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Review: Zombie Dawn

The level design is probably some of EZkeel's best

Project information

Zombie Dawn
Simon "EZKeel" West-Bulford
Single Map

Main review

EZkeel's Zombie Dawn is quite possibly one of the shortest maps in Unreal Single Player history. A casual player could probably romp through it in ten minutes. Brief as it may be, it is also among the most unique of its kind. True to form, EZkeel breaks away from expectations and provides the player with something "different".


Zombie Dawn is, as the title makes clear, a map about taking on the undead. Starting in a graveyard in front of a large church, the player is quickly informed by the log entries of dead people that forces of occult nature are bringing the dead back to life. The only way to stop this army of darkness (heh) is to get into the church and read a holy passage that will ultimately send the zombie horde back to hell. Mixing religion with SP elements is something EZkeel does often, but unlike more notorious attempts the concept fits well with the B-Movie camp he has going on here. The story is different and it is a welcoming refreshment from the norm.

Because the map is so short, EZkeel utilizes very little custom content for obvious reasons. You use standard Unreal inventory (with a custom made inventory item with icon) and if playing through UT's Oldskool you’ll have the luxury of the chainsaw, a rare find in SP. For guns you’ll nab an enforcer, an all powerful rifle for clearing any zombie area from a distance, a vastly unecessary flak cannon, and a minigun. EZkeel wisely keeps the weapon load to a minimum, and ammo is pretty limited for the majority of the map. Despite this attempt to balance the combat, Zombie Dawn is a pretty easy map. The inclusion of the chainsaw alone makes short work of any enemy in the hands of even the most casually adept UT player. It is possible to beat the entire map with just the chainsaw, and if you want to achieve the maximum challenge then that's the way to play it.

One of the zombies

The zombies themselves leave a lot to be desired. Using the brute monster from Unreal, EZkeel gave them new sound fx for zombie grunts, reduced fatness, skins that look like stock gib textures, and a new projectile. Besides their normal punching melee attacks, the projectiles they shoot (from their "flesh" guns I guess) are short range gib chunks that cause damage similar to slith acid. They only really provide a risk when there are lots of them and even then their dismal projectile attacks significantly reduce their threat level. From a distance you’ll have no problems as long as you have ammo. If you want to give it a go with the chainsaw then you’ll be fine as long as you are quick on your toes. Besides the zombies, you fight some other critters from Unreal; a misfit array of pupae, flies, and the occasional devil fish attack you in certain areas. And that is your opposition.

Ironically, the level design is probably some of EZkeel's best. It gets the job done without falling below average or rising to the occasion. The Church and graveyard are probably the most interesting bits. Lighting is run of the mill but better than it often is in other, larger EZkeel packs. All other build aspects are average.


Overall, it's a fun map for a quick download. It's far from memorable…but then again it's rare to find a zombie themed SP experience. The ending is a bit brief and there is no real closure, let alone a decent final fight to round it all off.


Build (24%)
  • Architecture
    Imagination, realism and detail of structures used in the design of the level.
  • Texturing
    Use of textures in the level. Technically speaking, alignment and scaling. Choice of textures, and quality of any custom textures used.
  • Lighting
    Lighting of the level: does it look cool? Use of light colour and other effects, and sourcing of lighting (no light out of nowhere).
  • Sound
    Use of ambient sounds and event sounds to give the level atmosphere, and the quality of any custom sounds. Appropriate use of music and silence to complement the atmosphere.
  • Technical Execution
    Technical soundness of the level, i.e. no visual glitches, no random deaths or other gameplay bugs, and a good framerate.
Cast (20%)
  • Conceptual Grandness
    Scale, imagination, awe & originality of design and layout, physical foreshadowing of future areas.
  • Story Construction
    Backing story & progression via translator, subplots, and script of voice acting where applicable. Logical choice of opposition.
  • Story Implementation
    Progression of the written story via the events of the level, and performance of voice actors where applicable.
  • Gameplay Awe
    Quality of scripted sequences, originality and staging of combats. Maps that force the player to "learn by dying" will be penalised.
  • Gameplay Balance
    Balance of weapons and items to creatures, including difficulty settings. Most importantly, fun factor.