Gamenauts, a Southern California-based developer studio, has released its newest post-apocalyptic endless-runner, Nuclear Outrun. Gamenauts caught a lot of heat a couple years ago regarding their release of Ninja Fishing. Given that it was originally released as a flash game, does Nuclear Outrun clear the blast zone set by its source title and our expectations?
Nuclear Outrun's concept is rather basic: you are in a car shooting your way through hordes of zombies in an apocalyptic wasteland while a giant nuclear missile is about to detonate. You can never outrun the explosion, so you must simply go as far as you can for the sake of beating your previous record. No matter what you do, how far you drive, or how many zombies you kill, you can never outrun the explosion. But it's neither the beginning nor the ending of these endless runners that really matter, but the journey itself. So in that regard, does Nuclear Outrun take us beyond the Thunderdome in terms of enjoyment?
Essentially, there is enjoyment to be found in Nuclear Outrun for about the first 20 minutes. As with most free games, micro-transactions prove to the ultimate factor in being able to have access to the items that would be the most efficient or the most fun. But of course, there is no human way of farming the number of coins needed for the premium items without breaking out your wallet and paying for them. Which is a shame considering that these expensive tools, vehicles and weapons bring a distinct amount of charm to Nuclear Outrun that most endless-runners do not have. And without them, Nuclear Outrun brings nothing really different.
Nuclear Outrun's gameplay is simple but effective. You are in a vehicle that will automatically speed through levels. It is your character's job to keep the car's path free of zombies, bombs, missiles, giant bosses, zombie-clowns and various other impediments. This is done by tapping your finger on the screen in order to shoot your weapon in the direction your tap was in regards to your vehicle. Usually, the resulting effect is a bullet or projectile that will mow through enemies, roadblocks, and incoming projectiles in a straight line.
The weapons offered range from the simple (handguns, machine guns, shotguns, etc.), to the downright bizarre (squid launchers, shark guns and fart bazookas). Each of these weapons work differently and have different firing rates, firing-power, and areas-of-effect. The same can be said of the vehicles and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Larger vehicles have more defense but are slower targets with bigger hit-boxes, whereas the smaller ones are faster but take less damage. WMDs, such as the Teddy Bear Bomber Blimp and George the T-Rex (equipped with missile launchers and lasers!), act as background support for a limited duration as they automatically lay waste to things in your path.
Unfortunately, these high-end weapons, vehicles and UMDs are expensive to get, require multitudes of playthroughs in order to procure, and Nuclear Outrun's fun lasts about as long as its in-game doomsday clock. Within a few runs, and glancing through the garage and store options, you will find that there is not much else to Nuclear Outrun as a whole. Each run starts off with a 30 second timer which you can postpone through multiple zombie headshots, but those can only take you so far.
A major saving grace of Nuclear Outrun can be said of its music and sound effects. The rifts are surprisingly cheerful and melodic, adding in to the silliness that the game's unique (but expensive), arsenal provides. Without the music or the uniqueness of the fart bazooka and mechanized T-Rex, this game would have scored a point or two even lower in terms of its overall rating. The missions and boss battles give players something to aspire to in terms of trying to beat their records, but I hardly noticed reaching my mission parameters or rescuing any survivors with all the chaos that is constantly on the screen as I was shooting through a run.
Personally, after shattering my best run a few times, I felt greatly apathetic in realizing that I'd never be able to unlock any of the awesome cars or weapons without having to spend real money on such a short, pointless game. Free is free, and this game is good for a few smiles and some decent entertainment, but you cannot outrun the ceiling of mediocre, free games forcing players into micro-transactions in order to unlock the fun stuff.