What do you do if you see a horde of zombies running your way? That’s right; you BLOODY LEG IT.
No doubt the launch of Corridor Z elicited many eye rolls from gamers all over the lands. An endless runner? And zombies? Two of the most overused concepts in recent video game history, for sure. But put them together and you actually get a very addictive and surprisingly deep package.
Originally released in April 2015 for Android and iOS, Corridor Z has had the console treatment and is now available on PlayStation 4. Whilst some of the annoying “mobile” tropes haven’t quite been washed away, it still provides a refreshing and enjoyable experience on the big screen. Set in a school that has been overrun by masses of brain-munching zombies thanks to some despotic science experience gone wrong, Corridor Z is a front-facing endless runner where you have to navigate your way through winding corridors, thwarting the pesky undead by knocking over obstacles and firing guns as you run.
What sets Corridor Z apart from the majority of endless runners is its instant and prolonged feeling of progression. Where many games of the genre may be more focused on achieving bigger and better scores, Corridor Z places emphasis on completing missions, purchasing upgrades and moving forward in the game. After every set of five missions, the game moves forward onto the next day, presenting you with a new set of challenges to face. As days progress, you unlock new characters, learn more of the backstory, and unlock a new environment.
It doesn’t stop there either. There are weapon upgrades to purchase, costumes to buy and a massive wealth of collectibles to unlock. Starting with diary entries and then moving onto dictaphone messages and newspaper clippings, you’ll likely find one collectible on each run (providing you don’t have your brain eaten too quickly), and each tells a little more of the story of Corridor Z. It’s a nice touch for those who like a little background and depth to their games, but the story isn’t particularly memorable or engaging in any way.
Graphically, Corridor Z looks rather impressive considering it started life as a mobile title. The developers have clearly done some work to get it looking up to scratch on the big screen; a gritty colour scheme and a grainy veneer are perfect for setting the tone of this zombie-ridden frightfest. It’s just a shame there isn’t a larger variation on locations; although the laboratory opens up as a playable area eventually, running through the same corridors does begin to get tedious rather quickly, especially as even between the two areas, there isn’t much variety on design or layout.
Like any endless runner, Corridor Z is reliant on quick reflexes and ninja-like responses. As the game is front-facing (i.e. you’re running towards the camera) you can’t see what’s ahead of you until the very last second, so you really do need to respond instantly to gain the highest scores in your run. Luckily, a series of clever colour coding has been added to help make things a bit easier – a green glow from an “exit” sign can be seen just before you have to turn a corner, a red glow indicates a gun can be picked up, and a blue glow (accompanied by a phone ring audio cue) means that a collectible lies just ahead. The constant need for lightning fast reactions helps keep the tension sky high, and a great choice of music helps build this too – although it does get repetitive fairly quickly.
This fast-paced action means that Corridor Z is thrilling to play – but the difficulty ramps up very quickly, perhaps unfairly so. After around the 1500m mark, it feels almost impossible to succeed unless you have a gun to ward off zombies. By this stage, the zombies can move quicker and so can catch up to you in no time – obstacles don’t delay them as much. Without a gun, your brains will quickly become dinner. The trouble is, whether or not you get given a gun is purely down to luck. Pick ups are entirely random, so by this stage of the game, your success isn’t so much measured on skill but the generosity of the RNG Gods.
The biggest problem with Corridor Z is that its roots are still very firmly placed in the mobile gaming category, and many annoying features that we wouldn’t expect to see in a premium priced console game still exist. Even the menus are clearly geared for touch screen; rather than simply assigning buttons to each menu item, you have to navigate a mouse cursor which feels rather awkward at times. The worst aspect though is that your lives are not infinite; each character has three lives, and once they’re gone, you’re subject to waiting for a timer to tick down for them to regenerate. Whilst the timer isn’t particularly long (10 minutes per life) and you have several characters to choose from, if you keep dying fairly quickly, you could soon find yourself at the mercy of a countdown, unable to play the game. When you’re paying for a game ($7.99/£6.49) you expect to be able to play it whenever you want, as many times as you want.
Whilst the limitations of the mobile model have unfortunately carried over to Corridor Z on PlayStation 4, I’d still be hasty to recommend the game to anybody who enjoys an endless runner. There is a surprising amount of content crammed into a deceptively small package, and despite its setbacks, there are plenty of thrills to be found in Corridor Z‘s tight, zombie-ridden corridors.