With the current rise in multiplayer titles that ask you to be the last one standing, it is refreshing that there are some that encourage you to work together. This is the setup for Pandemic Express, a multiplayer focuses title from developer TALLBOYS that tasks players with escaping the zombie horde via a train, currently in Early Access.
Each match in Pandemic Express starts with thirty players loading into one of the many starting locations dotted around the large world map. From here one randomly selected player will be made the first infected enemy. As soon as the gates open, the race is one to see which side will be victorious. For the humans, the goal is to reach the train in the map and ride it to safety. Those who are infected need to stop them by any means while also increasing their numbers as they defeat the humans. It’s fast, hectic and a ton of fun.
To keep players engaged and focused on their objectives, the title makes use of some simple but effective gameplay mechanics to keep things interesting. For starters, infected can mark the location of a human and even have the option to spawn close by minimizing the direction they need to run. Humans on the other hand can take advantage of vehicles and a range of different tier weapons. An airdrop that occurs in each match offers the chance to earn some powerful weapons but is a hot spot for infected to grab some easy kills.
Pandemic Express even takes a cue out of the Battle Royale genre by adding in an ever closing ring. This functions as a way to push players towards the train while also ensuring the infected are not running across the whole map looking for that last player. Because the train starts moving as soon as one player reaches it, this ring is usual in getting everyone to it as soon as possible. It sounds cheesy but they’re really is strength in numbers here.
Arguably the best element within Pandemic Express’ gameplay is the way player momentation is handled. You can run, slide, double jump and even use weapon knock back to navigate the world. Chaining them all together however will see you propel yourself through the world and make you feel like a speed running pro. Nothing beats avoiding a pack of zombies by shotgun blasting off a rock to the double jump up to a roof, only to slide down and pistol propel yourself down a hill. It’s a silly and amazing as it sounds.
That said, Pandemic Express is not without some issues. Loading times are fairly long and the handling of weapons feels clumsy at times. The feedback you get from attacking another player is next to none so you can feel as though your attacks are meaningless. On the zombie side, they feel extremely underpowered compared to even the lowest tier pistol. The developers are continuous updating and balancing the title but there is there still seems to be a way to go.
All of this is delivered in what might be one of the most interesting art styles seen in a title this year. The environment and character models are detailed with a varied and interesting colour palette used across the whole game. Animations hold up well with a good amount of weight to them and the slutter touches here and there really make the experience. For example, firing a gun will see a small amount of oil ping out which is interesting considering the enemies have an oil texture to them. There is a lot of mystery in Pandemic Express that is engrossing to piece together, which is only another positive.
Thankfully, the experience as a whole is still highly enjoyable and there’s a lot of potential for Pandemic Express to grow. The developers have already laid out plans to add more maps, modes, zombie classes, perks, skins and much more. The foundations are solid here thanks to a functional core gameplay loop and player controllers that feel responsive and rewarding. With more on the horizon the future of Pandemic Express seems good so long as it is able to retain it’s players long enough for that new content to arrive.
Pandemic Express is available now in Early Access on Steam.