School Girl Zombie Hunter Review – Who needs this?
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release: 17th November 2017
Nowadays zombie survival games are quickly becoming a dying genre, after flooding the video game market for years. However, there´s still hope for genre fans because Aksys Games is bringing another weird, niché game to the west no one really asked for, School Girl Zombie Hunter. A japanese 3rd person shooter about school girls shooting zombies, who didn´t dream of this combination? Yes, it´s trash but it´s wonderful trash … in a way.
As the name suggests zombies are attacking humanity once again, this time their prey are innocent school girls. After ravaging through the school, killing everyone they saw, only five girls survived, quickly finding themselves in a school full of death. Luckily every one of them seems to have taken gun classes and now it´s finally time to put them to good use. Armed with everything from guns to sniper rifles, the group sets out to escape, while uncovering the truth behind the attack, or don´t.
Frankly, the plot isn´t School Girl Zombie Hunter´s strength, which could already be guessed looking at the premise. You have cute school girls shooting hordes of zombies, interrupted by a few minute long conversations to explain their plan, cliché-y character and create the illusion of having an actual story. In the few dozens missions the game follows the group on their various quests through the school or exterior, ranging from thrilling goals like finding keys! Occasionally there are also hints at a big mystery lurking behind the seemingly stupid set-up. Sadly, most of the questions around it either vanish in thin air. Everything is exactly as one would expect from a trashy zombie movie. However, seeing it in a japanese cliché setting adds some sort of entertainment to it. Even though School Girl Zombie Hunter is extremely self-aware, it never attempts to joke about all the stupid shit that´s happening, rather focuses on doing the same.
Unfortunately, School Girl Zombie Hunter´s biggest problem is the third person shooter gameplay itself. A genre so heavily relying on various factors and incredible hard to nail was tackled by shooting school girls. Obviously, it didn´t work out as well as it needed to, resulting in a mix of flaws and fun. On the one hand, it suffers from typical japanese control flaws, zooming in by pressing the X button simply can´t work and the characters move rather stiff. Overall pacing might be quite fast but quick turns feel so damn sluggish.
On the other hand, the gunplay is more of a mixed bag as well. Due to the large amounts of zombies, shooting them to pieces is pretty fun, especially since their limbs can be shot off in a huge blood fountain. At the same time the dynamic reaction of all zombies to bullets serves as a good feedback. Sadly, actually using the various standard guns or even the melee attack never convey a great feeling of power. Often zombies need to be shot at more than just a few bullets to die or even react, no matter how much they lost. At the same time recoil is either non-existent or so low it takes away the weapon´s power. School Girl Zombie Hunter never feels like a good shooter. Even throwing clothes as traps, revealing more than just a bit of bare skin, doesn´t serve much of a purpose except distraction.
Even worse is the balancing between the different weapon classes. Tamsoft surely tried to give each one fo them a special twist, the submachine gun is super fast with a huge magazine but very weak, the assault rifle is more of an all-rounder … the classic stuff. However, they seemingly didn´t bother with the shotgun, as it´s the strongest gun by a far stretch, rendering every other one useless. Having around 15-20 bullets, which kill one zombie each, 15 kills in one magazine can´t be beat, especially because most fights take place in tiny interiors, removing its range limitations.
Level design is yet another average aspect of School Girl Zombie Hunter, presenting only the most overused, unsurprising levels in a giant big package to us. From tiny school corridors filled with zombies and barricades to alter the repetition, playing fields, every school place you could imagine, it´s there in one of the most boring ways possible. Honestly, throughout the story the game can´t manage to offer anything slight unique or cool in terms of level design, just the ever same corridors or fields filled with new zombies and a way point to reach. Additionally every level has a time limit, a great feature if some waypoints or ways are hidden in midst of confusing corridors.
Despite its trashy premise and lacking gameplay, visually School Girl Zombie Hunter is very appealing. Powered by Unreal Engine 4, that´s surprisingly well used, the game features some great models, neat looking hair and an unusual artstyle for japanese games. Important textures or objects, as well as the zombies, also profit from the powerful technical framework with particle effects and sharp details. It may not hold up to other games based on the engine but can look very appealing at various points. In combination with a way too action-filled, epic soundtrack, the gameplay experience gains a whole new silly spin.
I really hoped School Girl Zombie Hunter would be more than a simple shooter spiced up with a trashy plot. There was so much room to deliver a funny, evil parody of trashy japanese games but it´s by far not smart enough to pull that up. At the end, the story around five school girls and some zombies may be stupid enough to laugh about while the gameplay in all its simplicity deliver some entertainment as well, yet, nothing here is good enough or simply worth the 39.99 price tag.
[A Review Code was provided by Aksys Games]