Are you Into The Dead 2? No? Must just be me then.
A few years ago there was an absolute glut of endless runner games. I’m sure you’re familiar with them — games in which you move forward automatically, whilst you control the direction and one or two actions, to try to get as far as you can. The likes of Temple Run, Canabalt, and Sonic Dash are all good examples of these, but one I enjoyed on my phone at the time was the free to play Into The Dead, which now has a sequal — Into the Dead 2.
A first-person shooter at its core, Into The Dead had you run into a swarm of zombies and use limited weapons and abilities to get as far as possible. It was pretty good! And now it has a fully-fledged sequel in the form of Into The Dead 2. Whilst there is a free-to-play version of this game available on mobile, I’ve been playing the Switch release recently. There are no microtransactions here, but there are two pieces of DLC that I’ll go into.
Into The Dead 2 works in pretty much the same way as the original, with you barrelling headlong into the undead hordes, only a handful of bullets to your name. You can control whether you run towards the left or right of the screen, fire weapons and throw grenades — that’s about it. Jumping over small obstacles handles itself and you just need to worry about dodging the dead. Unlike its predecessor though, this entry in the series is level-based, with you having a set distance you need to reach before moving on. Whether you blast your way through or avoid every walking corpse you see doesn’t matter, so long as you make it to the end. Along the way, you’ll pick up ammo boxes to keep you stocked up on bullets, but never so many that you’ll be a walking tank.
Each time you make it to the end of a stage, you get a touch of plot. You take on the role of James, a former soldier who is travelling to meet up with his family during a zombie outbreak. After a traffic accident, he’s left a great distance away from them and decides to get to his loved ones on foot, literally running into the dead as he goes. As the game continues, brief cutscenes will push the plot forward, but you’ll likely know what’s going to happen within the first ten minutes. Into The Dead 2 isn’t trying to win any awards for its storytelling here and it’s plot is about as cliché as it comes for a zombie tale.
On top of a little plot development, the end of a level provides you with a choice of three rewards, whether that be gold or a boost to make later levels easier. It’s here that you can see Into The Dead 2’s mobile game roots a little more clearly. Gold is the premium currency used in the mobile version — although there’s no way for you to pay cash for this here — and the boots are obviously the items you would pay real money for, to make the game easier further down the line. Whilst I can’t comment on the mobile game’s economy, the Switch version seems mostly fair, and generally gives you enough gold to get by well enough.
Gold is used to buy new weapons, companions and upgrades which you unlock by completing challenges in each level. Once again, the mobile roots are visible here, as each stage has a five-star rating system based on whether you complete the given challenges. Most of these are quite reasonable, being along the lines of kill this many zombies, jump over this many boxes or use a specific weapon type. Others though, feel really quite unfair.
Sometimes you’ll be asked to get kills using a specific ammo type which you acquire from boosts. If you don’t have that ammo type, you can’t complete that challenge unless you go back and grind it from previous missions, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the boost you need. This is incredibly irritating, as getting more stars leads to more weapon unlocks, as well as better endings to the game’s story mode. Of all the things in Into The Dead 2, this was bar far the most frustrating — it prevented me from completing all the challenges on multiple occasions. In fact, I’ve yet to complete the second or third ending to the game for this very reason!
This frustration aside, I have enjoyed playing the game. The stages are very quick, clocking in at around three minutes each, and feel quite satisfying to play. These short play times make Into The Dead 2 a perfect game to dip into for a quick go here and there, made even more suitable for being on the Switch. Those short play times can be extended quite a bit though, as I often found myself stuck in that dreaded “just one more stage” loop. It’s surprisingly addictive for a game which doesn’t really have a great deal of depth.
What it lacks in depth, it more than makes up for in sheer volume of content. Aside from the main story’s sixty stages, there’s also an Arcade mode, that gives you preset weapons and kill targets, rewarding you with gold and weapon unlocks for performing well. I was disappointed there wasn’t an Endless mode here — at least not one I could find. There are additional stories to unlock and play, each with its own rewards for doing so. These twelve-or-so stage side stories were quite enjoyable and did away with the issue of the five-star challenges of the main game. These include an Elite difficulty mode in which you need to complete all the stages with no deaths, otherwise you get sent right back to the first stage! A steep challenge to be sure, as some of these can get quite tough.
This is also where Into The Dead 2’s DLC comes in. These are themed around movies, with the first being set in Night of the Living Dead. It plays out as a prequel to the movie, and introduces some neat new features, such as slow-paced flashlight sections in the dark in which you solely focus on shooting the undead. The second is Ghostbusters, which I was really looking forward to. This is a lot harder than the main game and is much more action-heavy. It was a lot of fun playing with the proton packs alongside the original Ghostbusters crew (who were voiced horribly I should add) and unlocking weapons for the main game themed around this was pretty great.
The visuals are reasonable, but absolutely nothing special. Zombie models look fine at a distance, but don’t look too great close up, and the occasional human character doesn’t look fantastic, either. The animal companions look fine, but again are nothing special. There’s a fair bit of pop-in during some of the stages, meaning you can get jumped by zombies you weren’t expecting from time to time. On some environmentally busy stages, the frame rate even drops a touch which seems quite surprising considering this doesn’t appear to be the most visually taxing game. There are some nice incidental details here and there, such as putting on the safety on a gun at the end of a stage or fingers shaking when the temperature has dropped. There’s good attention to detail which could have been more liberally applied to the rest of the visuals.
Sounds fair much better though, aside from the sometimes dodgy voice acting. The weapons sound — and indeed look — really quite powerful. There’s some more of that incidental detail here too, with crashed cars having their radios still playing as you run past. There’s clearly been a lot of thought put into some aspects of the presentation here.
There’s a lot to like in Into The Dead 2. I had more fun than I was expecting, even though the core gameplay is quite repetitive at its heart. The short level times prevented it from getting stale during my time with the campaign and side stories. Though, I’m unlikely to go back and five-star every stage, I certainly don’t regret spending time playing through all the stages I did. Whilst there are some drawbacks, I can comfortably recommend giving this a go if a lightweight zombie game is something you’d be into (the dead).