After watching the Quick Look, Brad and Patrick’s take-away seemed to be ‘This game is wacky, but the shooting totally sucks.’ And that understandably seemed to be turning a lot of people off. But after spending a few days with the game, I think it’s really good. It does some pretty different things and has a lot more going on with it than your typical third person zombie shooter. So I think it would be a shame if people were to miss out when they might actually like the game a lot.
First, the combat is actually pretty rad. You’ve got about three ways that you can go about shooting zombies. You can fire blind with R1 and hope for the best, you can go into an over the shoulder auto-aim with L1, and you can go into a stationary aiming mode in the vein of RE4 with the L2 button and aiming with the left stick. The auto aim is good for crowd control, especially with automatic weapons. You can clear out a room or hallway quickly by panning the camera over the zombies and the auto aim will do the rest. The tactic I used the most though, was the RE4 style aiming.
Tapping L2 will lock your aim on to the nearest zombie’s head. This little feature allows you to establish a very systematic approach of tapping L2 and immediately following that with a shot and repeating. Using this tactic, you can take out a rushing mass of zombies with a single head shot a piece. It’s intensely satisfying to one-shot entire groups of zombies at a time; it kinda feels like the shooting in Red Dead. The best part about it is how frenetic it can get when the crowds start getting too close to you. It instills the same sort of dread you get from standing in one place for too long in RE4 but is much more fast-paced with the zombies sprinting toward you like in Left 4 Dead.
One thing that took me a while to come to grips with was what to do when the zombies bear down on and inevitably start taking swipes and grab you. The X button handles dodging, and tapping X while aiming will jump your character back a couple feet. So when using pistols and SMGs, there’s a real economy to the gameplay, timing your dodges and immediately going back to targeting and shooting. The other weapons have their own idiosyncrasies. The shotgun eliminates the need to aim, but usually takes two shots to permanently down a zombie. It's most handy on the special infected, for lack of a better word, though. What would normally be an overly drawn out battle with, say, those zombies with the helmets, becomes a one-sided ass-whipping. Me personally, I went for the sniper rifle. You can drop multiple zombies in a row with it and get an unfair advantage against the special infected if you have enough distance on them.
Speaking of special infected, they are another of the high points in the game. Dead Souls mostly plays it straight, but the casual nods to other franchises belay it’s true intent. In the Quick Look we got to see the licker from Resident Evil, the witch from Left 4 Dead and even though they didn’t put two and two together, the Tank. There’s also the boomer and certain regular zombies will throw Molotov cocktails RE4 style. It’s really fun and funny seeing characters like Majima going toe to toe with these obviously referential enemies if you’re already familiar with the series.
But if you’re not, those enemies don’t play like sub-par knock-offs either. You’ve got those obvious references in there, but none of those enemies actually play like the ones they’re referencing. The witch operates more like the boomer, the tank just sorta walks around slowly and swings his arms around and I don’t really even know what the boomer does. So while it may look like a mess of familiar enemy designs, it doesn’t actually play like the cheap rip-off you might think it would.
But is there any draw for those new to the series? It’s a good game for sure, but third person shooters and zombie games are a dime a dozen. I think anybody could enjoy it if they can find it on the cheap, and you would definitely get your money’s worth out of a rental. The camera can be a problem, especially in hallways and other confined areas, you probably saw how annoying locking on to enemies is near stairs in the Quick Look and I can’t say that the boss battles were all that exciting, but those are my only real complaints.
There’s a lot of fun to be missed in the story if you don’t already know the characters, and since Yakuza 4 is such a great game in it’s own right, I’d recommend anyone new to the series to start there. You could play that while you’re waiting to find a used copy Dead Souls. Judging by the MSRP for Yakuza 3 and 4, I wouldn’t expect a price drop any time in the near future, so used or rental are pretty much your only other options.
As a value proposition, the game is a no-brainer though. It’s packed to the brim with content. The campaign alone, with no diversions will run close to twenty hours. Add to that the Yakuza team’s penchant for packing in as much extra bullshit as humanly possible with gun modding, store upgrades, hostess clubs, mini games and other, general side missions, and you have a game that can be as long as you want it to be. So you certainly won’t go wanting for content.