Nuclear Waste of Time

Review of Nuclear Wasteland on XBLIG: Pass
More like a tech demo than actual game, Nuclear Wasteland is devoid of people and purpose.

I was quite excited to review Nuclear Wasteland.  The game had a nice trailer, a 3.5 rating on Xbox Live, good box art, and was at the top of Major Nelson’s weekly sales list.  I even had respect for the game using “mutants” instead of “zombies”.  Score one for creativity.

The title screen graphics and font choice reminded me of Red Dead Redemption, which is odd considering I had never played Red Dead Redemption.  There game options were limited, yet I was grateful for y-axis inversion to be among the choices; an old PC FPS player I cannot get behind a normal y-axis.  There was also a sensitivity option, which I set to medium then started a game.

I spent a good deal of time in the loading screen, which was somewhat useful as the instructions were crammed in to one screen and needed the additional time to decode.  After loading, I found myself in a world of brown, gray, and brown-gray blends.  Realizing I had already forgotten the controls listed on the prior screen, I fumbled to find the trigger and died in under 8 seconds.

My second life went a little better.  I managed to run around and avoid approaching mutants, allowing time to reload my gun between shots.  I then switched up attacks and smacked mutants with the butt of my pistol.  This did little but piss them off, and I died shortly after.

I died often my first few games while trying to figure out what was going on and what I should be doing.  I died enough that I noticed the UI didn’t always jive when trying to say, “You gonna die sucka!”.  Sometimes the screen would go red as I neared death, other times I just fell down.  Once I died standing up.  It was as if I had died but didn’t know it for a moment and continued to fight.

My deaths were not in vain however, as they taught me the ways of this post apocalyptic hell.  The mutants came in waves.  After a wave was killed, a door to a building may open revealing a health station,  a new weapon, or ammo (the starting pistol had unlimited ammo).    To heal, I had to stand in the health station while holding B.  I discovered I could heal while shooting, getting hit, and reloading.

So that was my plan.  I stood in the health station using the door as a choke point, and shot all the mutants but one.  If they managed to get in the door, I healed while they hit me.  The last mutant of the wave I left alive.  If I killed it, a new wave would trigger and limit my time to roam the map for new weapons and ammo.  Rinse, repeat, use only as directed.

I managed to get though 29 waves, totaling over 1500 mutant kills.  Not a bad plan.  I’m not sure if I hit a bug or of it was supposed to happen, but sometimes the health station would stop working (“Press B to Heal” no longer appeared on the screen).  There were two healing stations, so when this happened at one I switched to the other.  I lost a few lives during these switches, and finally lost my last life when my shotgun kept missing a mutant at point blank range.

I was glad for it to be over.  There was no background music and many actions like picking up items had no sound effect.  The mutants were all identical and increased little in skill and number between waves.  The guns all felt the same, just like the mutants.

I have to give Nuclear Wasteland a pass.  I am impressed with the engine, but there is no a game here.  The addition of levels, or map goals like item collection would go a long way to making me feel like I have a purpose.  The developer mgKelly has potential, and finding someone to collaborate with for creative ideas could yield some Indie hits.

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