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Dead Head Fred
Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: D3
Developer: Vicious Cycle
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:
As far as visual quality on the PSP is concerned, Dead Head Fred isn't bad at all. I was pleased with the game's feeling of openness and the fact that I didn't feel like the system's small screen was a hindrance in any way.

The character model of Fred, various enemies and NPCs are highly detailed and often very amusing to look at.

One of the key audio features of this game is John C. McGinley (Scrubs, Are We Done Yet, Wild Hogs) as the voice of Fred. As any fan of this actor would expect, McGinley plays a great cynical character full of snide remarks. Being a fan of him myself, I expected no less than solid voicework and was not disappointed.

In Dead Head Fred, you play Fred. As a recently deceased private investigator, you find yourself awakened in a grungy laboratory at the hands of a strange doctor. It turns out, in your life you were hired to investigate the comings and goings and actions of the owner of the local nuclear plant.

It seems that the pollution from this plant is causing quite a bit of disruption in the environment. Not only are most of the inhabitants of this town badly deformed (like Lefty, a man with a large left arm and leg, but hardly a right arm or leg to speak of... he uses his tommy gun as a crutch), but it is also filled with zombies and various malformed animals.

So, when Fred is discovered by his mark, he ends up dead and dumped near the local sludge-pit. His body is recovered by the aforementioned doctor and revived, well, with all but his head (that is currently a trophy). So now Fred, with his new head, will go on a new quest, this time, to get revenge and his old head back.

Most of the game's enemies consist of zombies of various types. The various enemies have different types of attacks, as well weaknesses and strengths. For the most part, Fred has only his fists to use to defend himself. But Fred can also use his head, literally. Swapping heads with previously defeated types of enemies gains abilities like shooting water or delivering more powerful hits. This is a great mechanic that really adds to Dead Head Fred's depth.

I won't be coy about it, Dead Head Fred has a few parts that I got pretty frustrated at. In some of the more complicated, bigger battles, it just got to be a bit too much and required me to put the game down on more than one occasion.

These areas are most definitely the exception, not the rule. Most of the time, I found that I could go from area to area with very little resistance (as long as I knew which head I needed for the task ahead), and the game's ability to save at any point in the game really lends itself well to the portability of the game. Were this title on a console, then a simple save-point and/or between level save system would have been fine, but the simple ability to creep and save (or just save because your car trip is over) really added a lot to the overall feel of the game.

Game Mechanics:
Dead Head Fred makes a good effort to take care of some of the system's physical problems, namely, the lack of a second analog stick. This "feature" has been a bane in many a 3D game for this system since it really hinders the player's ability to control the camera.

Dead Head Fred's solution is pretty unique (from what I remember); you use the analog stick to rotate the camera, but only if you are holding down the Right Shoulder button (which is also block). When you hold down this button, you can then rotate the camera. Unfortunately, this means you can't move the camera at the same time you are walking. Thankfully, the designers did a good job of making sure there isn't a large flock of baddies creeping around each corner, so you won't have to do a lot of strafing around corners.

The rest of the game's controls are okay, but tend to get a bit complicated. Besides the standard commands, actions that you will do frequently (like changing heads) take some getting used to, but you should have a handle on it by the end of the first level.

Considering most of the games on the PSP, Dead Head Fred isn't a bad purchase. The controls take some getting used to, but don't take long to feel second nature. The game's balance is pretty dead on and, most importantly, its pretty fun. If you aren't typically into this type of game, then give it a rent, but otherwise, it should probably go on your wish list.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer