With the reception that Dead Alliance received during the Beta not too far from launch, you would have thought that the developer would have withheld the game just that bit longer to ensure that they addressed the issues that many complained about. Sadly, common sense has not prevailed. Dead Alliance has an interesting premise, I mean, who doesn’t like the sound of a first-person zombie shooter that’s set, as always, in a post-apocalyptic world, a place where the only signs of life are situated among former military bases that are now occupied by the remnants of civilisation. It’s your run of the mill bog standard setting, but that’s just how we like it, right?
The problem, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t with the setup or the premise, it’s with the bug ridden poorly optimised gameplay. How the hell did Dead Alliance make it through QA without these issues (which have been blatantly shoved under the nostrils of the devs since in the beta) being realised? I’ve said it a million times before, we game in a time where it’s okay for a developer and publisher to release a game with a ‘launch now – fix later’ attitude. Well, it’s not okay. It’s not okay at all. This practice isn’t going anywhere any time soon, made apparent by the likes of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, and many many more. We see it all of the time, a developer will launch a broken game and then spend the next few weeks on Twitter begging for your patience, your understanding, and your forgiveness, whilst they focus on fixing shit that they could have done beforehand. Sure, I understand that many devs have the pressure of hungry publishers resting on their shoulders, but is this an excuse? No. Not by a long shot.
Dead Alliance has more bugs than a bushtucker trial, and this spreads across every single portion of content that the game houses. The game offers up a small selection of maps and a small selection of game modes. The maps are well realised and well designed, and the game modes suit each of the supporting maps magnificently, but as alluded to above, the problem isn’t with the design, but with the execution of the gameplay. Single-player typically sees you moving from cover to cover whilst taking out hordes of undead. The air is toxic and polluted, meaning that you’ll need to ensure that you stick to the “bubbles” that are strategically placed around the map. Step out of these bubbles to pop off a few shots at an unsuspecting band of zombies, and your health will begin to deplete. There is a mild story to follow, but it’s not particularly interesting enough to even captivate your attention, nor does it distract you from the repetitive fields of play.
The interesting mechanic that allows you to ally with zombies is a fascinating concept on paper, but as with many things in Dead Alliance, it just doesn’t grip you in the way I suspect it was intended to. You can get the zombies on your side via the use of zMods, which enable you to use traps, pheromone grenades, and lures, in an attempt to attack and distract your opponents. It would have been a solid feature had the rest of the game been enjoyable, but alas, beggars cant be choosers, eh? Outside of this you can take to some local multiplayer with AI, which is equally as uninspiring as the single player. When I look at how you can buy Dead Alliance, I often thought that maybe even the developers knew that people would be dissatisfied with the single player portion, which is why you have the option to buy the story mode or the multiplayer mode separately through different editions on the Microsoft Store, or of course grab the whole package for one set price.
The biggest issue with the game is present in the multiplayer sections of the game. Dead Alliance offers a band of modes such as Capture and Hold, King of the Hill, Free for All, Team Deathmatch and more, but none of that really holds up well when the optimisation poses a bigger challenge than anything else in the game. Gameplay feels somewhat delayed to a small degree, and the aiming function leaves much to be desired. Enemies will constantly get stuck in the map or move as though they’re barefoot on an ice rink, and if that wasn’t enough to put up with, we have slow rendering objects throughout the entirety of each and every map.
Don’t get me wrong, Dead Alliance is a decent looking game. It certainly doesn’t push the limitations of current gen hardware, but it’s far from ugly. So when you do have late rendering issues with bland textures in place of whatever is trying to pop on the map, it’s disheartening. If you played Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 prior to the patches that have since resolved the issues it suffered with, I can safely say that Dead Alliance (as far as optimisation goes) is even worse than that was. My time spent in multiplayer largely consisted of Free for All, simply because the team based objective modes just weren’t fun. Spawning was about as pleasant as Call of Duty: Black Ops back on its initial release, being that you will literally be dumped anywhere the game sees fit.
It’s a shame really, because when you look at the big picture, Dead Alliance has a great deal of potential. The fact that ammo only drops when you kill a human player makes conservation quite thrilling, and when you have the manipulation of the undead thrown on top of that, it makes for occasional (albeit fleeting) moments of action-packed fun. The devs seriously need to address the bugs, the spawning, and the optimisation issues if they want this game to survive even a month.
As it stands, I cant see players populating the online modes for too long, with so many technical faults present. Customisation and weaponry is commendable, both of which are tied to a solid purchase system, but a plethora of weapon parts and skins wont save this from everything else that drags it down. If you’re looking to invest, I would strongly recommend waiting for a patch to resolve the problems. If you absolutely must have it, start out with the cheaper multiplayer component first, and then see if you fancy upgrading to the full package.
Dead Alliance has more issues than Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 did upon launch, and that’s saying something. We have optimisation issues, spawning issues, and several bugs to contend with, all of which go hand in hand to put forward a very low quality experience. It’s a shame really, because the map design is excellent, and the functionality is equally as impressive. There’s some interesting mechanics within, and a decent weapon and upgrade system to lean on, however this doesn’t mean diddly-squat in the face of the problems that Dead Alliance suffers from. Single-player is hardly a head turner, and feels quite repetitive and bland after the first hour of play. When so much criticism was directed at these faults during the Beta period a small while back, it boggles the mind to wonder why these haven’t been remedied prior to launch. If you place all of the content and editions under one umbrella, you’re being asked to pay the AAA price for a game that massively lacks the AAA touch. If you have money to burn and a good level of forgiveness, this is for you. Everyone else, wait until the devs pull their fingers out and earn the amount of money they’re asking for.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.