Recently I took part in the open beta for Dead Alliance, a 4v4 squad first-person shooter where zombies are both your friend and enemy. While I am reluctant to criticise betas too harshly, nothing about the beta stood out; in fact there was a myriad of issues that developers Illfonic and Psyop Games needed to address. However, despite these issues, the beta had an element of fun about it and I was hopeful that the finished product would be entertaining enough to counteract the game’s issues. Sadly that’s not the case, with Dead Alliance’s launch plagued by performance issues, tired gameplay and barren lobbies which results in a largely tawdry and stale experience.
Bring out your dead
For those that are unaware of what Dead Alliance is, it’s your run-of-the-mill online shooter with all the usual modes you see in every multiplayer shooter – Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag…you get the point. However, Dead Alliance has one unique gameplay element over your standard PvP experience. In Dead Alliance players are up against one another as well as hordes of zombies, which can be used to a player’s advantage. Players are able to weaponise zombies, turning them into scurrying homing missiles that in packs can often be overwhelming. It’s a cool concept that is never really capitalised on as more often than not the zombies are more of a nuisance than a threat.
For seasoned veterans of first-person multiplayer juggernauts such as Overwatch, Call of Duty or Battlefield, Dead Alliance will play like a cheap knockoff in every gameplay aspect (because it is). There is a single-player mode included, however this is nothing more than a solo version of the hugely popular Zombie Mode found in other games. The one difference is that unless you’re in one of the ‘quarantine zones’ you become infected and your health depreciates. If you don’t reach a safe zone in time you die. So essentially you end up worrying more about reaching a safe zone than the wave of zombies on your tail.
Perhaps most vexatious is that despite the game launching on August 29, the matches I played online were predominantly made up of AI bots (who were nothing more than cannon fodder)
In terms of customisation, there’s an upgrade system with different perks for the three different classes: Light, Medium and Heavy. Players can upgrade their health and damage as well as things like how much XP they earn. Weapons can also be upgraded with parts, however the downside here is that a lot of the upgrades cost obscene amounts of money, virtually forcing the player to grind to earn enough cash to buy a weapon part.
Dead Alliance has many a problem, and one of the most concerning aspects of the game is its technical performance, which is far from optimal. With a framerate that rarely feels like it’s above 15fps, it is one of the most sluggish shooters I have played in a while. Couple this with dubious hit detection and frequent clipping and you’ve got you’ve yourself a technical bomb. It doesn’t help that the game is ugly either. The textures are ugly, the environments are bland and everything about the game visually screams cheap. Furthermore, prior to the commencement of a match there is a warm-up period which can be a wait time of up to two minutes. This wouldn’t be that much of a drag if you could customise your guns or purchase perks while waiting, but you can’t. Upgrades and customisation can only be done in the Hideout, which can only be accessed from the main menu.
Is this real life?
The gameplay mechanics also leave a lot to be desired too, with the guns and shooting mechanics feeling quite lacking. Very few of the guns felt satisfying shoot, in fact I rarely ventured from using the MP4, as the other weapons lacked vigour, aside from the crossbow which guaranteed a one-hit kill. The melee hit detection also seemed to be a bit of a chook raffle at times with opponents and zombies requiring a couple swings to go down.
Perhaps most vexatious is that despite the game launching on August 29, the matches I played online were predominantly made up of AI bots (who were nothing more than cannon fodder). It was a rare occurrence to have a match with multiple human players, like buying a packet of Fruit Tingles or Mentos and hoping for more than one pink flavoured treat. It was as if I and a couple mates were the only people in Australia (possibly the world) playing the game, and with no option to change the server (if there was even more than one) we were resigned to playing against bots round after round.
In total there are six maps included in the game, and I can’t say that any of them in particular stood out. For certain game modes, some maps feel a little too large for the 4v4 experience, even with the zombies roaming the map. The most fun was had on the warehouse map, which was small and together with the zombies made for a few hectic moments.
Real men own pink guns
Despite the negatives I had fun from time to time playing Dead Alliance. This was mostly when I was in the company of human-controlled players. Sadly though, the enjoyment quickly wore off due to the bots being incredibly rubbish. I mean, I have never been crash hot at multiplayer first-person shooters, but these bots made me look like Colin Firth in The Kingsmen (yes, the church scene).
While the concept is cool, Dead Alliance should serve as a lesson to every developer on how not to make a multiplayer FPS. The most criminal aspect is that the game is being sold for $69 when it’s obvious that the game isn’t finished. A lack of human-controlled players and content means that Dead Alliance’s fun is over before it ever really gets started. In reality, the game should have been released as a free-to-play title in its current state as it offers nothing worth paying for.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro