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The world has been forever changed by a zombie outbreak, and your only means of escape has crashed in the middle of a field crawling with the undead. As the zombies close in, there’s just one course of action available: sprint toward a radio antenna on the distant horizon, the sound of your own labored breath echoing in your ears, and do your best to dodge the flesh-eaters as they stumble out of the fog and rise up from the tall grass. Your predicament is hopeless; eventually they’ll catch you, and the last thing you’ll hear is your own screams. The only real question, as Into the Dead demonstrates, is how far you can get before that happens.
If you see this much detail on a zombie, it's already too late.
A first-person auto-runner, Into the Dead’s gameplay is pretty simple; as you charge forward through the ever-thickening undead hordes, you can slowly drift to the right or left to dodge the zombies and obstacles that pop into your path. Hit the latter, and you’ll stumble out of control for a few seconds. Hit one of the former, and unless you’re lucky enough to glance off it with your shoulder, it’ll grab and devour you.
Running over crates and graves, meanwhile, gives you limited-use weapons that can clear zombies out of your way — like pistols, chainsaws, and shotguns — although these have to be unlocked either by meeting arbitrary “mission goals,” like sprinting a certain distance or killing a certain number of zombies while jumping over fences; or by spending coins, which can be earned by completing runs and mission goals (or simply purchased in-app). Coins are also good for applying perks to a run, which can grant extra ammo, more weapon drops, a weapon at the start of your run, or a 1,500-meter head start. (A companion-dog perk will apparently also be added in later updates.)
Cornfields are deadlier than they look — zombies hide behind the stalks.
While it’s hardly the deepest game in the App Store, Into the Dead is nevertheless weirdly addictive. Part of this is thanks to the mission goals, which do a lot to keep players invested beyond simply trying to up their distance, but a huge part is the game’s presentation. The foggy landscape looks amazing in motion, and small touches like the artificial smudges on the screen, your character’s constant heavy breathing, and the phlegmy growls of the genuinely creepy zombies all conspire to create an effectively eerie, desperate atmosphere. And even as the scenery begins to repeat and the zombies go from being solitary roamers to thick swarms, we still want to see what’s over the foggy horizon if we can just get a little farther.
The bottom line. Into the Dead’s combination of simple gameplay and moody horror are just riveting enough to always keep you coming back for one more run.
Into the Dead 1.0
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 5.0 or later (optimized for iPhone 5)
Easy to pick up and play — and replay. Excellent visuals and sound create a genuinely tense experience. Challenging goals add a measure of depth. Free.
Scenery gets repetitive after a while. Popup ads between runs are annoying.