Much as with a real zombie apocalypse, the undead are everywhere these days, and no medium is more infected with their proliferation than gaming. Square Enix isn't immune to the alluring pustulence of the walking dead, which is why it’s gotten in on the action with Deadman's Cross, an odd hybrid of first-person shooting, card battling and the other trend which has infected gaming: free-to-play.
You play as a newbie survivor leaving his apartment for the first time in three months. Sure, you can name your survivor, but don't expect to be able to do anything like customize appearance/gender, which seems ridiculous given that your character is little more than a static picture used when exchanging dialogue. Regardless, you're soon befriended by the precocious kid Oliver, who shows you the ins and outs of this Deadman-infested world. There's a small semblance of a story to be found, here, but it's mostly pretty forgettable.
Deadman's Cross seems to suffer from a bit of attention-deficit disorder, because it never lets you do one activity for too long (probably as a way of masking the fact that the activities aren't particularly fun). You'll go on Deadmen hunts, which are first-person shooting sequences that have you gunning down unimpressive, almost featureless zombies in order to add new Deadmen cards to your collection, which you'll use in turn-based card battles. Most of the game systems would push you to believe that the Deadmen card battles are the highlight of Deadman's Cross, but thanks to a few key, stupid decisions, they're about as fun as waiting for the elevator. Sure, the battles are turn-based, and there are different "strains" (i.e., elements of Deadmen), each with their own weaknesses, but all of this goes out the window thanks to Deadman's Cross taking 100 percent of the control away from you during battle. That's right— all battles go automatically. There's even a fast-forward button to help speed the pointlessness along.
You get a wide variety of activities to choose from, here, from battling it out in the Boneyard (which requires passes to enter), to the aforementioned hunts (which require passes, too), to dungeon-crawling (which requires an energy resource that depletes with use, only refilling with time or items). From the get-go it's clear that every game element is designed with the intent of pushing you to spend money in the in-game store, and that's just despicable, especially when Deadman's Cross' game elements are so boring, easy and autopiloted.
There's truly nothing about Deadman's Cross to be wowed by. The music's blah, the sound effects lack punch and the art for each of the Deadmen cards is questionable at best, looking as if it were designed for much lower resolution screens than what we have available today. Not to mention some of the cards more... disgusting artwork. Take for example, the Nurse, whose pose looks lifted straight from an adult film, but whose blood-spattered environment looks lifted from Silent Hill— it's juvenile and exploitative.
Deadman's Cross may technically be free-to-play, but it will cost you precious minutes and hours that would be better spent doing damn near anything. The grim world of Deadman's Cross serves as a decent backdrop for this odd hybrid of FPS/card battling action, but the lack of choice, risk, or strategy on the part of the player, and the aggressive pushing of Facebook/free-to-play elements drag this already-drab experience down into the grave.
This review was completed using a downloaded copy of Deadman's Cross on iOS.