Sunday Thoughts: Zombies

What is it with zombies? I know it’s been said before and it’ll probably be said again but I really can’t figure out what’s going on with them. I’m not talking about survival horror titles, to me it’s obvious why there’s love for the undead there, it’s the rise of the action zombie title I’d like to consider.

It’s not just the rise of games like Dead Island, Dead Nation or Left 4 Dead (I’m detecting a pattern here) where the zombies are the star of the show, it’s the titles like Black Ops or ArmA II where they’re putting zombies into a game which generally has no relevance to zombies at all. I suppose in the case of Black Ops there may well have been a zombie invasion of the White House with an elaborate cover-up, but that’s beside the point really.

It’s hard to argue that there isn’t a public appetite for zombies though, they may have dipped out of film a little recently but when their inclusion can increase your game’s sales by nearly 500% you’re not likely to ignore them. Even if they don’t fit with your game’s central ethos (and given ArmA II is a tactical FPS it seems like they’re not the most natural of fits), they can probably be squeezed in somewhere as an extra mode.

[drop2]The reasoning behind the love for undead hordes from the development community is quite obvious, beyond the fact that they sell that is. Look at zombies from a development stance, they’re remarkably simple aren’t they? Whilst you may have some slightly complex character AI for a few of your zombie types, in general all you really want is zombies that swarm towards the player. Sure, you need pathfinding, but things like taking cover or making a tactical attack fall by the wayside in favour of sheer weight of numbers.

What I really wonder about is why we as consumers and gamers seem to love shooting reanimated corpses so much. Whilst developers may love their simplicity in terms of implementation, I find them hard to really find all the compelling as an enemy. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy battling zombies, I thought the zombie mode in Black Ops was very well crafted, but for me they don’t really compare to enemies that really think before they come at you.

I mean yes, fighting your way through wave after wave of zombies that hunger for your brains is fun, but it seems a bit trivial at times. In my experience all they’re doing is trying to swarm you, and that just doesn’t compare to enemies that try and out think you.

Look for example at more tactical FPS titles for example, games like Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon. Enemies will duck behind cover or try and outflank you. They may well use superior weight of numbers to their advantage, but it’s not just a blind scramble to eat your brains; in a great tactical title you can almost see the enemy trying to out think you.

Perhaps the answer is simple, and lies with the success of movies like Transformers or Battleship. It’s not about being particularly challenged on an intellectual level, it’s more about blowing stuff up and having fun.

Maybe there’s something I’m missing though, I’d be keen to hear what you think about modern zombie games. Are they just almost mindless killing, or is there something deeper there that I’m overlooking?

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28 Comments

  1. I brought Arma 2 the other day for £25 specifically for the zombie mod. I don’t know why, im shit at it and I have zombiephobia.

    I quite literally have zombiephobia… im an idiot xD

  2. I usually steer clear of zombie games, simply because they bore me. However, ‘Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare’ was my favourite piece of DLC I’ve ever bought and only wish there was more of it. As for zombie games in general, I usually find them infinitely more fun than the single-player portions of Modern warfare/Battlefield because they at least have fun methods of dispersal, rather than just another realistic set of samey weapons that are aimed against the moronic enemies of those games.
    So…yeah…basically I prefer zombies over most of the crappier games these days.

  3. Simples. Zombies are people that you can legally kill in the most outrageous ways. Plus, primal instincts are fun.

    • Oh and if you wanted a challenging zombie game, try Dead Nation off PSN.

      • *Flashes back to our Morbid runthrough*
        Good times…

      • I hate it so much! Great Game, but epic hard!!

  4. best thing about zombies is that they are versatile little critters…
    they can make you laugh, as in shaun of the dead or make you shit your pants as in dawn of the dead..
    best of all you get to blow their fekin’ brains out no matter what game theyr’e in..

  5. Personally, I’m sick & tired of zombies.

  6. There is significantly less satisfaction in killing a “monster” than it is in killing a human being, but stuff that involves brutally killing what is expected to be actual people quickly becomes controversial and disturbing, zombies however take the best of both worlds, that is why they work so well.

  7. Thinking there’s no tactical thinking when fighting zombies in a game is where you’re going wrong, Kris. Play Left 4 Dead and tactics are all over the place – horde? Find a bottleneck. Smoker noises? Stay away from windows and other drops. Hear a boomer? Better move slow and look out for it. Hear a tank? Oh god, everyone kite and shoot. Watching each others backs is key and there isn’t a moment in L4D that doesn’t demand playing smart.

    Plus, let’s be honest here, zombies aren’t anywhere near as prevalent as the countless nameless grunts you see in pretty much any other game that involves guns. I probably love FPS combat more than the next guy, but it’s just so…everywhere. Enemies that are supposed to be in cover yet are in fact just stood in front of you without any sense of self-preservation. Enemies that ARE in cover but are just sitting there whilst you hover the crosshair over where their head will pop-out in 7 seconds, holding gameplay back. Countless grenades all meeting at your position because the AI uses them so frequently forcing you to move but to nowhere in particular.

    Zombies are different from all that yet they take all the flak for always being the same. Look at Ghost Recon Future Soldier or CoD or Battlefield or Max Payne 3 and you’ll see that all the enemies are all the damn same and it’s worse than zombies; zombies are supposed to be the same.

    • Hit the nail on the head.
      On the later round of Blop’s zombies and all the way through Left 4 Dead, tactics are needed unless you like having your brains munched on. Hell, when playing on the Five map on Blop’s, we’d spend 5-10 minutes or so making sure we were stocked up on weapons etc, just to make sure we could survive the next wave.

    • Right on Gamoc.

      But I do not understand the urge of putting zombies in games like CoD (even World at war had some, if I’m not wrong). Where’s the point in that?

  8. I think you hit the nail on the head. People like shooting through hundreds of zombies because it’s fun and zombies are a common enemy for everyone on Earth.

  9. They’re fun due to the fact that you don’t have to feel any remorse about needlessly blasting them to pieces. Yes, you can take the quiet, less frag-fest route however it’s far, far more satisfying to find the most inventive ways to slaughter hordes of the blighters.

    That said, there’ s just too many shoe-horned zombie modes & I still haven’t managed to fall in love with Dead Rising 2, even though my mate promised I’d love it. Now, let’s kick @rse for the lord!

  10. Zombies are and always will be, on all levels, fun ^_^

    • Just like shooting a human in the head countless of times, fun.

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