Konami's Zombie Apocalypse was an unexpected treat: a brilliantly brainless blaster that mixed Left 4 Dead with Smash TV to make a simple, pick up and play experience that required little commitment from the player, yet delivered plenty of cheap, visceral thrills.
Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone, the unexpected (and unnecessary) sequel, promises the same fast and furious gameplay, but with the added depth of distinct character classes, larger levels, and a plot to string together the various zed-splattering arenas. Sadly, the sequel's new "more is better" attitude proves to be its downfall.
Zombie Apocalypse succeeded as a result of its simplicity. Players were dropped into a series of tiny, chaotic environments for levels that would last maybe 10 minutes against waves of zombies, picking up upgraded weapons as they dropped in at random. There was no attempt at strategy outside of peppering the undead with as much lead as humanly possible or launching them into one of the many environmental hazards that littered the games looping levels. You had the choice of one of four characters, but it did little more than help differentiate you from the other potential players on screen in the event that you got your friends to join in.
Never Die Alone changes all of that with the enhancement of four different characters, each with their own distinct secondary ability and personality. Oh god, the personalities. Never Die Alone's cast of characters include a British rapper named Def Money (groan), a bland sniper-type named Alma, Father Bill the healing priest, and Jeremy. Oh, Jeremy.
I'm going to go on my soapbox here for a moment and explain something to people: "extreme gamer" characters are not funny, leetspeak is all but (mercifully) dead, and hearing people using the phrase "pwning n00bs" in 2011 is a surefire way to date your game. Jeremy does all of these things, rolled into one horrible, bandana-wearing package. Never before have I felt such rage at a character, compounded by the fact that his assault rifle, amplified damage powerup, and Zombie Bait (a C4-stuffed teddy bear that draws the zombies in like flies to feces) made him a character that I enjoyed the most to play as, even as his stream of retainer-mouthed stupidity had me rolling my eyes so hard I thought my optic nerves would snap.
It wouldn't be quite so bad, except that the game's sprawling levels make you spend extensive amounts of time with these characters, running a gauntlet that wears out its welcome faster than you could imagine. It's utterly, inexplicably boring, no matter if you play alone or with a friend trying to clear out the bland, joyless environments.
Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone proves that sometimes attempting to "improve" on a game whose entire appeal was based around its simplicity is a surefire way to lose that game's entire appeal. Stick to the original, and leave this sequel to—ironically—die alone.