true old-school survival game mechanics and systems. As you'd expect, the dreary adventure begins at night. The darkness seriously puts a limit your situational awareness, while the lack of everyday sound ratchets up your ability to hear the undead's footfalls. When you get hurt, your vision is also obscured by a layer of crimson.
Also, like an old-school Resident Evil or Silent Hill, bullets are few and the camera perspective is restricted. In this specifically, you'll be dealing with an over the top camera that successfully limits how you move and react to threats. But it's not like you can shoot your way through everything, anyway. You'll need to know when and how to run.
One of the more interesting things about End Night is its world; it's open, but isolated to a small, hole-in-the-wall town. There's a lot of commercial real estate to liberate, as well as a police station to pilfer for supplies like ammo and armor. The walking dead spawn randomly throughout the environment, and as you close in on the vaccine, they also start spawning more frequently. It gets tough, fast.
A fair amount of the game's buildings carry a core component for the cure being worked on back at the lab. You'll need to hull back a vial of some anti-zombie juice every time you find one, which makes the experience fairly fetch-quest-y. These houses also have, for a reason I can't explain, documentation that feeds into an experience points system.
I think that's the other really interesting thing, by the way. Like Infinity Blade, End Night is meant to be played several times. Whenever you meet an untimely death, you'll be prompted to start over from the beginning and then use the experience points you just gained to pump up the marine guy for another go.
I spoke with one of the devs behind the project to get a better sense of what you'll be able to upgrade by playing through multiple times. Spoiler: your guy will get better at smashing zombies, provided you're using the stuff you upgrade.
"One of the most useful upgrades is for pistol accuracy, which drastically increases the chance of getting headshots, and is especially helpful towards the end of the game with lots of fast moving armored enemies," a representative told me.
"Other upgrades such as Armor effectiveness allow your armor take more hits before being destroyed. Upgrading your shotgun allows you to blow enemies apart even from far away, while the health increase means you'll be able to take a lot more hits before dying."
At the beginning of the game, you'll get to choose one of three starting weapons: a pistol, a shotgun, or a fireman's axe. Tools of the trade, right?
The town might be dangerous, but one of the hardest enemies I've come across is my own guy. If you get cut up too bad, you'll need to search around for medical supplies and clean the infected blood off your body. To do the latter, you'll need to find a tub. If you end up killing too many zombies, you'll need to wash away the remorse with booze or bible pick-up items.
In my experience, some of the game's most heart-pumping moments are spent in bathrooms; as you clean your wounds undead can stumble through the door, which leaves you little time to adjust to the conflict. This is some pretty feral stuff, but that first the vibe of the world; there's a lot of undead and they all want you to join in on the party.
Technically, I think you'll enjoy this. It's 3D all the way -- even though you won't get a great sense of this courtesy the camera -- and it has some decent assets to boot. The controls, which are your usual virtual array of bits and bobs, respond well enough. You'll want to be sitting down to play, though, as this definitely isn't an on-the-go kind of joint.
I think the camera and the leveling systems are going to be the biggest hurdles for people. I gave up arguing that survival-horror games' cameras are poorly designed. A restricted perspective never gives me any pleasure, but I suppose the tension that it artificially stirs up is a valid plus. As for the rinse-and-repeat nature of the game, it's just personal preference. If you like this stuff, you'll dig this.
On the other hand, the open-world and the fetch-quest model provide some of the most satisfying stuff. Runs feel epic, if not downright dangerous, so getting back in one piece is powerfully redeeming. The weight and feel of weapons is satisfying, too, and the world has a lot of stuff to explore and discover.
End Night is in submission, so we should see it at some point this February. As of right now, it's slated to hit the iPad exclusively at $2.99. An iPhone version might follow at some point down the road.
Watch Button Watch App