Beating a Dead Zombie Horse

With Halloween and its accompanying trick-or-treaters on our door step, it seems the game industry has horror on its brain in the form of zombies. With more and more games being released each year either about or featuring our favourite undead, some people are starting to feel a little… overwhelmed by the horde, so to speak.

Zombie games have been around longer than I have, appearing even in early computer systems with The Evil Dead (Commodore 64) and Beast Busters (Atari ST, Commodore Amiga), so they’re by no means newcomers. However, following the success of titles such as the Resident Evil and Dead Rising franchises, we seem to be experiencing an outbreak of the dead being risen (or infected, depending on your argument). This swarm is coming in many forms and variations: the traditional first and third person shooters (Left 4 Dead, Dead Space), RPGs (Dead Island), tower defence (Plants vs. Zombies), action-adventure (Dead Rising), and music/rhythm games (Rock of the Dead). Even newer devices such as Kinect (Rise of Nightmares) and the 3DS (Zombie Pets) are catching the zombie flu.  While many games are in fact fun and well made, their sheer numbers are starting to make them seem redundant and boring. Slapping the word ‘dead’ in every other title isn’t helping either.

Not only has there been a boom of zombie-based games in recent years, but the horde has found its way into just about any game it can.  In many RPGs, be they western or eastern, zombies play a variety of roles from common enemies to plot devices. In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Necromancy plays a large role in the Mage’s Guild quest-line, meaning you’ll be fighting undead left and right. Even the Mass Effect series is affected in a way with its Husk enemies, living people brought back to life through cybernetics as shells of their former selves. Not your traditional zombie, but an undead all the same, and one set to return with screenshots from the upcoming third game showing new and familiar Husk variants.

Shooters are also affected by the virus, more than any genre, as many games are pre-loaded with zombies either in game modes or as enemies. One of the most obvious is Treyarch’s two most recent entries in the Call of Duty franchise, featuring the undead survival mode creatively titled: Zombies. This mode sees players fight off wave after wave of increasingly more powerful undead, until the players can no longer hold out and dies. The original Halo trilogy is also laced with the resurrected, as The Flood is a major part of the Halo universe and story. Luckily, the latest Halo games have excluded The Flood, but with a second trilogy on the horizon it’s an unfortunate possibility that they could see a return.

Other shooters take the DLC approach to add a chapter covered with zombie bites. Borderlands added the Zombie Island of Doctor Ned expansion, which tasks players with investigating Jakob’s Cove which has been overrun by the undead, attempting to discover how and why it happened. Red Dead Redemption caught the bug as well with its Undead Nightmare DLC package, bringing the flesh-eaters to the Wild West with hero John Marston off to try to find a cure.  While yet another zombie mode, I found Undead Nightmare to be extremely fun and entertaining, due to Read Dead’s great gameplay, its massive free-roaming world, and the fact that the old west is a fresh and untouched setting for the popular monsters.

Be it on disc or DLC, it seems like every game  feels the need to have a zombie chapter, or at least to throw in one or two somewhere. While many of these modes, chapters, and enemies aren’t necessarily a downfall, I just feel like they’re an invasion, because many games simply don’t need undead tacked on to them –they can function well on their own.

If it’s not a new title, then it’s a remake as several classic titles have been, or are being, remade in High Definition. Two Resident Evil games have been given the hi-def treatment: Resident Evil 4 and Code Veronica XRE4 keeps the shooter action feel the series has currently adopted, while CVX dives back into the survival-horror roots of earlier titles. Silent Hill also has an HD collection upcoming, with games two and three from the series set to re-release.  Both of these series have new titles releasing in the next few months, so remakes, even of great games, are fairly unnecessary and feel like a cash grab. A prime example of this would be the HD remake of Zombie Driver, a top-down vehicle combat game.  Originally released in December 2009 on PC, Zombie Driver HD is set to launch for consoles in late 2011, just two years later.  It seems zombies hunger not only for our flesh, but for our hard-earned cash as well.

Unfortunately, it appears that zombies are here to stay too, with unreleased games such as Lollipop Chainsaw, where a stereotypical ego-filled blonde cheerleader fights off the undead with her insults and chainsaw. Even the Yakuza series is branching off for a zombie title, with Yakuza: Dead Souls, where four characters must fight to survive in a city of the dead. Factor in unannounced titles and DLC, indie, and Facebook games, and it becomes evident that a zombie apocalypse is truly upon us.

While I am a fan of slaughtering some undead once in a while, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of the monsters. Dating back almost as long as gaming itself, they’re still going strong today, clawing and biting in any way, shape, or form they can. While many fans may disagree with me, I think the limit has been reached. Popping in a new game to find the zombie fingerprint on it is disheartening, as many of these games end upon your death. I feel we’ll never escape from them, and that I may be the first to fall prey to a hungry cadaver. Just please give me the courtesy of ending me quickly, should you find me in search of brains!

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