• Land Of The Dead: Road To Fiddler's Green - Microsoft Xbox Review

    The eunuch claps his hands and the courtesans stop their duties and leave the room. The lights dim. A projector hums into life and heavenly light permeates through thick clouds of cigarette smoke.

    Publisher #1: What’s this ****?

    A young DEVELOPER steps forward. His face is callow and innocent, his expression resembling that of a rabbit’s when staring down the bonnet of an 18-wheeler.

    Developer: Pardon my impolite intrusion, but this is our latest popular software, entitled Land of the Dead. It is based on the filmic stylings of Mr. George A. Romero.

    Publisher #2: (To Publisher #1) You know, that guy who looks like he’s a skellington.

    Publisher #1: Yeah, yeah. Give me sales predictions, kid (preens ponytail).

    Publisher #2: (Touches own balding pate) I was thinking of going J. Allard this year.

    Developer: Can we show you our popular software first?

    Publisher #1: Does it have boobs in it? Like that Lord of Slaughter cashcow?

    Publisher #2: God of Porn, he means.

    Developer: The engine could not render them.

    Publisher #1: ****

    Developer: As you can see from this video, we have quite obviously made no effort on the graphical front at all.

    Publisher #2: Excellent.

    Developer: In fact, to keep costs down, we sourced an abandoned PC game from 1998 (Redneck Zombie Testicle 2), bolted a new frontend on it, which we outsourced to a design agency in the Sudetenland, and voila.

    Publisher #1: What was your final dev cost?

    Developer: $23.96. $12 of that was our mandatory sandwich budget. I’m afraid that was unavoidable and I must stand firm on that point. Unless you disagree.

    Publisher #1: ****

    Publisher #2: Didn’t you have to pay for the licence?

    Developer: When we saw the box office from the film’s opening week, we renegotiated and obtained it for half a packet of pork scratchings. And a tramp.

    Publisher #1: You could’ve haggled, dammit!

    Developer: I tremble with shame.

    Publisher #1: How about cruise control? Does it come with cruise control?

    Publisher #2: He means Xbox Live.

    Developer: To disguise the fact that we have provided no workable online functionality whatsoever, a small piece of code makes it appear that the lobby is always devoid of other players. To be honest, I’m not sure we needed to bother, but it’s a nice safeguard.

    Developer #2: Indubitably.

    Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green is an appalling game. In fact it’s THE appalling game, that legendary one that the kids drinking Bubblegum 20/20 down the park talk about. Zombie games appear to be ferociously in vogue at the moment, with PSP Infected and the upcoming Dead Rising on 360, still riding a trendy crest that their cinematic brethren have tumbled from some time ago. LotD takes its licence from the rather disappointing (but still good, in an alright, middling, average and other quotidian-bent adjectives and nouns sort of way) latest entry in Romero’s Dead cycle, but really has little to do, in terms of content, style or feel, with said film, seeming more like a listless, misconceived parody, with a subtitle that sounds like an ode to Gary Glitter. By that we mean a tatty old FPS featuring tragically outdated graphics (allegedly dumped into the Unreal engine), hoary mechanics and little reason to play, outside of feeling like you have to experience bad games so you can write equally bad reviews of them. Interpret "bad review" as you may.

    Sticking the player in the slack-tongued shoes of a hootin’ yokel whose farm is invaded one day by a mysterious “stranger” (watch OUT he’s a ZOMBIE! Or from the FEDERAL BUREAU of ALCOHOL, Tobacco and Firearms come to STEAL your GOD-GIVEN GUNS, dagnammit!) the game involves the journey of said redneck to the titular Fiddler’s Green, the elitist residential skyscraper of the film where only the richest can gain entry. Along the way, a series of the most bedraggled, lacklustre, poorly animated zombies since Umberto Lenzi’s criminal ‘80s festering flick Nightmare City (who resemble the Californian Raisins with poo smothered on them) offer up their pitiful undead assail.

    It is worth mentioning, just to cut to the chase and not waste any more words than necessary on this dreck, that the game does not feature any location-sensitive damage (or rather, it says it does but lies) so the traditional remedy for zombies and tenet of most zombie games, that being “shoot ‘em in the head”, does not apply here: you still have to pump three rounds-plus into their foreheads, the same quantity as if you were to shoot them exclusively in the coccyx.

    Melee combat is also “implemented”, with weak and strong attacks for when ammo runs short or you need to bowl through a gaggle of stenches in a hurry, but it’s so dedicatedly unsatisfying in practice and lacking any sort of martial fluidity… add to that the fact that the zombies will often box you in, and that for some reason they appear to be spectacularly adhesive so being stuck to them without any scope for manoeuvring left open to actually hit back is depressingly commonplace.

    Movement is choppy, slow, ragged and frustrating, aiming is hugely, objectionably awkward, with your reticule swinging about wildly because of the clumsy analogue sensitivity… “What of the Live implementation?” we hear you whisper very, very quietly. Moribund deathmatch and co-op modes are provided, but saying there’s lag would be doing a disservice to General Lag and his Hideous Army of Huge Lag Mercenaries that lag into view.

    Whilst normally we could find something positive to say about any game with zombies crawling all over it, we’re struggling to find anything else not remotely pestilential to say about this one.

    Score: 1/10

    Text by Bill Fuller
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