Absolutely nothing to do with Mass Effect, Dead Effect is a series that began in 2013, with a humble release on Android and iOS mobile devices. After a fairly successful launch, Dead Effect was then released for PCs and Macs a year later. A short time after that development from Czechs, BadFly Interactive (formerly inBrain Dev) started on Dead Effect 2. Dead Effect 2 arrived primarily on Android and iOS mobile devices in 2015, PCs and Macs in 2016 and most recently, Xbox Ones and PS4s in January 2017.
Firstly, pigeonholing this game into one particular genre is difficult. It’s a futuristic, horror FPS with RPG elements… so take from that what you will. The basic premise is “zombies + spaceship + magical space abilities + guns = game”. The game comes with numerous modes alongside a sizeable campaign that can be played co-op if desired.
The story, having not played the first game is surprisingly easy to pick up. You play as a survivor onboard a doomed spaceship/station after having woken up from cryo-sleep. You’re told by another survivor who unsurprisingly becomes your main ally, that you’re a test subject and that the scientists onboard had been performing experiments on you to make you into somewhat of a super soldier. In the meantime, a man-made virus broke out around the station and has turned the majority of the crew into a flesh-devouring zombie horde. Oh and alongside that, trained elite soldiers have been sent to the test facility to clear up the mess, predominantly the zombie threat, however, they see you as a potentially infected, so they’ll also be aiming to gun you down. This is all going on, whilst Danette, the aforementioned survivor-turned-ally is sending you on off on missions with a shopping list of buddies she wants you to rescue. Yes, this game has you spinning a few plates at once.
After a handful of short tutorial missions that get you to grips with the game, you enter the hidden base. The base acts as a sort of hub or lobby which as you progress through the campaign, rescuing Danette’s friends, slowly fills up with vendors for upgrades, armour, weapons and unlockable skills. This RPG element of the game is extraordinarily rewarding and with the money gained from each mission, I felt excited to return to the base to see what other upgrades I could unlock, to make myself a stronger, faster, more deadly zombie/soldier destroying unit.
Alongside the vendors, the game also has a loot system implemented, however during my playthrough only once did I receive something of better quality than the vendor had already sold to me, meaning that after a good few hours into the game, I felt less excited when the on-screen notification popped up, alerting me that I had picked something up. I would generally just sell these back to the vendors to have more cash to spend on better weapons and armour. Speaking of weaponry…
The generous arsenal of weapon types gives every player their own unique way to tear things apart. Staples like automatic rifles, snipers, pistols and shotguns are all there, but when miniguns, laser cannons, grenade launchers, katanas, brass knuckles and Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir are added to the mix, things can get very interesting! Each weapon’s stats are all individually upgradeable and have perk slots, in which you can install perks you receive at the end of certain missions or from, you’ve guessed it, the vendor. The loot is rated in a colour graded scheme, which, like any loot-based RPG title, makes it easy to distinguish at first sight a superior piece of equipment.
Something I felt the game left a little unexplained was the character selection. At the beginning of the game, the players choose one of three characters to play as, each with different preferred weapon types. Whilst their storyline is the same, some dialogue and of course skill and abilities change. The three characters are Gunnar Davis, Jane Frey and Kay Rayner. The selection screen indicates that Gunnar uses heavy weapons, Jane uses shotguns and Kay uses swords. That made sense, but what didn’t is that when I selected Gunnar to use throughout my playthrough, once I had purchased them I to was able to use shotguns and swords. I was left a little confused and came to the conclusion that this gave simply a bit of backstory to the character, rather than an actual in-game mechanic. As stated, Gunnar, Jane and Kay all do have different skill sets, so for those who are looking to play Dead Effect 2, read up on the skill sets first as they are more important than the supposed “preferred weapon types”.
Graphically, the game is surprisingly well polished. It has the expected gritty filter commonly seen in horror titles, but each level is crafted with exceptional detail even down to the individual pale strands of tattered flesh hanging off the rotting half-eaten torsos strewn around the facility floor… sorry, if you’re eating. The dimly lit corridors make for some tense close-combat action when fronted with the glossy, bloodied half-face of a zombie. Yes, I was somewhat taken back by quite how detailed and well developed the visuals of this game were. It certainly added to the unsettling assurance that I, not a fan of the genre, was playing a horror game.
The sound design has also been well developed and certainly adds to the overall feel of this game, however, at times, the voice-acting can be somewhat comic when I’m not sure it was supposed to. Dr. Bielik, one of the vendors that join your squad after you’ve rescued him, seems to be of an Eastern-European or Russian nationality and “WOW!” do the developers try to make that obvious. Bielik sounds as though rather than being voiced by someone of the same nationality, has someone simply giving an over-exaggerated and slightly-offensive impression. I mean no harm to whoever the voice actor was as I’m sure they were under instruction from the game directors, but I couldn’t help but cringe every time I spoke to him.
Alongside the questionable performance by some of the voice actors, I felt as though the zombies could have done with being a little more fearsome. The tension was often ruined when a zombie would let out a disgruntled murmur from around a corner or a darkened corridor, losing all hope of a jump scare. Not only were they loud, but pretty dumb as well. With the occasional exception of a lone brave soul that would split from the crowd and make a heroic stumble into the wrong end of my shotgun, the zombies would often line themselves up in a tight doorway for me, just right for me to pop off a multi-headshot or lazily chuck a charged grenade. The zombies have some small variances in their clusters, but they mainly follow the slow, lumbering, idiotic stereotype, making them easy to dispose of and all-in-all pretty uninspiring enemies.
Overall, Dead Effect 2 is awesome. It’s got a couple of small faults and is a little rough around the edges at times, but for the most part, this small, seemingly unheard of studio have got a great little franchise and have made a fantastic sequel here. Yes, the zombies could be a little quicker to react and the voice performances could be redone altogether, but other than that, there’s not too much I could fault with this game. The RPG elements are well made and keep the carrot on the stick, pushing you on to strive for that perfect build and just as you think you’ve got everything, the vendor restocks with the next batch of items you’ll grind the missions out for. I don’t consider myself a fan of horror titles, but I thoroughly enjoyed the RPG and loot systems in this game. I’d recommend Dead Effect 2 to fans of loot-based RPGs or those partial to a bit of gore every once in a while.