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.

  • Anonymous

    What's up with the framerate?

    • Anonymous

      Some gameplay portions of the the trailer were slowed down for effect but we guarantee silky smooth gameplay.  On iPad 2 it runs at 60 fps.  

      There'll be a new gameplay trailer coming this week.

  • http://twitter.com/oooooomonkey Oooooomonkey

    iPad only :-( = poop

  • http://twitter.com/MajorGnarl Rickard Olsson

    I like the concept but the gameplay looks absolutely horrible in the trailer. Are they serious about this?  

    • Anonymous

      thanks for the feedback, this teaser trailer only shows a very small part of the gameplay. A full gameplay trailer will be released later this week, hope you'll check it out, we're pretty sure you like it.

  • Anonymous

    release it for iphone PLEASE

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully the controls are like Extraction: Project Outbreak.... those were some of the simplest yet tightest control schemes imo on iOS (tap to move, swipe to target)

  • John Smith

    Iphone version please.

  • brendan kirk

    People stop complaining about not getting an iPhone version. Unless you're using a 4S, the iPad blows your performance out of the water (even if you are, the iPad 2 has been shown to outperform the 4S despite the similar hardware). I'd rather have more deep and entertaining games exclusive to the iPad since its large screen and powerful graphics processing make it so much better for gaming.

    • JB Ruutelmann

      Look, the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S may have a superior dual-core processor, but that by NO means makes the A4 of the iPhone and iPod 4 obsolete. Consider, if you will, games such as Dead Space, ShadowGun, Modern Combat 3, and GTA 3 (to name a few) that are perfectly playable on A4 devices. Sure, MC3 may have the motion blur when you sprint, yeah, GTA has some extra lighting effects, but the game is essentially the same. At this point, there are only two reasons why developers would pick only the iPads: 

      1. They like the larger screen (I certainly do, though it isn't nearly as portable)

      2. They are being lazy with the coding, not optimizing for other devices.

      Let me also point out, sir, that this game is going to released for ALL iPads. What does that mean? Simply this:

      The iPad 1 has a 1000 mhz A4 processor with 256 mb of RAM

      The iPhone 4 has a 1000 mhz A4 processor underclocked to 800 mhz (due to cooling issues, no doubt) with 512 mb of RAM.

      The iPod 4 has a 1000 mhz A4 processor underclocked, like the iPhone, to 800 mhz with 256 mb of RAM.

      You, sir, are absolutely wrong. The iPhone and iPod 4 have very similar specs to the iPad 1, the iPhone arguable better. No, this game is going to released only for iPad not due to any hardware fault of the iPhone and iPod 4, but simply because the developer didn't believe the smaller display of those devices would be best suited for his game. Please do no mislead people. 

      • http://twitter.com/try2bcool69 Jay G

        It amazes me that you would expend so much energy to prove a point that, in the end, does not change the fact that it may only come out on the iPad.