Game Reviews

Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising

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Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising

Like an officer whose efforts don't quite meet expectations, Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising deserves the option of a quiet exit.

Never offending enough to warrant the shame of a dishonourable discharge, this turn-based tactics game has the makings of a fierce competitor in a rapidly expanding genre. Its neat premise and colourful presentation create a positive first impression.

Unfortunately, numerous issues - from poorly drawn cut-scenes and a fussy interface to unbalanced combat mechanics - indicate unpolished gameplay that prevents Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising from reaching its full potential.

The right stuff

It's another story of government gone wild - a secret research facility in the Pacific Northwest region of the US has unwittingly unleashed an undead contagion and Jack Johnson, soldier supreme, is the only person capable of setting things right.

Other military men join Jack to prevent a zombie apocalypse, forming a tactical team for you to command through the course of several turn-based missions.

Exploration and combat are turn-based, with action points dictating the possible range of commands available to your crew in a given cycle. Movement, attacking, weapon reloading, and item use is based on a character's pool of action points.

Economical use of these points is crucial to defeating the zombies prowling each stage, not to mention avoiding damage and death.

Each soldier can be outfitted with a weapon - joining the standard-issue pistol is a shotgun, semi-automatic rifle, grenades, and sharp blades - along with support items that boost attack accuracy and recover lost health. Since these items are to be pocketed from zombie corpses, you're pushed toward victory with the promise of rewards.

Party Hearty

Better still, you earn experience points for every kill. These points contribute to an overall level for your squad, and raising this nets you skill points that you can use to upgrade attributes. Skill points are awarded in a general pool, leaving you to decide how many points to spend on each character and on which attributes.

It's a nice system that offers just the right amount of depth, while at the same time preventing gross imbalances in the development of individual characters. Should one soldier become more powerful than another, it's the result of a choice you made rather than a flaw in the game's design.

Sadly, there are more than enough flaws to fill the void. The game suffers death from a thousand cuts, with myriad minor shortcomings crippling what should be a fun tactics title.

Superficial flaws abound, such as the blurry graphic novel-style cut-scenes that haven't been optimised for iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch, but it's the substantive errors that really bite into experience.

In the line of fire

The interface generally takes the right approach - simple menus, straightforward controls for commanding your characters - but it's bogged down in repetition.

Every action requires duplicate input - move a soldier, pick up an item, attack an enemy - you're called upon to double-tap the screen incessantly. In some situations it's wise, but some parsimony would be nice when it comes to double-tapping.

A more responsive camera is also needed. While the concept of multi-touch camera controls is a good one (and works well in other titles), it's poorly implemented here. Simply put, it's cumbersome to twist and zoom the camera.

Combat zone

Combat balance is off-kilter, too. Probability ratios don't reflect the actual chance of a successful attack. The game might say there's an 85 per cent chance that your soldier will hit a zombie, but it could be half that number. Too many attacks miss their mark and it creates a sense that the game is unpolished and unfair. Refining the probability algorithms should be a top priority.

Then there are just plain stupid issues like zombies that appear out of nowhere - literally popping up in front of your soldiers with no possible means of preparing for such surprise attacks - lack of Game Center integration, and a poor save system.

It's unfortunate so many problems plague Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising because there's something attractive about its campy turn-based play. That's not a reason to recommend it, though. This is one for the turn-based die-hards.

Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising

A campy turn-based adventure with the right idea, Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising discharges gameplay riddled with flaws both superficial and substantive flaws that make it tough to recommend