Everybody loves killing zombies. Whether it’s in the first person like Left 4 Dead, third person a la Resident Evil, or top down as with Burn Zombie Burn! there’s something about their mass pack mentality that ensures a massive smile whenever your baseball bat meets their heads. Perhaps it’s because we don’t see these poor, brainless drones as humans or whether it’s just a simple survival instinct kicking in because we’re often surrounded by dozens of them at once.
It’s this mass horde attitude that plays off so well with Burn Zombie Burn! as your character, Bruce, is constantly outnumbered by more of the undead than we’ve ever seen in a videogame. Not only that but the basic AI employed by these zombies is actually more scary than if they actually had anything other than a lemming-like “follow follow”, especially when the screen is filled with a hundred of the little buggers. It might seen like an oxymoron, but the dumber zombies are the better the game. We’ll tell you why.
Burn Zombie Burn! isn’t just about dispatching these sad but aggressive beings with clips full of bullets: it’s cunningly technical and whilst yes you’ll manage to get through the game bluffing it, for the high scores and the in the zone feeling that you’re playing it the way it’s meant to be played you’ll need deft dexterity and the ability to quickly think on your feet. It’s all about the combos and the clever, titular Burn! mechanic.
Simply put, dead zombies drop pickups. These pickups can be significantly more powerful if said zombies were burnt alive instead of just shot, sliced or beaten – Bruce can switch between whatever main weapon he has (be that a shotgun, a baseball bat or a submachine gun, for example) and his trusty stick of burning wood. Touch a zombie with your torch out, so to speak, and they’ll instantly ignite, and any neighbouring undead will also begin to burn, like a particular nasty virus.
Once alight the pickings become richer, leading to TNT and other massively destructive items that can hugely influence your eventual score. Burning zombies, however, are faster and more deadlier and thus the game instinctively requires you to manage the danger levels against the possible rewards. Other mechanics come into play, such as specific weapon combos requiring you to not swap out your gun should you run out of ammo, and these all run in parallel with each other transferring an otherwise basic set of game rules into something much more complex.
This doesn’t ever get in the way of the action, though, which is relentless. Throughout the game’s modes (which we covered in our interview) the zombies come thick and fast and although Burn Zombie Burn! isn’t a twin stick shooter in the strictest sense of the word, with the lock-on button pressed and held in you can almost play it like one if you so desire. DoubleSix wanted you to look at this game as more of an old school 16-bit style shooter though, with the character firing forwards at all times, so work through the tutorial slowly and take in everything the game has to offer and the controls will become second nature quickly enough. Just don’t go and play Stardust straight after.
Visually it’s actually quite nice. The environments are spooky and play up to the obvious clichés, as do the characters and even the weapons, but they’re solid and smooth enough to impress in HD and despite the game engine managing to throw around 120 zombies at once at 1080p the frame rate holds up perfectly. The sound is also exactly as you’d expect, cheesy but good humoured music complimented by a raft of moans and groans peppered with the crack from your machine gun is all we could have wished for. The game also offers a split screen multiplayer which is great fun.
So, another quality PSN title just perfect for those afternoons when all you want to do is take our your anger on a pack of hungry zombies. Burn Zombie Burn! is well produced, smartly priced, great fun and a nice addition to anyone’s XMB. The various score challenges will keep you coming back for more, there’s a decent smattering of Trophies and you can feel good about yourself because you’ve supported yet another PS3 exclusive game. Good on you.