App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
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Despite his near 35 year history, Judge Dredd is mostly known on this side of the Atlantic for being the vehicle for a laughably bad 1995 Sylvester Stallone action flick. However, back in his native UK, the impossibly square-jawed Joseph Dredd and his stomping grounds of Mega-City One are as iconic to comic fans as Batman and Gotham City are to US readers.
And while a new movie, simply called Dredd, may be inbound in 2012, Rebellion is looking to bring him into our hands a bit sooner by pitting him against the trendiest of all current media adversaries: the zombie. It’s always zombies these days.
Judge Dredd vs. Zombies puts players in control of the baddest, most butt-kicking Judge of them all as he clears Mega-City of the shambling hordes in a top-down action shooter. Eschewing the familiar twin-stick formula, the right stick is replaced with an auto lock-on fire button that actually works pretty well. Dredd can kite decaying walkers into choke points and use exploding barrels (or exploding zombies) to strategically decimate swaths of enemies while economically saving bullets. It’s typical arcade-style fun.
However, my biggest complaint (save for Dredd’s voice actor sounding suspiciously like Duke Nukem’s Jon St. John) has nothing to do with the gameplay itself, but rather how it uses microtransactions. They’re standard in freemium games and a fair number of paid ones also utilize them for optional boosts and that’s fine. But imagine a paid game where the character’s progression through stages was totally restricted if they didn’t shell out more cash.
Divided into three sections of ten levels each, level progression is handled by the familiar “collect X stars” mechanic. But rather than being fairly liberal with the unlock requirements, they grow increasingly impossible. Entering the second section requires at least 2 out of 3 stars on all of section one. Then to move into section three, players need to have the equivalent of 3 stars on ALL of section two. However, all levels can be opened up for just two extra bucks.
Don’t like that? Well there’s always grinding earlier levels for better ratings, right? Nope. Levels can’t be farmed for credits to pay for increasingly expensive weapon upgrades or single use power-ups. But for somewhere between $2 to $30 more, players can buy all the credits they need. Convenient, eh?
Rebellion and publisher Fuse need to make a decision: 1) make Judge Dredd vs. Zombies free and keep the current microtransaction system, 2) make the game a little more expensive and relax the progression restrictions a bit, or 3) keep it at the current price and relax the restrictions a lot. A simple, decently fun shooter of this caliber is worth a couple of bucks, but don’t virtually lock already paying customers out of the experience for the sake of milking a few more dollars. That’s disappointingly disingenuous and just plain unfair.