Horror-themed FPS Chasing Dead suffers from a lack of all-round polish, resulting in sluggish and sometimes confusing gameplay and awkward graphical issues.
When it comes down to it, the general consensus over the Wii U’s place in gaming is that it is a console primarily aimed at the family audience. Although games dealing with more adult subject matters, such as ZombiU, Bayonetta 2, and Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water have appeared on the system, the vast majority of Wii U users will no doubt spend more time playing the likes of Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World. Therefore, some developers may see a gap in the market for more violent or darker games to find a niche on the console.
That’s where Chasing Dead comes in. Released on both the Wii U and on PC, the title is a horror-FPS hybrid, promising to deliver a story-based first-person shooter with horror themes. Unfortunately, however, the title does not take full advantage of its rather unique place on the Wii U market, failing to capitalize on the lack of a wide range of adult games on the system.
Initially, Chasing Dead proves promising. Although the game’s plot – involving a story of duplicate Earths and a mysterious mutant uprising – is convoluted, there’s at first a cheesy B-movie charm to it that’s intriguing. However, it’s not long before the game’s problems become all too apparent, and any issues with story are far from the main concern.
The game’s failings primarily come down to a lack of polish. Any gamer with concerns over keeping a high (or even constant) frame rate are going to be disappointed, with much of the action choppy and awkward. Meanwhile, the title’s motion blur makes movement difficult, resulting in most action feeling like a struggle. It’s hard to work out exactly what is going on, which is never a good thing in a game that requires quick reactions for combat.
Unfortunately, these are far from the only graphical limitations that Chasing Dead has. Although the character models are fine, with the game’s mutants coming across as the standard zombie fare similar to 2012’s ZombiU, they are hardly anything to write home about. The game’s locations, however, look very cheap. This is particularly apparent in large, open areas, where the lack of texture and depth becomes all-too apparent.
It’s most noticeable when the player is taken to Chernobyl during the game’s missions. It’s a setting that’s been used multiple times in gaming, most memorably in 2007’s S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, and Chasing Dead unfortunately does not make the most of it. In fact, it could be argued that the Wii U title’s depiction of the setting is a little worse than the game nine years its senior, particularly when buildings sometimes pop in and out of existence.
It’s not the only surface level issue that Chasing Dead faces, either. Alongside a general lack of graphical quality, the game’s sound design is also flawed. The title’s protagonist, a mercenary named Jake, regularly dispenses one-liners akin to acclaimed shooter hero Duke Nukem. However, these quips can sometimes overlap with story-focused dialogue, with Jake sometimes clumsily interrupting himself.
One of the more interesting choices from developer 2020 Venture was the decision to use live acting during certain sections of the game. Jake’s UI will sometimes receive pop-up messages in the form of assistance from an operative named Luna, as well as recordings from a previous team that went to investigate the duplicate Earth. However, the idea has not been implemented all that well, with some lines falling flat and the difference between the in-game graphics and these cut scenes feeling a little jarring.
When it comes down to it, of course, some of these issues can be overcome by quality gameplay. While the gunplay in Chasing Dead is certainly an improvement over the graphical and audio design problems, it’s also hard to recommend based purely on a gameplay perspective. Taking down the zombie hordes is mindless fun, but there is still an obvious lack of quality.
Due to the poor frame rate and motion blur issues, the combat itself can sometimes feel a little awkward. Meanwhile, poor AI is a constant issue, with enemies sometimes taking odd paths to try and reach the player. Given the difficulties sometimes found in attacking enemies head-on, it’s therefore sometimes less of a hassle to simply avoid the mutants to try and reach the level goals.
Reaching these goals, however, is sometimes difficult enough on its own. Although some levels offer up a tight, claustrophobic experience, such as an opening level which drops Jake (quite literally) into an in-flight aeroplane, there are problems with a general lack of direction in the more open levels. The player can be left aimlessly wandering the area to try and find the next objective, with no natural feeling of progression seen in peers such as the Left 4 Dead series. The addition of a simple map could have alleviated this considerably, but as of yet users may find the gameplay frustrating.
The lack of a map is one of the many basics that Chasing Dead perhaps should have included at launch. Some kind of tutorial could also have been useful, with the player instead left to work out the controls when already thrust into a dangerous situation. Meanwhile, the lack of gameplay settings is another bone of contention, and not allowing the player to change camera inversion settings certainly raised eyebrows.
Perhaps what is most disappointing about Chasing Dead is that there was real potential for the title to be a fun and engaging experience. The plot itself is over the top and entertaining, and with a bit more work on the live-action cut scenes the game could have felt like walking right into a romp such as Planet Terror. Meanwhile, the game’s varied locations – from abandoned city, to tundra, and even into the deserts of Afghanistan – shows that there is an ambitious scope in place.
Unfortunately, the end result is not quite up to standard. Due to a lack of overall polish, Chasing Dead comes across as awkward and sluggish, while graphical and audio problems are hard to overlook. With a bit more time, Chasing Dead could have been an enjoyable experience, but much like Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, the title fails to deliver on the promise of a strong Wii U horror gaming experience.
Chasing Dead is out now for Wii U and PC, with a PS4 release planned for the future. Game Rant was provided with a Wii U download code for the purposes of this review.