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KINGDOM Of The Dead Review: "An Incredibly Satisfying Horror Romp With A Synth-Fuelled Score"

KINGDOM Of The Dead Review: "An Incredibly Satisfying Horror Romp With A Synth-Fuelled Score"
Images: Dirigo Games

Written by 

Kelsey Raynor

Posted 

8th Feb 2022 17:16

KINGDOM of the DEAD offers a unique spin on the FPS horror genre, with a hand-drawn aesthetic and nostalgic 90s mechanics. A heavy-hitting, synth-fuelled score provides the backing as you hurtle through gloomy landscapes, dishing out the pain to terrifying monsters with an assortment of weapons. KINGDOM of the DEAD is a familiar experience with a very distinct style to help distinguish it from the crowd, but the question is whether it has the gameplay to stand on its own amongst the titles that inspire it.

A Synthy Spin On Old-School Classics

An enemy Mage can be seen in the window of the Mansion map in Kingdom of the Dead.

Before you even get the chance to press ‘Start’, the opening to KINGDOM of the DEAD instantly sets you up for a good time. The introduction to the game is an entrancing visual experience within itself, so much so that I restarted my game three times just to witness the opening all over again. If there’s one thing that KINGDOM of the DEAD does better than any other game like it, it’s being able to pair up a synth-fuelled score with horrifying enemies and dark, murky environments.

Think of Hotline Miami meets old-school DOOM. KINGDOM of the DEAD appears to live and breathe the paths these games paved, but not once does the game feel any less than unique. The way in which players make their way through various levels on each map seeking out a goal is reminiscent of the older titles that inspired it. Gameplay itself is reminiscent of DOOM, while the score is more similar to that of Hotline Miami. This is then all cemented with zombies, checkpoints, satisfying gun play, and one of the most fascinating art-styles seen in games.

The fact the score has been mentioned three times already goes to show exactly how amazing it is, because while KINGDOM of the DEAD would be an enjoyable game without the mixture of howls and synths, it is a core component to what makes the game so exhilarating to play. 

Just as Hotline Miami had an addictive soundtrack that made passing levels all the more rewarding, KINGDOM of the DEAD mirrors this but in a horror environment. Horror games that break or transform the usual horror tropes have me weak at the knees so the eerie-yet-still-a-vibe score is perfect. It makes roaming the Mansion or Crypt searching for souls to slay so much more fun while not removing from the horror at hand.

 

A Unique Art Style That Transforms Familiar Environments

The final boss on the first difficulty of the Mansion map in KINGDOM of the DEAD.

While the score is absolutely the stand-out performer from KINGDOM of the DEAD when you get into it, the second thing that remains so distinct about this game is its art style, and you can certainly tell the hand-drawn pen and ink environment was one of the developer’s selling points. Putting such a heavy focus on this has paid dividends, because it's one of the most stylistic and captivating aesthetics there is.

Entering Agent Chamberlains office, which is where you can select the next level, is astoundingly impressive. While the Mansion later becomes the spot to quell a huge DUNE-like worm, exploring it beforehand offers plenty of opportunities to pause and admire the hand-drawn environment. In fact, there were plenty of times it felt apt to simply stop and take in the surroundings while the magnificent soundtrack helped to realise the fact this is art in its rawest form.

More Than Satisfactory Slaying

Kingdom of the Dead review: More than satisfactory slaying

When it comes to the moment-to-moment action, managing your shotgun and revolver ammo carefully is important. Alongside those, you've got a talking sword to add some comic relief to the otherwise dark-yet-captivating action, and dynamite for the enemies that need some serious oomph. Combine this with the enigmatic audio and the result is an incredibly satisfying romp. Getting the colour balance right with the black-and-white aesthetic is important, but the settings can easily be adjusted to ensure it doesn't hurt your eyes and widens how accessible it is for players.

As you go through levels, you’ll take on different enemies from your standard zombie, to mages, to vampire-esque flying enemies. You’ll come across regular stands where you can save your progress, heal, and will find resources like ammo and new weapons as you advance around a map. These moments are prime examples of where the 90s nostalgia has been modernised, bringing mechanics slightly more in-line with recent gaming trends.

Simple But So, So Distinctive

KINGDOM of the DEAD is the best game I’ve played in 2022 so far. It’s a simple game at heart, but it feels so unique and fun that returning to it throughout the year will be a delight. The levels and regular checkpoints mean it’s a title that’s easy to pick up and put down, and getting my zombie-slaying fix comes with ease. This is a prime example of a game that knows exactly what it needs to be and doesn't get too ambitious. It's one of the best experiences in the horror FPS genre and has unique qualities and elements that make it stand out, without trying to cram too much in.

P.S. Developers, if you’re reading this, I need access to this soundtrack outside the game, please.

 

9/10

Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.

 

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