Dead Rising 2 – The future of zombie video games?

First published 12/02/2011

Yeah ok, that title is over dramatic but does sound like the start of an article by a real journalist and does its job of raising your temperature. As a massive zombie fan I always anticipate any video game with a link to the living dead so here’s my little fiddy pence worth on the subject.

Despite all the titles out there I do not believe we are spoilt for quality choice. Choice (relatively speaking) sure but not quality zombie action choice. Many games just have the living dead tagged on (however COD series does this brilliantly) or are very loosely zombie linked though some add-on or almost zombie like character. No thank you. Give me shambling flesh-eating corpses and that is all I want.

It’s for this reason I feel Left4Dead doesn’t sedate my appetite. There are too many  “special” zombies (I blame you Resident Evil for this). I know the game needs to be varied and exciting but i’m a zombie fan I just want proper zombies (note to game producers – get that right first) and plenty of them. Besides if a creature is dead and decaying I don’t think its muscles would be up for a protracted sprint. Although like many ‘modern’ notions of zombies these people are actually infected and not the sprinting dead.

Left4DeadLeft4Dead also fails by perhaps being too focused on the multi-player angle, while I enjoy killing ghouls with mates I hate being in teams where one renegade loser goes postal and starts wiping his own team-mates out or in single player being forced to go alone half the time by the slow, incompetent AI. Left for dead….should be left of the shelf. If that is the kind of game you want I recommend that you all check out Land Of The Dead:Road To Fiddlers Green, similar outdated graphics as Left for dead (Except for this game had them when it was the same decade) but features slow zombies and follows you as you try to get from your rural farm to Dennis Hopper’s skyscraper.

On a side note, there are a couple of Half-Life mods that recreate this experience although how many people still play it in the community is something you may want to check first.

Back to Land of the Dead, for true Romero fans this game is almost perfection. You play a middle-aged farmer, resulting in your character not being able to sprint like Linford Christie, adding to the tension and excitement (and a rare bit of character realism) as you smash and blast your way through to safety. Sadly this game was heavily criticised and wasn’t released over here. It may not be the best game by a long shot but it certainly gives this zombie fan what i want.

Although that didn’t sell well, the Resident Evil series did but….forget about it. Maybe 10-14 years ago when it was fresh, had a creepy atmosphere and arguably had little competition it could be seen as the ultimate zombie fans game. Times change though (Capcom realise this hence Dead Rising) and the games are slowly moving away from the very creatures that brought it success. If only they moved away from their clunky control system I might have more time for the series. (On a side note the Outbreak and light gun games were a little better).

Call of Duty struck gold with their side games featuring Nazi zombies, a powerful idea and well executed although as it is only an extra on the game I am not going to spend too much time on it. Worth playing, good balance of zombie lore and game-play and hopefully some producer will see the possibilities and turn it into a full game. Although I have to wonder, how often have Nazi Zombies actually been done well?

While the rise of small arcade games on Xbox live and PSN have also seen their fair share of zombie games (zombie apocalypse and the upcoming Dead Nation being the notable key players) with these games possessing some charm but little it long-term quality or real involvement.

This is why I believe the Dead Rising series are the best representation of the zombie apocalypse we have out there (Aside from the panned Land of the dead: Road to Fiddlers Green) and this is how the shit will go down. Slow moving zombies, humour, a real sense of being out numbered and over powered and most importantly it delivers in the gore stakes.

Resident Evil 3Unlike the RE series, Capcom have given the Dead Rising series a more ‘sandbox’ feel with simple, pick up and play controls and although the first one lacked multi-player this has now been addressed helping to hopefully set the future direction of zombie games.

Maybe I am being premature here and sadly not for the first time, after all it took Resident Evil a fair while to slowly disintegrate into the commercial teen-orientated shit that it has become but perhaps it is down to this that Capcom have sought to saturate the market and have Dead Rising cover the undead market gap slowly being left by RE whilst attracting the next breed of gamers.

So will Dead Rising slowly lose its edge and become creatively redundant – as I must admit while I do not want the premise to change sales will no doubt dictate the future or can it deliver the ultimate zombie experience. Time will tell and we all know the undead have nothing but time on their side.

Even if it does lose its edge, it has at least brought more of an open environment to the Zombie genre, which has been toyed with by Rockstar with Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, and hopefully is not the last of this style of game to be released.

Oh and before I go, everyone look out for the (always) “forthcoming” game: Island of the dead, looks truly amazing, however considering it was meant to be out a couple of years ago who knows if this potential gem will arrive. Just had to mention Stubbs The Zombie as well. I must admit that I have a soft spot for that quirky, downtrodden and very gassy ghoul where although not adhering to the Romero-eqsue zombies I love reminds me somewhat of the film Night of the Creeps amongst others. Something appeals to me with the humour, 50s vibe and non-stop brain munching. Although flatulence and a 1950s soundtrack can only get you so far in life , trust me! If you can get it cheap give it a go, good for killing a few hours and a few humans allowing us to “see how the other half live”.

Stubbs the Zombie

Stubbs the zombie

EDITED TO ADD: Since this article was written Telltale Games have released the narrative-driven ‘The Walking Dead’ game which has almost been a game-changer, if you’ll pardon the pun, and like the graphic novel and show, it has injected emotion and (relatively) real consequence into your decisions. It seems that the future of zombie games is still open after all.


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