When I spew the term “realistic zombie game” I am working under the assumption that a zombie outbreak is highly possible, and if it were to happen, these undead walkers are relentless and won’t deconstruct in a fortnight for the purpose of game longevity. Now, without any further ado, I present to you, “Zombie Outbreak.”
In ZO players create their own character from the ground up, including gender, age (18+ for both regulatory and credibility issues) and appearance. Once this initial process is completed, players will be presented with a huge map of the fictitious location in which the takes place, Victory City. After a brief cutscene in which the glorious history of the city has been played out, you are then given the option to choose a spawn point anywhere on the map, whether it be the beaten slums, the picture-perfect avenues, or rural outskirts. As soon as the player’s character has been deployed, the game begins, and at exactly same time, the initial case of the zombie virus also emerges in several random places across the game-world, granting uniquity to every playthrough straight off the bat.
It doesn’t take long for players to catch word of the outbreak (it being broadcasted across all media platforms) whether they start off at ground zero or several miles away from the first incident. The city and surrounding districts soon descend into chaos, and the player is instantly forced to think of a survival plan. The obvious solution would be to escape the boundaries of Victory City, and in Zombie Outbreak this is entirely possible. Accessible by ground, water, or even air, players can make their way to one of the neighbouring settlements surrounding Victory City. Each of these areas is smaller than the city and the game is designed so that by the time you reach these outposts, which will take a few hours of in-game time, the military will have already been summoned creating a circular border around the area. Of course crossing this border will result in almost instant death; even one compromise on the army’s side could see the virus spread beyond their control, so for now players are directed back into the fray to fend for themselves.
Due to the fact that Zombie Outbreak is set in a fictional realm and not in the land of the free (despite the obvious similarities,) players won’t start off with their own personal arsenals of weaponry, being forced to utilise their surroundings, akin to the improvisation mechanic used in Dead Rising. Like in the majority of zombie flicks, the only way of stopping a flesh-eater dead in their tracks is to destroy the brain or remove the head entirely. Melee weapons will be categorised as either blunt or sharp, one focusing on pummeling skull and splintering limbs, the other allowing clean cuts and with enough skill, decapitation.
Fighting isn’t the only method of keeping the undead hordes at bay however; running away and hiding are both suitable options. Sometimes fleeing with your tail between your legs is actually the better option, as extensive bouts of combat will leave you tired, prone to even the clumsiest mobs of flesh-eaters. Only by feeding and resting will your energy return, prompting the player to seek out suitable accommodation.
The most ambitious aspect of Zombie Outbreak is its “pure” free-roaming element. Nearly every building is fully-accessible from ground to roof level, presenting the player with hundreds of options for creating their personal shelter. This can then be fortified to ward off any invaders during the night, though to do this, players need to utilise ZO’s “salvage” game mechanic. Instead of marching out into the streets with a zombie massacre on the agenda, to keep them at bay in the long run you will sometimes need to go in search of survival materials including food, water and building components. It may sound like a tedious aspect to include, but consumables will come with expiration dates, and once that food has gone, you will need to use alternative methods to avoid starvation.
In some ways Zombie Outbreak could be described as an action RPG due to the various number of skills players can train in order to become the ultimate survivor. These include combat proficiencies (divided into the several weapon-types,) athleticism, agriculture, salvaging, stealth, engineering, charisma, leadership, and several others. Whenever you perform an action which is specific to an ability class, you will receive experience points which can then be spent in refining certain aspects of that proficiency.
The two last abilities mentioned, charisma and leadership, are especially important. You’re not the only survivor in Victory City, and you will soon find yourself needing allies. Not only do they support the player in combat, they can also be assigned to carry out tasks such as barricading shelters and can even be sent across the city in search of materials, munitions and other survivors. These missions will use up resources and have to be planned in advance; it’s also worth taking note that not all tasks will be a success, sometimes your companions may turn up empty-handed or even bring home unwelcome visitors.
To begin with, combat is mainly one-on-one, utilising a dodge n’ counter mechanic, forcing players to keep a constant eye on their HUD. If your energy bar suddenly sinks, you will need to duck out of the fight and make a run for it. Enemy AI is designed so that the zombies try to beat you down or grab you before trying to take a nibble; and if that should happen, it’s game over. Luckily, the game isn’t so realistic that playcers need to start the whole thing again, no, checkpoints and auto-save measures are in place to keep things fair.
As far as story goes, there are a chain of plot-based missions, surrounding several of the characters you come across, also acting as tutorials for many of the game’s mechanics. Sometimes, the narrative will force the player to make moral choices, such as killing an infected human and sharing resources with other survivors. These won’t have a major impact on the plot, though it can alter relationships with other NPCs.
So there you have it, a rather long-winded outline of what would be, in my opinion, a fun, yet realistic zombie game. The whole meta-layer of gathering/managing resources would definitely turn some people off, but with so much depth it could prove addicting (like the Assassin Contracts in AC: Brotherhood.) As I mentioned in the first part of this article, maybe developers have looked at something very similar to this, though with something this ambitious, it would be a hefty risk, especially with the amount of effort which goes behind crafting ZO’s open world mechanics. On the other hand, the whole “authentic survival” element could be the genre’s next innovation just waiting around the corner.