Wave based zombie shooter Blood Waves is developed by Light Road Games and published by Sometimes You. It was originally released on the Xbox One back in 2019, and sadly, it did not go down well with critics. Three years on and a new version for the Series X|S has released, offering 4K 60 fps and optimised gameplay. Unfortunately, these upgrades are overshadowed by the repetitive gameplay that can be fun in short bursts, but still struggles to justify the $15 price tag.
In a third person perspective, the player takes control of a Lara Croft doppelganger who must survive wave after wave of the undead. Starting off with just a machete and a pistol, the player will find themself running around a circular dungeon, sending a full clip into or use numerous slashings of the machete at waves and waves of zombies. Finish the wave and the player receives cash, can enter a chamber to buy new weapons, traps, and ammo, and can also upgrade weapons and traps, plus add a skill buff. The players then heads back into the same arena where it is rinse and repeat. Die and it’s back to the start. That is basically all Blood Waves has to offer. The core gameplay revolves around the third person shooting and building (placing) purchased traps between waves. Through earning and saving up money, players can purchase extra weapons such as the SMG, shotgun, machine gun, sniper rifle, RPG, and a gatling gun. Unfortunately, nearly all weapons feel underwhelming, with the exception of the gatling gun and fully upgraded shotgun. The shooting mechanic behind these weapons also feels a little sloppy, as while hitting body shots is very easy, zombies take a lot of rounds to finish and head shots with the smallest dot of a reticle makes it difficult to pop heads and easy to waste ammunition. Creating a disappointing experience for the player as shooting is suppose to be the most enjoyable part of a Third Person Shooter. Each wave has the player running around in circles, in the same dungeon and turning around to shoot, followed by running around in a circle and turning around to shoot. The shooting mechanics make this all the more tiresome.
As mentioned previously, players can also purchase traps that slow the horde, from barricades, turrets, flame throwers through to spinning chainsaw towers. While these are handy in parts, they do not become useful until the player has enough money and upgrade points to build a heap and upgrade them. Not upgraded, these traps are taken down very easily by the zombies and the players money is wasted. Placing these in random spots without the support of other objects will see them destroyed easily, so to Blood Waves credit, once hitting the higher waves the players need to strategically lay out their traps. Not doing so will see the loss of trap, and life.
The zombies have variants, starting with normal walkers, to those that carry melee weapons, spit acid and use electrical attacks that can damage from range, through to one with a bomb for a head, that can wipe out all those around them, including the player. To avoid these players can roll and sprint, each draining the stamina meter fast, which is why I suggest upgrading stamina early, as players will be constantly sprinting in slow motion before once again turning and shooting. The gatling gun was the only time I felt like I could move towards the incoming horde. Taking out enemies does bring its rewards as they regularly drop cash, while rarely dropping ammunition or an invulnerability power up.
At the end of each wave, the player receives an upgrade and skill point. Upgrades increase weapon and trap ammunition capacity, damage output and durability. Players will need to experiment to see what works best for them, but upgrading is a must. Skill points unlock types of perks that do numerous things including increase health, stamina, health regen. Perks also offer something other than the basics including damage reduction from different enemy types or use less stamina when rolling or using the machete. Like upgrades, these are needed to get to and survive the higher waves.
For the Series X|S edition, the character models and the one and only arena have a nice shine to them, but the overall art style is bland, with the zombies offering a very generic copy and paste feel. I can’t mention the gameplay optimisation, as I never played the original but as mentioned, the shooting is anything but tight. Players can upgrade their version for a cheaper price and gain new achievements, but unless you are a serious achievement hunter, you wouldn’t bother. The rock soundtrack is suitable and helps get the blood pumping during waves but like the rest of the game, gets very repetitive very quickly.
Blood Waves has no multiplayer, and this is a huge miss. Taking waves on with a mate would give this title so much more replay value, but so would more levels, more weapons, and more enemy types. Blood Waves is also not appropriate for children due to the bloody violence.