Space horror is always a delicious treat for me: metallic hallways festooned with cables and hoses, doors cycling open with an apprehensive hiss, and the grim isolation that only the vacuum of space can offer. This has translated beautifully to gaming, with titles like DOOM 3, System Shock, and Dead Space twisting the DNA of Cameron’s Aliens into spacefaring slices of intergalactic interactivity. Dead Effect looks to join their ranks by bringing zombies (there’s a shock) into orbit as an iOS-based first person shooter, but does it rock or does it rot?
The game’s plot is eerily similar to the aforementioned System Shock, with your character awakening from hypersleep on the ESS Meridian to discover that something is strangely amiss: the ship is overrun with zombies, and you need to find out what happened and survive the undead onslaught. This leads to plenty of FPS action, with a handful of weapons and plenty of zombies to splatter all over the ship’s titanium interior. The action can get very hairy at times, an ugly combination of large enemy mobs combined with the always-floaty touchscreen controls that make most FPS titles in the iDevices an exercise in frustration. Death can come at any time, but it never feels like a fair fight; your struggles with the game’s controls bring death as you try to resolve just which putrid pate to pulverize.
The other issue comes with just how stunningly generic the game is. It’s a zombie shooter, a genre which is quickly becoming as stale as month-old Count Chocula, and the space horror elements are liberally cribbed from other, better games. The game’s floaty HUD elements that holographically label ammo and credits feel like a dumbed-down Dead Space, and the zombie-infested corridors of the Meridian bear more than a passing resemblance to DOOM 3. Of course, a lot of these similarities could be attributed to the shared roots that all of these games have, but it feels more than a little plagiaristic. Even the game’s time-slowing abilities don’t exactly feel fresh, as they’ve been done before, and better, in non-horror titles like Max Payne. It is worth mentioning that the game balances beauty and speed perfectly in terms of graphics, with the game experiencing minimal slowdown even with its complex environments and larger mobs of enemies.
Dead Effect is a hard game to give a full recommendation to. It runs buttery smooth, looks great, and offers a decently cathartic amount of ghoul-splattering gore. However, the floaty touchscreen controls and generic feeling that borders on blandness certainly detract from the experience. Its bargain basement price ($3.99) makes it a more appealing impulse purchase, especially given its impressive length and additional play modes. It’s far from perfect, but it certainly scratches an itch.