Review by Rocco Pepe
Pandemic Express launched only a few weeks ago in Early Access with dreams of being the next big zombie game.
Most games with zombies tend to try and go for the Day Z or battle royale style of play, but it seems like Pandemic Express is pulling from older releases, such as Left 4 Dead and those zombie mods for Counter-Strike that have been around forever.
The setup is fairly simple. Everyone starts as a human in a large map. There’s a train making its way across the area and you need to be on top of it when it reaches the edge of the map to win. One other player will start as a zombie and everyone they kill becomes a zombie as well. Once that happens, your goal is simply to stop your fellow humans from winning. It’s not the deepest premise, which is why the details are important.
Humans start off without any real way to defend themselves. Guns need to be found at special points on the map, which I found weren’t always consistently marked on the map. Zombies on the other hand, can just rush at people with a bite attack as well as a throw.
They also have a bar that gradually fills to give you a special move, but this can only be used when you respawn, which feels like missed potential. One makes you look like a human with a suicidetional. bomb, while the other makes you invisible. I like the idea of this system, but both feel a little two situational.
The biggest problem that this game has is that it’s very hard to do your job unless everything is aligned properly. Humans can’t outrun zombies or really hurt them unless they have a gun, so if you’re getting chased and don’t have a means of defense, you can pretty much bet on getting killed. Once you do have a gun, it’s pretty easy to keep zombies away from you because each hit with a bullet will knock them away comically far. This more or less means that it’s quite hard for zombies to land hits on humans once they have a gun.
You’re just not going to make it very far as a human unless you’ve got a group of friends and you know exactly where to find weapons on the map, which is going to take a lot of trial and error. Even then, there’s not much you can do to avoid getting killed if a zombie spots you on the way there. Many of my human deaths didn’t feel like there was much of a way to prevent them.
Once everybody’s got weapons, they’ll make their way over to the train where they can comfortably just shoot at the zombies for the rest of the match. There doesn’t seem to be much of a way to disrupt them at this point unless something goes seriously wrong for the humans, such as multiple zombies using the suicide bomb ability. The best that zombies can hope for is to pull off a move like this right at the end of the match so that most of the humans are launched off of the train just as it reaches the goal, thus stopping most of them from winning.
It’s possible that Pandemic Express could get more complex as more updates come out, but as it stands I don’t think the game offers a whole lot of replay value. With more maps, gameplay modes and additional depth when playing as either human or zombies, this game might be able to find a niche, but people looking for the next Left 4 Dead should wait and reserve judgement.