Saturday, 9 May 2009

What flavour zombie is that?

Evolution is a fantastic thing that we can see all around us. The people next door, the animals outside and even the abnormal growths on your back side are all based on many years of experience and change. Something a bit more on topic that has seen a huge amount of flux, especially in recent times have been the ever so playful and brain lusting, shuffling masses that are known as zombies.

The big zombie boom in gaming really started with Resident Evil, when infection was spread through zombie bites, generally leading to a slow death and inconvenient revival of your fellow man. They mumbled, lurched and struggled to die properly, often absorbing a lot of your hard to come by ammunition in the process.

Half-life had a similar strain of slow moving zombie, only this time it was brought on by a case of too much alien parasite sucking on your face. Whilst being called zombies, they were not the typical breed who were after your delicious brain matter and exposed flesh, a trend which seems to have continued in to today’s representation of the videogame zombie.

For quite a while, it was only the survival horror series Resident Evil (or Biohazard in Japan) that had a sole focus on dead things being reanimated for sinister purposes. The series spans about 20 games at this time of writing, from the original survival horror titles, to on rail shooters. They have graced everything from all the Playstation consoles, to the Wii, Xbox 360, PC, Gamecube, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Sega Saturn, Game Boy Colour, Nintendo DS and even mobile phones.

In recent times however, more and more zombies have been breaking in to other games with many variations that take away from the stereotypical, bumbling, clumsy, dead, flesh lickers that we have all grown to know, love and want dead again.

It was Half-life 2 that first drew my intention to something that often terrifies me in games. The fast zombie. These things, as well as been uncharacteristically nimble, could bound over roof tops, climb up buildings and appear seemingly from no where to instantly create a future dry cleaning bill for your trousers. To top it off, they also seemed to have a similar resistance to bullets that their stumbling brethren have, making them a pain to take down.

Left 4 Dead took an interesting angle on the zombies, and took inspiration from the running, screaming mental variety that 28 Days Later pictured. Instead of being quite immune to gun fire and beatings, they would go down with little effort, but the issues arise when you see a horde of 50 charging at you with murderous intent every 30 seconds.

Whilst Resident Evil’s bullet sponge zombies were fun in their time, the satisfaction of mowing down crowds of things is just too good to revert back to small groups of super zombies. Dead Rising and the recently announced sequel are also good for crowd control fantasies.

With the power of current generation game machines, technology means that zombies can come in packs of 100, as opposed to the smaller groups we were seeing ten years ago.

At the end of the day, carving a path through a crowd of zombies with machine gun, chainsaw or moose head will always be a more satisfying experience than downing one or two with the same amount of effort.

This may take away from the tension of survival horror, but it can also add a lot more frantic moments and excitement.

1 comment:

gjob said...

I completely agree. I'm starting to prefer crowds of easy zombie rather than their tougher, slower, more traditional brothers.

Originally, zombies were one of the scariest horror archetypes to be transferred to video games - largely because they never seem to die. For me, that fear is now becoming frustration as they seem to do nothing by hinder my progress through some thoroughly enjoyable games, like Resident Evil 4 and MadWorld.

The fact that zombie modes have been worked into the likes of Call Of Duty show how iconic the undead have become, and it'll be interesting to see how they evolve over the next few years of gaming and maiming. ;)