Death Road to Canada is best described as a road trip simulator that takes place in a zombie-infested USA, where you’ll be facing random odds and doing your best to overcome any obstacles. Something which is bound to offer you many hours of fun.
Genre: Action, Indie, RPG
Developer: Rocketcat Games
Publisher: Rocketcat Games
Release Date: 22 Jul, 2016
If you’re like me and never really gave this game a try, do not worry, because it’s never too late to join the party. This is especially true considering that the game has just received a pretty packed content update as a commemoration of its one-year anniversary on Steam. According to the patch notes, this update included a new lighting system with flashlights, a new barricade system, a new trading camp system, a revamp to firearms, and a 100% increase of the game’s soundtrack, as well as a bunch more weapons, characters, achievements, and events.
Now, if you’re one year late to the party as I am, allow me to explain what Death Road to Canada really is. The game doesn’t honestly have a story, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as you just sort of make your own tale in each play through. With that said, the goal of the game is to make your way to Canada, while surviving hunger, zombies, bandits, and many other random encounters. While you may start your game off with a car, it can break down after taking damage or run out of fuel, which makes it so that you have to continue your journey on foot. Still, you can find other vehicles, but they can be different from your default one. For instance, you can come across a sports car that is a lot faster but consumes substantially more fuel and is less resistant to damage.
Whenever you start a new game, you can play with random characters or make and name your own, choosing the way they look and their starting perks and traits. The game also offers up to ten different game modes, even though only three of them are unlocked right off the bat. Besides that, one key feature is the drop-in and drop-out local co-op, and I guess that’s the main reason why you start each play through with two survivors. Along your journey you’ll also come across several different characters you can recruit to your party and control individually during combat. With that said, there is, what was to me, a surprising amount of different stats, perks, traits, and attributes that each character can have, so the chances of you finding two survivors that are exactly the same are extremely slim. There’s also some sort of AI customization, in which you can choose your fellow survivors’ combat style and tactics, such as using melee or ranged weapons, or playing defensively or aggressively.
As far as the gameplay goes, the game is divided into two different sections. In the first one, you’ll be journeying through the road to Canada, and it’s here that all the random events will occur. These are laid out in a “choose your own adventure” style, in which the game presents you with several options and you have to pick one in order to deal with a specific situation. These can range from simply deciding where to search for loot to how to deal with a bunch of bandits that have approached you, or deciding if you want to go to sleep or share stories around a campfire. Now, the chance of you being successful here depends on the stats of your survivors, or the stats of a survivor you choose for a specific task. These include things such as fitness, wits, strength, and mechanical and medical expertise.
The second gameplay section is where you’ll spend most of your time. This is where you’ll explore locations, which can range from convenience stores to police stations and hardware stores. Here you’ll have to fight your way through hordes of zombies, or attempt to dodge them, while searching for any loot that you can find on the ground or on furniture. With that said, you can also lock doors and use furniture to your advantage, either by piling a bunch of it serving as a barricade against the zombie onslaught, or by throwing it against the zombies. After you grab all the loot you can find, or once the zombies start swarming you, you need to escape by going back to your car, assuming you still have one, or by going to the edges of the map. The thing is, getting on the car doesn’t mean you’re good to go, you still have to start it up and then start moving, which sometimes might take a few seconds and zombies can damage your car, thus deteriorating its state.
One of the things that I do think that some people might not appreciate is the combat. While I enjoy it for what it is and I have no problem with it, I have to agree with some people that it feels a bit basic. Basically you just swing your melee weapons while facing the direction you want to swing at, and you do the same thing with firearms, while trying to compensate for your character’s lack of shooting expertise. The thing is, different weapons have a different momentum to them, so you have to pace your attacks in order to have the right timing and hit the enemies, because if you keep attacking relentlessly your character will soon become fatigued, thus rendering you useless in combat. So there isn’t really much to it really, it gets the job done and that’s pretty much it.
Despite the game’s random nature and permanent death of survivors, it does have its own persistent progression in the form of Zombo Points. These can be used by accessing Zombo Town via the main menu, where you’ll be able to unlock extra perks and traits and upgrade the ones you already have, thus buffing your stats and overall chances of survivability.
In terms of visuals, what you see is what you get, and while I’m sure that the vast majority of people who are interested in a game like this don’t care about the way it looks, I feel like one or another person will come barging claiming that games shouldn’t have pixels in this day and age. As for me, I quite like them. The game also allows you to turn on or off grain, glitch, and scratch filters, which add a rather unique ambiance to the game.
In the end, the huge amount of random events, different survivor configurations, and various game modes provide a lot of room for replayability. Given the game’s price and the fact that it received numerous updates throughout its first year on Steam, it only goes to show that the developers are truly committed to their game, and hopefully there’s more to come. If you’re looking for a somewhat cheap game that will either entertain you throughout several hours of zombie slaughtering fun or through short sessions, this is most likely amongst the best you can get. Death Road to Canada is quite possibly the first and only zombie survival road trip simulator with a strong Oregon Trail vibe alongside some pretty peculiar humour.