Dead Ahead is an iOS release from Chillingo. It’s available now as an ad-supported free download from the Apple App Store and carries additional in-app purchases.
Dead Ahead is an endless runner-like game that gives the player a motorcycle, a gun, and a ton of zombies. Players start off in the forest with just a scooter and a pistol. Moving at a slow pace, they’ll need to drag their finger up and down the right end of the screen to navigate their character around roadblocks, parked cars, and plenty of zombies. Occasionally, zombies will begin charging at players from behind, so they’ll need to either use the accelerate button to outrun them, or fire their weapon to shoot them down. It’s not a concept that’s entirely original, but could be implemented well.
Right off the bat, that’s one of the most noticeable problems with Dead Ahead. In theory, players dragging their fingers along the right side of the road is a neat way to control steering. In practice, the movement of the bikes feel sluggish, and holding the right edge of the screen causes players to not see part of the screen, creating somewhat of a blind spot. The blind spot itself wouldn’t be bad, but the slow steering and occasionally fast speed of the motorcycles require players to have an almost-instant reaction time. Once the running zombies are factored in, the experience is much more frustrating and difficult than it needs to be. Dead Ahead is a situation where numerous little issues come together and create a larger issue that hurts the entire game.
That’s not to say Dead Ahead is a complete bust. The players who are able to put up with the gameplay and controls will find a lot of weapons, bikes, and items to help them rack up a high score. There are currently seven bikes and 12 guns available, most of them via the use of in-game coins. Each gun and bike differs from the rest, although the ones that require real money are far better than those that don’t. Users can also purchase consumable items that give them a head start, a second life, faster reload time, or more ammo. These items will help out struggling players, but are necessary for a high score. Players are also given objectives for each round. When players complete the given objectives, their rank will increase, and they can share the news with their Facebook friends.
Dead Ahead has two main forms of monetization: in-app purchases and ads. Full screen ds usually occur after runs and during menu navigation, though it did happen at the start of a run once during our review. The ads are annoying, but players can pay $0.99 to remove them. If players are interested in one of the premium bikes or guns, a single purchase of either will also remove ads. Users can also buy bundles of in-game gold, with prices ranging from $1.99 to $9.99. All the bundles are a great deal and they won’t leave players disappointed.
Overall, Dead Ahead is built on a good idea. It’s attempt to appeal to both a casual and hardcore crowd is noted, but also flawed. The controls make the game frustratingly difficult, and they’ll be the source for most players giving up. Those who fight through it will find a ton of customization and unlockables, but only time will tell how many of those stick around that long.
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Sluggish controls put a damper on a great gameplay idea.