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Voyage of the Dead was made in 2019 by Gaming Corps Austin for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game solely supports the MARS gun controller system which I have previously shown in episode 159. Sadly the game isn't available in a physical form and has to be downloaded.
Voyage of the Dead is an on rails shooter in which zombies, Nazis, wild animals and aliens are fought. In the game's story the player is a tourist on a cruise liner. Suddenly the player is surrounded by zombies and has to fight a way out. After investigating the cause of the infection the player tries to escape in a small emergency boat as the cruise liner is sinking. As soon as the player enters the sea however a large squids attacks the boat and the player has to go back to the cruise liner. After fighting a Boss the player is able to capture a space craft and fleas with it into the sky.
Some minor nuances of the story are different depending on which character player one has selected. The basic available characters are a US cop, a British firestarter, a Scottish sea man and a Latin marine. Furthermore a special agent, a voodoo shaman, a crazy scientist, and an alien can be unlocked by passing a certain score in some mini games. Each character has a unique secondary weapon and skill tree.
The main story mode, which can be played by up to four players, consists of 13 stages: The main deck, a disco, the passenger decks, the control bridge, the engineering, the machine room, the storage and a flooded compartment thereof, a fancy entrance hall, again the main deck, the open sea, the roof of an UFO and finally the sky
After each stage a score screen is displayed. Players earn score and experience points during the game. Killing enemies in a consecutive manner grants bonus points and builds up a score multiplier. Rescuing civilians also grants a bonus. By accumulating experience points the character will level up. At this occasion certain skills and upgrades can be chosen, such as armor or stronger fire power. Sometimes killing enemies or destroying objects will reveal items such as special bullets, ammunition, health or special weapons. The special weapons replace the primary weapon as long as ammunition is available. Just two weapons can be held at a given time. The player can get infected by the zombies. In this case the health will slowly deplete. Picking up a syringe cures the infection.
Beside the main story mode the game offers a so called Horde mode in which the player tries to last as long as possible against an unlimited supply of zombies. Four levels are available in this mode. There is a tug of war like variation of the Horde mode called VS. There two players try to fill up a thermometer by killing zombies. Furthermore there are five mini games. In most of them additional characters can be unlocked. There is a pinball table, a golf driving range, skeet shooting with UFOs, a reaction game in which commands have to be obeyed quickly and a protection mission in which sharks are shot.
The game doesn't run very stable, especially during sessions with more than one player. From time to time the game stutters, gets out of sync with the audio, repeatedly replays wrong audio snippets during cut scenes or crashes all together. This is also the case when playing on the Xbox One X which was the most powerful console of that generation. The game has also some problems with collision detection and rag doll physics. Apart from the pretty visuals the game feels like it originated from the previous console generation. These however are very appealing. Especially the blood and goo splatter effects look very convincing.
The difficulty is rather high and unforgiving for a modern game. The main story has to be beaten in a single run, without continues, checkpoints or possibilities to save the progress. This reminds me a lot of classical nineties light gun shooters, but Voyage of the Dead is not nearly as refined as those were. Enemy placement, weapons balance and level design are much worse. Especially considering the MARS's technical short comings the game feels unfair and frustrating sometimes. The gun controllers are inaccurate and have a bad precision. The guns often swap identities among each other and unpair with the camera. For close combat the game relies on the barely working accelerometer in the gun. The result is that a single seagull might kill a player on a full health bar if the gun fails to detect the wiggling motions. Personally I am just able to beat the final three stages if I play the game Akimbo. It seems that no difficulty balancing depending on the number of players was done and that the game was designed as a multi player experience.
Personally I like Voyage of the Dead. Among the three MARS release games it is my favorite. Using a fake in game laser pointer as a reticle is a cool idea. Of course I would have enjoyed the possibility to turn the reticle off altogether even more. I like the story and the tone of the scenery very much. The idea with the selectable characters is great and increases the replay value a lot. However for my taste the characters are way too talkative and the constant repetition of one-liners annoyed me after some time. I doubt that the game will appeal to a wide audience as for its merciless and frustrating nature. As of making this video less than 0.5 % of the owners were able to beat the story mode.
The box design makes great use of colors and I find it very appealing. Some of the objects have a glossy finish to them.