George A. Romero is a name all zombie fans should instantly recognize, as he was responsible for the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead that set the standard for excellence in the horror genre. Fast-forward to 2005â€” Land of the Dead, Romeroâ€™s latest flick in the â€˜Deadâ€™ series is released on DVD while Brainbox Games unleashes Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlerâ€™s Green, an FPS title based very loosely around the events depicted in the movie. While it sports an MSRP of $29.99 for Xbox and $19.99 for PC, the game does provide some entertainment, albeit through a very buggy experience.
To clear things up, Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlerâ€™s Green revolves around the story of a farmer and his fight to stay alive and has very little, if not nothing to do with the movie. Instead, players will take up the role of a peaceful man named Jack living in the countryside somewhere in the United States. One day, upon noticing an unnaturally pale chap hovering around in his yard, things immediately take a turn for the worse as the deceased begin to walk the earth once again and feast on the living. Fighting to stay alive, Jack learns through emergency news reports that it is indeed flesh-eating zombies (is there really any other kind?) that are walking outside, and that there is one safe human city remaining. Upon arrival in the City of the Living the owner of the Fiddlerâ€™s Green condominium, surprised by Jackâ€™s knack for survival and talent for zombie extermination, asks our friendly farmer to do some grunt work for him with the promises of riches and living quarters.
Of course, Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlerâ€™s Green isnâ€™t in line to win any awards for its mesmerizing plot, but it does a fair job of advancing the single-player campaign, which consists mainly of â€˜kill everything that movesâ€™ and â€˜fetch me a random itemâ€™ kind of objectives.
To assist Jack in the extermination of the undead, players will be granted the use of a variety of melee options, handguns, shotguns, rifles, assault rifles and projectile weapons. Since most of the firearms players will be presented with at the beginning of the game are rather weak, zombies will take a generous amount of bullets before finally dying. The further you progress in the campaign, the stronger your firepower becomes. And though a well-placed headshot effectively removes an opponentâ€™s head with a single bullet, the hit detection can be extremely dodgy. In the event that you run out of ammunition, you can always resort to your fists or other melee weapons to lay the smack down on a decaying zombieâ€™s noggin. At first, Jack will be outfitted with only his fists and his wits, but will rapidly come across improved melee weapons ranging from hammers to shovels, golf clubs, and more; all of which are much more effective at taking down enemies and keeping a comfortable space between yourself and them.
Aside from the single-player campaign, Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlerâ€™s Green also features a multiplayer mode for a maximum of 8 players over Xbox Live and 2 to 8 people via System Link. In all, there are four game modes to choose from: Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch and Invasion. For the most part, these modes are self-explanatory, but Invasion consists of a team of up to four players pitted against endless waves of zombies.
With a game based on flesh-eating corpses, one canâ€™t expect the A.I. to truly be astounding, but somehow Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlerâ€™s Green manages to shock you with how bad its A.I. can be! The walking withered will get stuck in loops, stopping you from completing certain objectives and levels, or just come to a complete stop, leaving them open to blows and bullets. What it all comes down to is either taking them down or avoiding them. If you want one word to describe the gameâ€™s artificial intelligence, Iâ€™d have to go with â€˜atrocious.â€™
To top it all off, it seems Jack is a lot older than he looks. Either that or he must be severely crippled, because Iâ€™m convinced heâ€™d lose a race against a turtle. Even when â€˜sprintingâ€™ Jack runs out of breath in about five seconds and returns to his painfully slow crawl. Trust me when I say youâ€™ll be doing a lot of limping along in this game as ammo is usually scarce and melee combat is, for the most part, ineffective. Itâ€™s not uncommon for the decayed dead to overpower Jack, especially when they are more than three at once, turning zombie encounters into long range, one-sided gun battles.
The graphics department has its own share of problems. Employing the aging Unreal engine, Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlerâ€™s Greenâ€™s environments are rather drab and bland, feeling highly uninspired. Items are peppered throughout the locales, making maps feel devoid of anything organic or creative. On the positive side, the character models are rather well done and the reload animations for the weapons are nifty.
When it comes to the gameâ€™s aural aspect, the voice acting is respectable and the dialogue doesnâ€™t feel too cheesy or forced; in fact Jackâ€™s character does a good job of conveying emotion. The sound effects, on the other hand, sound quite weak and the gameâ€™s soundtrack is nonexistent aside for a piano replaying the same five notes repeatedly until you shrivel into a withered corpse as well.
Overall, Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlerâ€™s Green will surely pull in a profit due to Romeroâ€™s name plastered on the cover, but thankfully, the price tag wonâ€™t dig too deep into your pockets. The multiplayer can be fun, but only because it means you wonâ€™t have to endure the game alone. Graphics are a mixed bag and so is the audio department, but ultimately, both aspects are very run of the mill. Hardcore Romero fans will most likely heed all warnings and try the game anyway, but those with a little common sense will do well to steer clear.