Discover yet another reason to emigrate up north in Death Road to Canada. The FNGR GNS Review;
Oh hi there, survival game in the zombie genre that’s been done to death it could actually now come back to life and try to terrorise every living thing that isn’t a zombie survival game. Death Road to Canada, despite this (and its awesome name), demonstrates that more can still be done with genre, and it can have a laugh with it at the same time.
Death Road to Canada, thankfully, survives on its humour and light-hearted take on a zombie apocalypse that has taken over the entirety of the United States, and as such, our intrepid survivors have hatched a plan to make it to the Great White North in fourteen days to secure safety away from the hordes of the undead that now roam the American streets. It’s a neat concept, and one that got me hooked to check out the game before its console release. I had never played the original mobile versions and as such, knew little going in. I wasn’t prepared for the depth Rocketcat Games had gone to to make you feel like you’re in deep shit around every corner. With (very) limited supplies you’re going to have to use some of your cunning..no, *all* of your cunning to get you and your survivors to the Canada border.
DRtC requires careful movement and outsmarting of the zombie hordes at damn near every moment you’re not driving. As you power your way through you’ll realise very quickly that you’re going to fail, and you’re going to fail an awful lot. Something the game has bravely included is permadeath, so if your whole crew goes down then it’s game over and you’ll have to crack on all over again. You may never reach Canada and this is something you need to make your peace with quite early on. DRtC is far more about the journey, and how you can learn from each death to ensure it doesn’t keep happening. Naturally, the game is very much out to get you. Your supplies are exactly that, but they’re also your currency, a way of powering through your journey when you meet other survivors who want to trade a frankly ridiculous amount of food for a bit of fuel for your car. If you have yourself a big team you’re going to want to keep the food, but what if your car is dead? These decisions kept me up at night, and with everything so scarce you’re going to have to make some heavy decisions in order to keep your team together and motivated.
There are tons of locations in DRtC that will provide supplies and weapons (kind of, umbrellas, table legs are rather common. It’s rare to come across a pump action shotgun, for example), it’s here you’re able to recruit people to your team. Safety in numbers and all that. There’s a fun element where you can edit the characters in the game, and as such myself and the rest of the FNGR GNS crew, unbeknownst to them, were helping me make it to the border. I found Sean in a supermarket store cupboard with a wrench. He wasn’t doing too bad. Paul died quickly, sadly. He was too angry to want to help put fuel in the car – which is genuine thing in this game – and as such, we had to walk to our next destination and he lost his life upon arrival. Totally his fault, nothing to do with me. At nearly every area you’re going to find an absolute megaton of zombies wandering about not really doing an awful lot. One look at you and they’re only mission is to turn you into lunch.
You’re going to want to get in and get out as quickly as you can at every location, and you don’t really have the luxury of looking for materials quietly, as the hordes will latch onto you quickly. When you open a door, make sure you close it behind you to save you a few seconds of searching. As a team you need to be organised, so ensure you have a weapon on you that isn’t going to break so easily. It’s a big ask as breakable weapons are, naturally, the most common. Still, you’re going to want to find something far more sturdy if you’re cornered. The rest of your team will do their best and you can’t really help them if they’re downed. You just have to keep moving.
Your group of survivors each bring their own individual attributes that will benefit or impact your moving forward. They can be strong but slow, fast but tires quickly, lazy, low energy, tactful, mechanical. Each member has a skill of some kind which you can use to your benefit but you may not always have them on hand. You need to make sure you have an idea of who does what if you want to survive the endless road and there are difficult decisions aplenty throughout which do affect the morale and the supplies of the group. Do you leave survivors behind because you don’t have enough supplies to go around or are they going to be handy down the road? The choices are plentiful and you will feel their impact throughout.
It’s worth mentioning just how good the writing is in Death Road to Canada. It’s witty, surprising and full of in-jokes and humour that lighten up the mood a little. The Roguelike nature of the game is evident all over in the fact that it’s really tough, and for that reason it probably isn’t going to be for everyone and yet the light-hearted narration of the story and your groups situations and tough scenarios, told to you through an absurd amount of on-screen text, keeps you engaged because it’s fresh and interesting. Getting your head around it all can be a struggle initially, and the game doesn’t particularly let up throughout. You’re left scratching your head at times as you meticulously move through zombie filled locations and tear it through hordes, pick up the supplies you were after, only to die on the way out because more zombies appeared. There are locations where the game gives you no choice but to fight your way out and you can’t leave until every zombie is dead. Known as ‘Ambush’ levels, these were fun and exciting at first but eventually started to feel like they were getting in the way of your progression, the same way those drug-induced Far Cry levels interrupt the flow. Stop this, let me get on with the journey.
Visually as you can see the game is presented in a beautiful pixellated design that pops off a screen. It adds to the charm and joy of it all and looks terrific on a big screen. There is plenty to get your head around in terms of the presentation, with sores of menus and supply screens and dialogue. It’s all easy enough to navigate and as mentioned above, the option to create your own characters is fun and in a strange way gives you an extra incentive to keep your team alive.
Not that I was particularly bothered when Sean, Paul and Jan were ripped to pieces by zombies and I remained the lone survivor, mind.
You’re going to want to take some time to learn the mechanics of Death Road to Canada. It’s surprising and tough, charming and intricate, full of depth and stupidly fun. No, it won’t be for everyone, if you want a game where you just straight up bash some zombies into kingdom come then go play Dead Rising, this is far more nuanced and focused on achieving an RPG-esque roguelike adventure that I was ever expecting.
Death Road to Canada is out now on Steam, GOG, iOS, Android, PS4, Xbox One (reviewed on Xbox One S) and Switch.
Developer: RocketCat Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publishers. For our full review policy, please go here.