Just by exiting the starting gate of marketplace publication, Avatar of the Dead ($1.00) has a huge advantage. I mean, sure, zombies, but if the continued popularity of ApocZ is anything to go by, then people can’t get enough of the PvE1 / PvP these types of open world games specialize in. That said, while the undead are more of an afterthought or bonus in games like ApocZ and the like, with players focused on robbing and killing each other2, Avatar of the Dead runs into the same fate as all online-based XBLIGs do these days…
… with that being that nobody’s home. So, despite the potential (or murderous free-for-all) of eight-player co-op, odds are you’ll only have the offline, single-player portion of Avatar of the Dead to play with. Just you versus a horde of bloodthirsty zombies. How does that work out, you might ask? Well, sometimes… not so good.
Awkward, occasionally-broken combat aside, the setup here is straightforward and well-traveled; survive against a world of zombies, scrounging weapons from the surrounding exteriors of homes and barns. Don’t mistake that self-supplied mission objective for an actual objective, though. There is no statement of purpose, no score-keeping in Avatar of the Dead, no progress markers, no HUD even, to clue you in on what you’re supposed to be doing. You simply exist, slay some zombies until you die, then respawn next to a lonely van in the middle of nowhere and repeat.
Weapons consist of the usual melee tools, like a shovel or hatchet, and a pistol with unlimited ammo3. The ‘open world’ itself is quite limited in design, mostly featureless prairie in all directions. The few buildings that do dot the landscape may harbor a weapon, but there’s otherwise nothing of interest to see here. While ApocZ at least had the ‘survival’ part of its plan down, gathering supplies and watching out for your health, Avatar of the Dead is really just an arena to test out some weapons in. Sadly, it’s not even very good at that.
The zombies lack any kind of killer instinct, sometimes not even bothering to come after you. When they do, it’s relatively easy to dispatch them with whatever is at hand (your fists do just fine). Unfortunately, your sense of accomplishment at doing so will be muted at best. It’s not your fault. Any kind of tension or fear is lost when the walking dead wear bright, neon clothing(!), which is just as ridiculous and undercooked as the rest of the game.
Try as it does to be relevant and timely, Avatar of the Dead is a mess of a game, a shadow of the much better games it’s based on. While the scarcity of online players on XBLIG is something to lament, in the case of this game, I’d like to think of it as a blessing in disguise.
- Er… PvZ, that is. And that’s ‘Player versus Zombie’, by the way. Not to be confused with Plants Vs. Zombies, or its FPS spinoff, Garden Warfare, which is a whole other deal. ↩
- Once again, I weep for the lack of decency / empathy in the human race, even in fictional circumstances. So it goes. ↩
- That’s really more like a compact sniper rifle. I was picking off one-pixel tall zombies from a massive distance. Where the hell do you get a gun like this, and can I transfer it over to my Warlock character in Destiny? ↩