Survive Against All Odds - The Last Stand 3: Union City
The third and latest installment of the Last Stand series has us zombie hunting fans quite excited. Not only do we finally get to see what the fabled Union City is all about, but we also get to take part of the adventure from a whole new point of view -with our very own custom characters. The gameplay has taken quite a dramatic change and move away from the old defend-a-base formula to a more adventure/RPG based system where your every action determines your chances of survival.
When hundreds of zombies literally roam the streets in Last Stand 3, players have to brave the dangers in order to find their spouse, home and hopefully, a way out. Each location promises the hopes of finding important resources, weapons or even the unlikely help from other survivors, but each doorway is as likely to hide danger in the form of flesh eating zombies of varying shapes and form.
Welcome to the Last Stand
Flash game developer Con Artist has made quite a name for themselves with the Last Stand series. The first two titles were basically stand-off shooters where you had to manage a small fort against hordes of invading zombies. Controlling a survivor named Jack, players must survive night after night of zombie hordes. As you progressed, you gained the ability to find survivors, get new weapons and reinforce your base during the day. The second game also involved an extra element of scavenging for food -which allowed the protagonist and the survivors to move to different defendable locations. The main goal of the two games is to bring Jack and his ragtag crew of survivors to Union City, which is rumored to be the only safe location against the zombies.
This third installment however, takes away from the original premise of having to defend a set location. This time you are out there in the heat of it all -right smack in the middle of the zombie infestation. The game is no longer shown from Jack's perspective. In Union City, players get to create their own lead character -you get to choose the name, gender and even the visual appearance.
Change can be Difficult
The first two versions of Last Stand are quite different from Union City. For one thing, zombies are not longer limited to nighttime movements. During the course of Union City, players get to explore the town during daytime and nighttime, and you can expect to find hordes of the undead waiting for you 24/7.
Second, movement is the new mode of the Last Stand 3. No longer stuck behind a wall, players must now keep moving around streets, houses, buildings and other locations in order to reach their various goals.
Those who fell in love with the simplistic style of the first two titles may be a bit disappointed that Last Stand 3 has become a bit of an action oriented title. The game is quite busy -forcing players to stay alert at anytime as the undead will spawn in areas randomly. This means that even if you cleared a room out earlier, it is quite possible that an entire horde will be waiting for you the next time you come back.
Second there is a great deal of emphasis on character growth and item acquisition. Experience points are earned for performing quests and killing zombies (though no points are earned for killing low level zombies). In turn, these points will increase a player's level and allows you to add points to character attributes and skills.
Much like an RPG, the game now makes use of stats in order to determine player performance. There is an emphasis on weapon-proficiency that is pretty in-depth for a 2D side-scrolling title, which is an unexpectedly mindful factor we really did not think much about.
Also, melee combat plays a big role in the game. Players who failed to properly increase their stats in the long range weapons skills will find that most guns have a very bad aim -seen in the extremely wide reticules. Melee weapons on the other hand, supply a steady and constant stream of damage on any nearby zombies, even if the player has low strength and melee abilities. This also solves the issue of dealing with limited ammunition early in the game.
Later on, players will be able to spend more skill points on long range weaponry and also -get more useful firearms. The addition of faster and larger enemies also encourages the player to start using long range weaponry as well. It is however, entirely possible to stick with melee weapons from start to finish - with a short bit of the ending sequences requiring the player to use firearms to deal with special enemies.
References to Bethesda's Fallout 3
Fans of Fallout 3 (and Obsidian-Bethesda's Fallout New Vegas) will find plenty of similar RPG elements between the two games. Quite notable is the addition of the "sleep" function which allows the player to make use of any bed to rest and regain health as well as advancing the in-game time by a certain number of hours.
Also, the use of attributes and skills are fashioned in a similar fashion to Fallout's SPECIAL attributes and skill system. This also applies to the use of encumbrance or weight limits. Players who tried out the hardcore mode for New Vegas will find that Last Stand's Survivor mode gameplay also portrays a similar limiting system for the player: the use of hunger and fatigue creates a stronger need for better inventory management as well as planning of one's actions in order to reach the end of the story.
Much like the first two games, players will find that the ending of Last Stand 3: Union City provides as much questions as it does give answers. The true source of the zombie plague is still unknown and we still do not know what it is that has led Jack and his crew to travel all the way here for the past two games.
Did we mention the fact that zombies are now roaming around in the mornings? This actually takes out any previous references in the original two titles that the zombies may have a mystical origin (since they seem to affected by sunlight). In Last Stand 1 and 2, players had the option to scavenge, rebuild and seek out survivors during the day -and the night is spend shooting down zombies. Now, it seems that zombies are available to feast on our brains at any time of the day -and if this makes you wonder how Jack is going to react...
Jack is back, at the very least, we get that one simple answer. Sure, this is a bit of a spoiler, but any video game player could predict that a major lead character from a previous game will always be referenced or even present in the latest version. Of course, we will not tell you how you meet this legendary survivor. But he managed to bring along several survivors from his long journey from Glendale to Union City. While he gets to talk a lot about his adventures in the previous games, he makes no mention of the zombie-daylight-curfew.
Aside from the obvious, the events of this game works more as a foundation for a new story and direction that the Last Stand series is about to take. As fun as it is to see good old Jack as an established zombie-killing veteran, we know take control of a new character that we inevitably become more attached to -simply because the new character is an extension of us. As for the issues surrounding the protagonist's wife (sorry, we cannot go into details -spoilers!), it appears that we will have to wait and see what happens in the next game for it.
To sum things up
The Last Stand 3: Union City is a great game to play. Intensive, fast paced and action packed, this is the perfect action-RPG for any zombie hunting fan. Those who loved the original will have to deal with a lot of changes, but after an hour or so of gameplay, one cannot help but admit that the new adventuring and leveling system is also pretty addictive. References to Fallout aside, the game still manages to stand out in its own right. The random encounters and wide range of item drops makes for a very dynamic gameplay -forcing players to change the way they fight in order to adapt to any situation at hand. Also, the final stretch at the very end of the game is sure to test every player's skill when it comes to holding down zombie hordes, something that Last Stand fans will surely want to look forward to.