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Quietly creeping through an abandoned scrapyard, a woman scrambles to repair an old motorbike, fending off the zombies hiding in every corner. After a tense shootout, she fuels up the bike and goes roaring down the highway, running through the undead as she goes.

This is the cool opening I didn’t get to experience when I played Undawn. Instead, I was fending off out-of-place robots (a concession likely made by the developers so the game could launch in China), and I had to run down the long highway because “that bike doesn’t work yet”.

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When playing an early build of a game, I do my best to ignore problems like this because they will almost certainly be fixed by launch, but it’s important to mention because it put a bad taste in my mouth for what was to come.

There are two things that triple-A and indie developers alike have run into the ground over the past couple of generations: open-world zombie survival games and live services. Undawn is both.

While there will be a Steam version of this game, don’t be fooled, it’s designed as a mobile-first experience. The developers told me to think of the Steam version as more of a “companion app” that makes things like base-building easier.

The thing is, I wouldn’t want to play it on a screen any smaller than your average tablet – the UI is crowded enough as it is. It’s not so much of a problem in your average city-builder or turn-based RPG, where you have time to stop and read every little thing, but this is a zombie shooter, so you need to be able to react quickly and switch weapons on the fly. A smaller screen would make this difficult.

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Things immediately felt off when I looked at the character creator. This game is set in a gritty post-apocalypse world and the story does everything it can to push that idea. The designs of the male characters fit with this, with the kind of tough, rugged looks you’d expect. The women, on the other hand, all have the big eyes, high cheekbones, and slim faces of your average anime girl. They feel like characters out of Final Fantasy 14 and it reeks of pandering to a certain demographic.

Once you’re into the game, it’s your standard zombie fare. You get in with a group of survivors and you have to go around the world helping out other smaller groups to form alliances and avoid falling prey to the horde – after you’ve stared at a washing machine for 30 seconds because your clothes are dirty and that affects your mental health.

It wouldn’t be a survival game if there weren’t bars to manage, and oh boy, Undawn has all the bars you could want. Hunger, thirst, energy, cleanliness, and mental state all nag you while you wander the wasteland, but what strikes me is how ridiculously easy they are to manage.

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Aside from the one time the tutorial forced me, I never slept, bathed, or washed my clothes during my two-hour session. I had to eat a couple of times, but it didn’t seem to be that big of an issue. While this is better than bars that need constant micro-managing, it makes me wonder why the developers even put them in the game. It feels like a feature that was added simply because it’s a genre staple, not because there was any specific vision for it, or more cynically, so there’d be another set of items to sell in the in-game shop.

It’s not just the survival elements that are way too easy either, because I never felt even remotely challenged by the zombie hordes. While I only played in early-game zones, every enemy encounter was very simple to deal with. I only died once and that was because I left to go to the bathroom while standing in a forest at night.

The basic zombies only know how to charge at you – and sometimes they don’t even bother doing that – and all die in one hit to a shotgun blast. The special zombies are no better. Their attacks and behavior are a little more complex, but they don’t do much damage and go down to a few shotgun rounds just as easily. It’s no wonder the protagonist feels safe making their home on a tiny farmstead with pathetic fences being all that keep the zombies out.

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Speaking of, the base building is no different from what you’ve seen in every other survival game since DayZ. You can place a bunch of dingy-looking walls, ceilings, and doors about the place with various workstations you’ll need to craft and store gear or farm resources. Bear in mind that the protagonist chooses this over the fully equipped family home inside a big settlement with solid walls and many armed guards. I don’t care how good of a carpenter you are, your little crapshack can’t be an improvement.

If you like bland mobile games that exist simply to eat away at your time and attempt to get your money at any opportunity, then this is another one in a sea of thousands. If you like zombie survival games and want one to play on the go, then you best look elsewhere, because this is what happens when you throw all the ingredients into a pot without any expertise or care.