By using this items on conjunction you can create a very hostile environment for your hostiles. Despite killing nothing, barricades are often the most useful, letting you block off entire potential pathways to the zeds. They make what would be a direct route to your extraction point a roundabout, sightseeing tour of dull grey buildings and screaming humans.
Potential apocalypse survivors can't be choosers, though, so that ideal combination you often dream about rarely becomes a reality. At the beginning of the campaign you first have to unlock the units (in random order) by taking territories back from the zombies.
Even once you have them all, you can only take a limited number of four to the zone you want to clear (and that selection is also randomised). It wouldn't do to make things easy, you have to understand.
There's a bit of a time limit in place for each level, too. While you start out in the daytime, you only have so much time (usually about a minute or two, depending on the time of year) before it turns to night.
When that happens the whole level gets swamped with the reanimated corpses of friends and lovers. If you haven't got the majority of people out, or at the very least to the extraction point, you've probably failed the level.
So you're racing against the clock and the zombies. Fun times!
And that's all before the megazombies turn up, not to mention the Elephant Bomb, the Llama bombs, the huge explosive tools used to clear any undead presence in a zone... (Don't think about the non-undead presence. Because that's a pathway to a bottle and a self-inflicted bullet wound.)
These are tied to the victory ticker, which adds up points to see who wins; you or the zeds. (I'll give you a clue: it's not you). It's worked out based on how many people you evacuate from a zone and how many get infected. It's also about how many territories you have recaptured and how many the zombies currently hold.
If this is all sounding a little overwhelming, don't assume that's true of the game overall. Atom Zombie Smasher is remarkably simple, and that's perhaps its greatest flaw.
The games are heavily randomised and there's a good deal of variety in each game you play, at least in terms of how levels begin to pan out. However, things tend to follow the same pattern after the first few territories go down. It's very rare that you are in anything remotely constituting a strong position because with territory you take back, another two or three fall under undead control.
So winning really isn't an option. But getting close to winning is, and rescuing at least some of the people is a kind of victory, right? I saved nearly two thousand civilians in my last game, and I'm pretty sure that's enough to repopulate the world once we're done nuking it from orbit.
The twin threats of boredom and repetition are offset by some of the customisable options. You can slow the zombies down or unlock all the units before you start and there's in built mod support, providing even more opportunity to tailor something closer to your tastes.
In short, Atom Zombie Smasher presents a new perspective on the zombie genre. It focuses more on the apocalypse than the post-apocalypse, on the inhuman elements of a military operation than the human ones.
Reducing people to blocks sends a pretty clear message. The game's absurd vignettes about baseball players and El Presidente do little to mask the fact it's really all about cold, hard, brutal numbers.
Speaking of which - you're unlikely to get more than a handful of campaigns in before your interest in AZS begins to wane, but that should be more than enough to get your money's worth.
7 / 10