Into the Dead 2 is an auto-run zombie survival game which originally launched back in 2017 on iOS and Android as a free-to-play title laden with the usual mobile microtransactions. The aim of proceedings here is to make your way through gauntlet after gauntlet of shambling, braindead zombie attackers as your player character moves ever-forwards, your controls limited to shifting from left to right to avoid incoming attacks whilst desperately trying to conserve ammo for your weapons. You can also unlock a selection of animal sidekicks who’ll attack incoming zeds and grant you little boons to help you out here and there. And that’s about it.
Gameplay is pretty simple and repetitive, as you might expect from an auto-runner, but it all looks very nice and plays smoothly – except for the odd occasion where you find yourself getting caught out even though you were sure you made a successful dodge or shotgun headshot. There’s a story to follow in the main campaign, with each of the sixty levels bookended by some pretty hackneyed radio banter between your character James and his sister who’s on the run and trying to survive the zombie invasion with what’s left of her family. It’s predictable stuff that runs through a checklist of pretty tired zombie movie tropes, but it does at least provide some sort of basic narrative framing for all the running and, really, we weren’t expecting some subversive zombie horror masterpiece here.
It’s a slim state of affairs in terms of what it offers gameplay-wise, and if you’ve played a handful of levels you’ve pretty much seen everything in terms of actual mechanics – apart from a couple of novelty weapons and turret gun sequences that add momentary variety later on. The main drive of Into the Dead 2 is really the constant unlocking and upgrading of new weapons, boons and doggy partners rather than what's going on with its gameplay. It’s an expected situation in a game that was a microtransaction-heavy FTP title to begin with, but it doesn’t do anything to change the fact that it all becomes a pretty mindless grind very, very quickly. Its levels almost feel eager to shuttle you through as quickly as possible and get you to the XP screen so you can see what you’re on the verge of gaining access to next – access that is doled out incredibly slowly.
Granted, there are a ton of weapons to unlock. They all look very nice and are well-detailed in the game’s armoury; we've got everything from dual-wield pistols to riot shotguns, bazookas, old western-style rifles, machine guns and some fancy compound bows, but the mechanics of actually shooting are so simplified – without any way to pick out individual body parts, maybe blow the legs off an enemy to leave them crawling towards you – that we’re not sure all of this variety in gun types really makes a big difference. It’s just more stuff to unlock; padding to an endless grind of collecting in-game currency to reach the next power boost. Sure, a bazooka is gonna make shorter work of a zombie than a pistol, and you'll certainly be treated to more giblets as they explode all over you, but you're still just auto-running forward, moving left to right to avoid things and shooting every now and again; nothing changes that.
There are lots of stat boosts you can add to your guns to make things easier as you dash through the undead – explosive ammo, faster firing rates, piercing ammo that takes bigger zombies down in one shot and more ammo for the crates that you constantly run towards to ensure you don’t end a level weaponless – but again, it just doesn’t feel like it matters all that much beyond having something to make the gameplay seem like it’s got a point in continuing for as long as it does... and it continues for ages. The main campaign has sixty levels, every one of them virtually the same, save for a few novelty moments here and there. There's also a bit of a nonsensical difficulty gradient at work, with some later levels seemingly giving up the ghost and letting you blaze through without much challenge, making them much easier experiences than some earlier encounters.
More variety does eventually appear in a handful of extra side missions that slowly unlock as you progress through the main story campaign. These mini-adventures see you take on a few different character roles in new locations and also introduce some human partners who you can direct to attack enemies as you charge forwards. The first one of these, set in the aftermath of a military plane crash in a zombie-infested warzone, was actually much more interesting to play than the main adventure, in our opinion. Having said that, and at the risk of becoming as repetitive as a free to play mobile game, it’s still exactly the same gameplay and there’s never any getting away from this fact.
Rounding out the different play modes on offer here is a standard arcade mode that ramps up the difficulty and charges you with blasting as many zeds as you can in order to progress to the next mission map. Of course, being repetitive would be all well and good at a certain price point, for a reasonable fee these things can be overlooked, but perhaps Into the Dead 2’s biggest problem as it arrives on Switch – and certainly the reason we're judging it so harshly – is that it costs over thirty-five pounds, which is just astoundingly expensive for an auto-run game of this type. We should also mention that there are two licensed DLC packs scheduled to arrive on launch day, one Ghostbusters, the other based on Night of the Living Dead, which of course both sound fantastic and could be really cool little additions to what's contained within the game. However, if you've picked up the digital version of the game, you'll have to fork out a further £4.49 for each of these reskins, adding further cost to something that has no business whatsoever costing what it already does.
It has got very nice graphics, it’s well made and certainly looks the part of a more expensive game, but there’s just no way the core gameplay experience on offer here – no matter how many modes and unlockables you pack around it – is worth that kind of money. This is a completely inoffensive, occasionally mildly-exciting little zombie survival game that is built around an endless trudge of unlocking boosts and guns whilst providing very little in the way of gameplay variety (or even enemy variety). It’s something we’d more than happily dip into for free on our phones whilst trying our hardest to avoid paying for any of its microtransactions, but there’s just no way we can honestly recommend getting involved on Switch for this price.
Into the Dead 2 is a pretty fun, well-made auto-run zombie survival game that arrives on Switch at a ludicrous price point that makes it very hard to justify picking up. The central gameplay loop is satisfying enough for a few minutes but it’s as deep as you’d expect to find in a game that originated as a free-to-play mobile experience. It’s been padded out with a bunch of extra modes, and they’re all perfectly serviceable, but you can never escape the core truth that it’s just the same thing over and over again in slightly different settings. If you’re an absolutely massive fan of running through endless waves of zombies whilst very slowly unlocking weapons to make it seem as though you’re somehow changing that experience, fill your boots, but everyone else should maybe check this out for free on a mobile device first instead.