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No More Room In Hell – PC

No More Room In Hell – PC

nomoreroomPlatform: PC

Developer: No More Room In Hell Team

Publisher: Lever Games

Genre: Survival Horror, FPS

Nerd Rating: 5 out of 10

Reviewed by Malefico

In No More Room In Hell, you are one of a small group of human survivors who must escape the ravening hordes of undead who have descended upon humanity.  This game is actually a mod of Half-Life 2, using the Valve Source engine and Hammer editor tools. It is featured on Steam as a Free-To-Play game, popularized by fans and made possible by the Steam Greenlight program. There is no campaign mode, all games are hosted online as multiplayer co-op matches.

The Basics

H2

Game controls are standard keyboard/mouse FPS fare. Keys can be edited to customize control to your liking. On my little crapfest of a review machine, I was able to play this game at 1900 X 1440 resolution, high detail and texture settings, 4X MSAA and 8X Anistropic filtering, so the game is not demanding on hardware. No stutters, freezing or other hiccups were noted visually, so you could probably play this even without a discrete video card, provided your PC is no more than 2-3 years old.

Players can choose from a number of character models and voice sets on the title screen, and the game supports text and voice chat.

Zombie models are somewhat repetitive, and the animations are very basic (in fact they might have just reused the movements from the head crab zombies in HL2), but the sound effects are disturbing, kind of an eerie, rattling half-growl, half-moan from the undead as they close with you.  There are four types of zombies in NMRIH– shamblers, runners, children and burning zombies.  Shamblers are the most common, followed by runners. They use the same models, so it’s impossible to tell which they are until they start sprinting your way. Both of these foes can hold a player as they attack. Children are less prevalent, do less damage and can’t immobilize you. Burning zombies are rare, the chance creation of setting a common mob on fire. I never saw one, however the common corpses roaming the world were more than enough to slaughter me repeatedly. Just like in the movies, even if they are just shuffling along, they close in all too rapidly and soon you are surrounded, and soon after that, dead.

Game environments are detailed and varied, from post-apocalyptic cityscapes to sinister rural towns and farms, Hell serves up a plethora of places to die. The match settings are nicely detailed, with city streets full of wrecked and abandoned cars, fires burning uncontrolled, and refuse scattered everywhere. On the farm, insects swarm around lights and deep shadows surround the farm houses, typically the scene of the survivor’s last stand.  Missing are some of the effects I think add to a game like this, for instance fog, rain and wind, but this is most likely a limitation of the Source version this game utilizes.

H1The game world is often claustrophobic, with narrow hallways that must be defended, or foreboding alleyways that must be traversed to reach the next objective. This can cause traffic jams as players struggle against the ghouls blocking their way, or trying to force their way into a stronghold.

There are a number of weapons to be found- bats, shovels, hatchets and pipe wrenches are among the melee weapons, and pistols, shotguns, rifles and more make up the firepower offered to players.  Ammo is extremely limited, however, so this is no shoot-em-up. Most of the time, players will probably opt for melee weapons to conserve their shots for desperate situations. You can even find boards and a hammer to construct makeshift barriers against the shamblers. NOTE: Save yourself a lot of time and angst…  Get the boards into your inventory, pick up the hammer and right-click it to do this. The item inventory works around an encumbrance system meaning that the smaller an item class is, the more you can carry.  But not ammo, unfortunately.

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There are bottles of pills that will stave off the infection that sets in and slowly kills you when you are bitten. To my knowledge, there are no med-kits available in the game. One “nice” detail is that, when a player dies, they soon rise to bolster the zombie army. Seeking out their former teammates, these zombies become runners who can move at the same speed as players, adding an element of “Frog me!!!” to the game. Like most Steam games, this one offers Achievements that can be unlocked. So, overall, the design and implementation of NMRIH is not groundbreaking, but does include some novel elements and is impressive nonetheless considering it was done by amateur modders.

The Bottom Line

If I were to evaluate this game solely on the meat and potatoes of its design, it would get 6 or maybe 7 out of 10.  But, in my opinion the game suffers from balance issues. At the start of a match, players are given 45 seconds to find something with which to defend themselves. Not a lot of time, especially if you are unfamiliar with the maps and have no idea where to find the items. Not only ammo, but firearms themselves are scarce. If you are playing an 8-player match, it’s possible that only half the team will even have guns. Moreover, players can only carry one box of ammo at a time, per weapon.

H4

The zombies, though slow, enjoy a substantial advantage in number.  And they do heavy damage, three or four attacks and the player goes down. Once a zombie has you, you must quickly shove them away as they lock you in place, no movement or turning until their deadly embrace is broken. As mentioned before, ammo is sparse, and the melee weapons are not terribly effective. You can charge them up to deliver a more powerful blow, but you trade off valuable time as more zombies surround you. Although the developers did a good job with object collision, for instance you have to get a lot closer to strike with a wrench than a shovel, it usually takes two solid (uncharged) hits to bring down a zombie. Assuming they don’t get you in a clinch and eat you or hold you in place long enough to allow their buddies to join the buffet. I found the shotgun to be far and away the most effective weapon, in fact it might be unrealistically overpowered. However, the game has no targeting reticle, so even with the scatter gun you might not deal a fatal blow to your target, but if you can get the fiends clustered together and let loose with a blast, you can kill several with one shot. More conventional guns are less serviceable. Lacking a way to effectively aim, you can easily go through an entire magazine trying to stop one shambler.

As noted earlier, players can bottleneck themselves, hampering movement in tight quarters. This results in knots of players surrounded by the undead, fighting a losing battle to advance or defend. Since it only takes about ten seconds for a vanquished player to rise and attack, the scene can quickly turn ugly for the humans.

H3

I’ll freely admit that I am a mediocre FPS player, and often worse than average. It’s quite possible my modest skills are brought into the glaring light by this game, which is tough and unforgiving by any standard. It’s clear the developers were shooting for a realistic depiction of a nightmarish reality, where the odds of survival are very slim. In this, the game succeeds. For my taste, however, the game proved to be an exercise in frustration and masochism. I am going to continue to play to see what kind of improvements are made.

The Verdict

No More Room In Hell is a laudable feat considering it wasn’t done by professional game developers.  I can’t fault the obvious time and attention to detail that was taken with this game. It incorporates interesting elements like the limitations of item weight, the ability to board up doors and windows and the creeping infection that sets in once you are wounded. Without a doubt, this game is tough.  With a well-organized, skilled team that knows where items and objectives are, the survivors can probably complete the map and take 75% casualties, at most. That tells you how difficult this game really is. You truly don’t know how long it will take, but you quickly realize you are probably going to die… again.

That’s where NMRIH falls short, in my opinion. Like any gamer, I want to be challenged, but this is more a simulation of the hopelessness humanity would face in this kind of situation. The odds are weighted heavily in favor of the undead, and I considered myself to be doing well if I was still alive two minutes after a match started. In a game like this, there’s not much fanfare when you successfully complete a map. For me, the rewards were too scant and the frustration of dying quickly and repeatedly limited my enjoyment of the experience. Good environments and challenging missions conflict with bland models, weak weapons and balance issues to create an overall experience that is more frustrating than fun.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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