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’m all for game developers pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable subject matter for the medium. However, dropping a few F-bombs and making sex jokes about zombies in no way justifies the awful combat mechanics and uninspired puzzles that make up Dead Head Fred’s gameplay.

This third-person action title has players take on the role of Fred, a spunky P.I. who got himself killed and reanimated while investigating a shady nuclear power plant in a sleepy rural town. Mad scientists, nympho zombies, and enterprising mutants round out the cast of characters, with frequent guest appearances by backwoods psychos and nameless undead for Fred to beat up on. It’s a unique and compelling setting, but the act of playing the game is drab and repetitive.

Brawling your way through this title’s Tim Burton-esque dystopian landscape is entertaining on a very basic level, but the utterly uninteresting challenges you face fail to engage any of the player’s higher brain functions. Killing the same enemy with the same attacks that use the same animations in a slightly different room loses its luster after the fifth or sixth repetition when the act of fighting is as formulaic and boring as it is here.

Collecting different heads and utilizing the various powers they grant you could have been a cool mechanic if the level design took advantage of it. Sadly, it doesn’t. Rather than opening up options by giving the player a diverse toolbox of abilities, the head powers serve primarily as one-shot gimmicks to overcome arbitrary obstacles.

Even so, Dead Head Fred is hardly broken. Beating up enemies and stealing their heads works, but is rarely compelling. Navigating bite-sized environments is easy to do, but almost never offers a sense of exploration or accomplishment. The occasionally clever dialogue and intriguing visual style just aren’t enough to save this title from its own mediocrity.


I really wanted to like Dead Head Fred. It’s got an interesting and unique cast, great voice acting, and a stylish look. But, jeez, it just doesn’t feel like developer Vicious Cycle knew how to make it all into fun gameplay. You’ll spend most of the game wandering around, disoriented by the awful camera and repeated environments. The head switching mechanic could have been cool, but it’s primarily used for puzzles no more complex than the whole “use five missiles on red doors” tactic from Metroid. Combat’s mostly about punching guys until you can behead them even though they want you to use counters and specials. It’s too bad old Freddy didn’t live up to expectations.
Punch your way to vengeance while making snarky adult-oriented quips
Aside from repetitive enemy models, this is a great showcase for the PSP’s capabilities
Good voice work for the main character throws the awful supporting cast into sharp relief
Slow, sluggish, and shoddy barely begin to describe the combat
With decent gameplay this could’ve been a cult hit. As is, it’s more Tromeo and Juliet and less Rocky Horror Picture Show
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