The humble horde/survival mode. Wave after wave of enemies descending on you as you attempt to survive as long as possible, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. It’s a game mode that’s existed since the dawn of PvE multiplayer and has been through many a resurgence over the years with some very notable entries. Blood Waves, a survival shooter from Light Road Games and publishers Sometimes You, however won’t even be a footnote on the Wikipedia page about the genre.
Picture this: A strong, silent female protagonist wearing a dirty vest that would put John McLain to shame. Of course she has an exposed midriff and cleavage. An ill-fitting ammo belt? Check. Imagine a Lara Croft wax work that’s partially melted – Got that image in your mind? Now make it more generic. No, more generic. Take away all the personality. A tad more. More. Add a dose of male gaze. There. You’ve got it. That’s the no-name protagonist of Blood Waves. About as interesting as boiled cauliflower.
For reasons unknown (Blood Waves has no story whatsoever) this protagonist is trapped within a circular room which is lined with a number of doors. These doors then open to allow in a wave of zombies which you have a picnic with and talk about the latest episode of Riverdale. I jest, of course. You have to kill them. Shoot them in the head with the default pistol. Whack them with a machete. Put them down. Each zombie you kill rewards you with some cash (more on that in a second). Once a pre-set number of undead are lying on the ground, that wave ends. If you succumb to the undead, losing all your Health to their attacks, its back to square/wave one.
Between each round, an antechamber opens up leading into a room full of weaponry, gadgets and upgrade points. Cash awarded for slaying the dead can be spent on new weapons, ammo for existing weapons and traps. At the end of each round, you’re also awarded upgrade points which can be spent on making weapons more effective/deadly and giving you perks like faster health recharging or more stamina (spent when sprinting or hitting things with a machete).
Each gap between rounds also allows you to place traps and spiked barriers however you see fit. This is, by far in a way, the most interesting aspect of Blood Waves and that’s saying something because even this is as vanilla as you can get. Placing items can be a little fiddly but placing fences with the aim of funnelling the undead through a variety of turrets and mashers before they reach you is quite fun…
…that is until you actually put it into practice. Once you’ve finished building with anything you’ve bought, a button press summons the next wave of zombies which gets progressively more populated. At first it’s just running zombies that trip along towards you like a Dad that’s just stood on a LEGO brick (the character animation in this game is really rough) but eventually bomb zombies and electric zombies are added to the fray. The zombie AI in Blood Waves is deeply confusing, especially when turrets and traps are included. The undead always make a b-line for the protagonist, running straight at her but then they can get confused. If a turret fires at them, they’ll turn and attack it (all of the turrets take damage and will eventually break but can be repaired with earned cash between rounds) before turning back to you, trapped in indecision. It’s not uncommon to see the dead just whacking away at a fence, one they could easily walk around, while turrets all around them fill them full of lead either. Those dreams of forcing zombies into choke points made during the construction sections just fall to pieces because the zombie waves follow spotty logic and don’t seem to understand a path of least resistance. Instead, they truly are mindless which makes fighting them far less tense than it should be. I’ve managed to clear 30 strong waves by just walking backwards in a circle and popping the melons on the trail of undead in my wake.
The most pressing point about Blood Waves though is that it’s so bland. There’s not a vast array of zombie types to shoot at and most of them looking almost identical. The weapons you unlock, at least until you get your hands on the later weapons like the RPG launcher, have no heft or grunt too them. They all feel feeble and distinctly uninteresting. The fact that the surroundings, the circular room with its stone walls, never changes and becomes dull before your 1st run has ended. That’s not to mention the repetitive soundtrack that’s akin to that on a Sampler CD you’d get glued to a copy of Hard Rock magazine and the frame rate dips that turn to the game into a pretty slide show.
Blood Waves would have been an adequate mode tacked onto another full game, a tiny side dish to a main meal elsewhere that could kill 2 hours. Unfortunately, as a standalone experience, it’s lacking in depth, excitement and personality. The trap building, the most interesting aspect of the game, is not enough to make this anything more than an also-ran in a genre that’s seen genuine quality over the years.
Blood Waves is available now on PS4 (Review version), Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Developer: Light Road Games
Publisher: Sometimes You
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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