Now I know that you are probably wondering why I wouldn’t save the theme of zombies for the month of October. Well, I don’t really have a reason for it except that I was in that sort of mood to look at games that deal with zombies and take a closer look at them. This will be bit broad in terms of scope for this post because I want to ask a question. What time of videogames are zombies most effectively utilized? I am not saying it is always a bad thing to include zombies in everything, but you have to admit that there has been a saturation of zombies in many different videogames. Some of those games have been good, some have been bad and some are split right down the middle in the gray area of basically alright. However the one that are good are not necessarily good for the same reasons. It is probably a bit difficult to understand what I am getting at without some examples. So, let’s move to some examples.
One of the things that zombies are most known for its that they are everywhere. People wouldn’t be afraid of the zombie apocalypse if only a few people became zombies. So naturally things get more tense in videogames when there are a lot of zombies trying to kill you. The Left 4 Dead series has always had a good core multiplayer focus and has been a good way to experience the horror of a zombie apocalypse. It is one of those series that you can play with friends and yet it enhances the experience rather than takes away from it. Why? Because it anything goes wrong then you can end up wiping pretty easily if you are not quick to react. It is important to have someone watching your back so you can move forward together, something that would hopefully happen in the real zombie apocalypse. Realistically, I would not make it very far in this scenario and I believe most people wouldn’t either. I feel that many people would hunker down in their basements like me and see how long they can last before they have to think about looking outside. Then again, maybe I am just a coward. However, what I want to get at is that there is something that is present whether it is my cowardly scenario or getting wrecked in Left 4 Dead games and that is fear. Especially the fear of being overwhelmed by the zombies and becoming their latest menu item. Heck even the Call of Duty series knows how to make zombies ramp up while still allowing for the catharsis of blowing something’s head off every now and again. As long as there is some tension without making things impossible, that is a great element for a good zombie game.
That is all there is to zombie games though. Sometimes they focus on the world surrounding the apocalypse and focus on the story of lone individuals who are coping with the apocalypse in their own ways. Some good examples are series such as The Last of Us and The Walking Dead where there is a lot more time spent on different characters. In these types of games they like to slow down the pace a lot to tell their story and so due to that your options for fighting are usually limited. That basically means you end up in situations where you have to fight one zombie at a time or you will die a painful death. Well, the character will. You won’t feel anything unless VR gets to the next level and we start doing full body diving. Of course why we would choose to experience the apocalypse in that scenario is a different question altogether. The point is that things are usually deliberately paced to make you feel the tension and fear that is necessary in a zombie outbreak. Sure it is a pain when you waste ammo, but if you didn’t cry when you accidentally shot a bullet at a windshield because your aim was off, then you weren’t experience the unique appeal zombie games have to offer.
Now I no there is no right way to use zombies in zombie games. However, I do think that there are wrong ways to handle them. For instance, a game that moves at a slow pace for story reasons and yet enables you to get through most combat situations with little to know difficulty. Another example would be a game that moves at a fast pace, but your options in dealing with the situations are limited. I am not going to name any specific games this time, but consider this a friendly reminder. When making a game that involves zombies, there should be a certain amount of tension involved to justify their existence in the game. Otherwise you can make them regular humans and it would make little difference. So if you want to have tension, try to tailor the experience towards one area or the other. In the end it is a quantity vs. quality issue. Do you want hoards of zombies coming for your sweet, juicy brains or would you prefer one zombie that as soon as it spots you has already lunged at your to rip out your jugular? Either way your probably doomed, but at least you have save points. That’s all for now and see you next time. And yes I know this one was a little late. Spent a bit too long playing Cluedo.