Dead Head Fred Preview
It's the first detachable head simulator! Well, sort of. Dead Head Fred is a new PSP action game from D3 Publisher and developer Vicious Cycle where you'll play as detective Fred Neuman in his quest to avenge his own death. You see, Fred was decapitated a while back, and now has been brought back to live with some crazy new technology. Combining a 1940s setting with sci-fi movies along with a bit of film noir, Dead Head Fred is going to be one of the more unique PSP games you've played in a while.
Well, the premise and the story are unique, at least. Fred starts off with basically a brain and a pair of eyes inside an upturned jar as a mad scientist explains what happened to him and shows him how to use his undead power along with some fun fighting abilities. We quickly find out that the whole town of Hope Falls, where the game takes place, is in the grip of the Mafia and their undead army. (I don't recall seeing many games over the years that had undead hordes controlled by the mob.) The characters in this game are animated very well and while the whole decapitation thing makes this less than suitable for kids, the whole thing does kind of resemble a high quality Saturday morning cartoon in many ways. But the first time you rip off an enemy zombie's head and put it on your own body to gain new abilities, you realize that this one's probably not a great gift idea for your 10-year-old little cousin.
As Fred goes throughout the game, he'll be able to capture and use the heads of many types of creatures (mostly zombies and undead) for a total of 9 interchangeable heads. These will also cause his body to change and his animations will adjust to be more like the monster whose head he's wearing. Each of the heads you can use grant different special abilities along with different combos when you've got to get into a fight. One of the more amusing ones is the bag-head zombie, who you can use to suck in various things like gasoline or water. Then spit out your selected liquid to punch through enemy weaknesses or finish up a light puzzle which are sprinkled around the game. Most of the difficulty and time spent is in exploration and fighting your opponents, and in many fights you'll also be better served knowing which head beats which enemies more efficiently. And with some of the pickups you get, you'll be able to improve the heads in your inventory and make their various abilities more powerful and useful.
I didn't get to see much of the game's side missions, but the game does include plenty of non-linear missions spread throughout the little town of Hope Falls. The whole thing is designed to be non-linear where you will be able to complete story missions in order and do side missions any time you want. Sure, we've seen this system before in plenty of games, but those games didn't have zombies with removable heads! Either way, the game does start you off easy in the scientist's mansion where you get a couple of new heads early on and learn how to use their abilities to escape. That's when the more open gameplay starts.
From the fun combo-based action, special attacks, and non-linear storyline to the amusing animation style and surprisingly good graphics on the PSP, Dead Head Fred seems to have what it takes to be on your short list for upcoming PSP titles. The only downside I might be able to see is that while there isn't really any blood that I saw, the ESRB might still give this game an M rating due to the head switching stuff. If that happens, it'll be a shame because Dead Head Fred does have a lot of gameplay that could be more enjoyable for teens who might not get to try it. Still, that won't take away from the fact that this is a very unique, interesting game that should be a lot of fun when it's released on August 28th.