I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of zombie-related games. And yet every so often I come across one that does something new with the infected that doesn’t involve brutally decimating them. Add Ray’s the Dead to that list of exceptions.
Located in the indie PS4 corner of Sony’s booth at E3, Ragtag Studio’s Ray’s the Dead can be summarized as a cartoony, dark-humored “action-stealth puzzler.”
I take pride in being the first E3 goer to successfully complete the demo, which had me emerging from a graveyard, gathering up a zombie posse, shambling into an unsuspecting town, pet cemetery and ultimately a final showdown with a band of cops.
But before we get into that, let’s talk game mechanics.
The player assumes the role of Ray, a deceased individual who emerges from the grave as a zombie leader that harnesses the power to resurrect and command a pack of the undead using a shiny bulb embedded in his noggin.
The game opened up by introducing me to the resurrection mechanic, which has you pressing and holding ‘L2′ in front of a grave to emit a bloodcurdlingly jarring noise that causes your newly-recruited walker to emerge from the ground and join your side.
Rather than utilizing a typical point-and-click cursor, players aim a green line towards a desired object or location using the right analog stick and press the right trigger to send a zombie towards that spot. While your undead henchmen will do most of the dirty work for you, the player can also engage in bloody flesh-eating via a short-range melee attack.
By using the green line, you can point your zombies towards humans to munch on and gates to knock down. Some barriers require a certain amount of recruits in order to demolish. The real kicker is the ability to recruit your former attackers to zombiehood, thereby increasing your ranks even further.
As I continued into a pet cemetery, I came across the ability to raise the canine undead, who come in handy for their speed and ability to quickly stun enemies, thereby leaving those unfortunate souls open for the slower, stumbling zombies to make short work of them. This tactic is especially important when local denizens start packing heat.
Some stealth was needed in my playthrough as well, in which my zombie army (mistaken by the town’s inhabitants as creepy cosplayers) had to avoid detection by the enhanced olfactory powers of police dogs.
I came across a few noticeable issues with the game’s aiming mechanic, where targeting specific objects like a bush I had to command a zombie to hide in, wasn’t being targeted appropriately. The developer promised that this issue has been fixed in a more recent build.
I managed to reveal one bug, which elicited some laughter from the dev team, when I was able to skirt around the demo’s final showdown against a head cop and his police officers, blow up the police car that said cop was standing on, thus leaving his sprite in a levitating state before the demo ended. You’re welcome, guys!
Again, I commend Ragtag Studio for employing a commonly regurgitated trope into a game that’s uniquely refreshing and morbidly charming. Ray’s the Dead plans to satiate your craving for fleshy munching as a launch window title for the PS4, with the PC version arriving a little sooner. Be sure to give its Steam Greenlight page a look (and a vote if it’s something you’d like to play).