Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog


Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green (PC, 2005, Canada): What Wonderful Rot

“Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green,” the low-rent, film-tie-in FPS game from the equally low-rent 2005 Romero zombie flick, is the definition of a guilty pleasure. Apparently, when it was released, thousands of excited fanboys ran to the store with fistfuls of dollars to buy this Groove Games-published “epic” on both the Xbox and PC, all moist with the possibility of decapitating hundreds of zombified housewives, street urchins, and taxi drivers. The result, mere hours later, was an internet that almost committed harikari. Finding a single positive review was pretty much impossible. Even now the game is considered one of the biggest horror-turd-letdowns to ever be released commercially.

The cloudy history of the game’s development goes something like this: The developer Brainbox, located in Canada, was already working on a budget-priced zombie FPS title for publisher Groove Games when George Romero and his movie-crew moved into town temporarily to shoot the film. Seeing an opportunity, the developers at Brainbox took their already completed game (or nearly completed) to the Romero camp to inquire about a tie-in. With some changes to the story and characters, a deal was made, and a new game was hastily crafted using the same Unreal 2.0 engine and character models, etc. It was released, with much anticipation, alongside the flick. So, I guess Romero and cohorts never actually bothered looking at or playing the game? Ooops.

(Interesting side-note: The original game being made was basically scrapped, and that version has resurfaced–as its own complete game–and Groove Games [or some iteration of Groove Games] apparently atttempted to market it in Russia, or somewhere. The title for the never-released game is “Day of the Zombie” [or “Zombie Day” on some Russian videogame retail sites]. Before long, that version of the game appeared on torrents ’round the world for free as semi-illegal download–although it was never actually released domestically. The game, as I mentioned, uses the exact same engine and some of the exact same character models, but boasts its own story and locales, a full-sized game of its own. Uh, also crappy. Double the crap, double the…smell?)

You play as plaid-shirt-and-coveralls-wearing farmer Jack (yeah, that’s it). There’s some grumblings from the city news on the radio that something strange is happening, but it all seems pretty far off. Next thing you know, looking out your kitchen window, you see someone standing–just standing—in the middle of your field. That’s not right. You go outside and–whaddya know! Your farm has been besieged by the undead. Exploring (with handy-dandy headsmackin’ shovel in hand), you find your neighbors’ farms deserted–with lots more zombies hanging around in the cornfield. Evetually, you make your way to the city–yeehaw! Crawling through sewers, destroyed office buildings, vacated movie theaters, and warehouses, you shoot and run away from around 6 basic zombie types (that never really change). You then hear about the existence of a safe-haven located within the city–the big skyscraper that Dennis Hopper runs in the film–and you attempt to reach it. I won’t ruin the ending, since I know you’ll be going to pick this one up like right now.

Anyway, without question, the game-proper “”Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green” is unadulterated junk, poorly drawn, repetitive, bland. Textures in the environment are laughable; colors are ugly, improper. The soundwork is passable, but nothing extraordinary (zombie groans, teeth clattering, rotten-sounding breathing). Loading times are painful. Completely dull weapon choices. But it is (I begrudgingly admit) ABSOLUTELY BEGUILING, a grade-Z guilty pleasure. Although it was universally panned upon release, I played it with great relish and finished it in record time (10 hours of play in merely 2 nights–it’s not a long game, but I also couldn’t put it down and felt compelled to rip through it for some reason, hyperventilating the whole time. That’s my bad-taste-gene kicking in, no doubt.) Amidst all the general crappiness, somehow the game manages to whip up some tension with decent pacing that drew me in, hook-line-sinker. There are some rather well-voiced internal monologues by your character as well, which help to distract your attention from the mostly awful animated cutscenes.

Totally junky, washed out, undetailed, blocky graphics (and some really irritating up-on-high sniper sequences where you have to assist someone else make it through a zombie-infested map alive)–but completely addictive and perfectly-paced gameplay dodging slow (but persistent and plentiful) zombies and lotsa headshots. I died about 200 times, but there wasn’t a serious bottleneck in the entire affair. It zipped right along at a 1000-miles-per hour (NOT like “Left 4 Dead,” but you know what I mean). Very fun. I refuse to request forgiveness. A total blast.