As a creature of culture, zombies have it rough. You buy them on a disc, load it up, then shoot them in the face repeatedly. Imagine if the same experience was available for Paris Hilton and Simon Cowell. A man can dream…
Unlike many of their monster brethren, zombies haven’t received a media makeover recently. In the past 6 seconds alone, 16 new vampire formats have been commissioned by dastardly Transylvanian executives. There are now more vampires shows on TV than there are teeth in the world. Fact.
Why? Apparently they’re sexy and cool. Shit, they’re even on posters in teenage girls’ bedrooms. Because – I’m sorry to break it to you – your daughter/sister is a necrophiliac. At least, that’s what TV wants her to be. Why else would they rebrand an assortment of crusty old paedophiles and funnel them directly down the impressionable, young gullets of greedy, gullible adolescent females all over this dark and dank world?
Apparently this is what we want. Our celebrity and sexually obsessed culture craves this sensual stimulation. What we’re not particularly keen on is exposed osseous matter. We want characters dripping in danger and sexual swagger, not spinal fluid and bone marrow.
Zombies can never be portrayed as glamorous and sensuous. They’re just too – dead. The overt sexuality of all things vampiric is long documented. They bite. They suck. They sexually harass. We get it. But zombies – they’re nothing more than a collection of rotting corpses that have retained their basic motor functions.
You don’t see many zombie posters on young girls’ walls. There’s one on mine. But I ain’t a girl so my fetishistic art has no contextual validity here. Apparently exposed flesh doesn’t appeal to the femininity of humanity. But what popular TV and film can’t handle – gaming welcomes with open arms. Simply put – zombies are to games what vampires are to TV. Developers have adopted and adapted the zombie format. Once slow and stupid, the undead menace has evolved. They’re not all brain-dead, deadweight, dead outside, dead inside, dead all over, dead guys anymore.
Take the infected of Left 4 Dead for example. Amongst others, players will encounter the the speed and agility of the Hunter. Imagine a zombie ThunderCat and you’re somewhere within the vicinity of the terror that the Hunter inspires. Then there’s the Witch, who sits sobbing in the dark until you inevitably disturb her and she tears the flesh from your bones like candy from a baby. Then she tears the flesh from your baby and throws the corpse into a nearby lake, or something equally as horrifying.
Despite their reputation zombies present a legitimate challenge to gamers. Their pale, pointy-toothed, crusty old counterparts are far easier to dispose of. Crosses, garlic, light, salt, silver, stakes. Frankly it’s all too easy. I could dispose of an army of vampires with the armoury of utensils scattered throughout my kitchen. Zombies don’t stop unless you cut off or a place a bullet in their head, and most of the time you’re facing far more zombies than you have bullets.
Vampires simply aren’t the merciless murderers they once were. What’s the worst they can do? Bite you? I’ve been bitten before. I got over it. Zombies tear off your limbs and gorge upon your flesh. You don’t recover from that.
Despite the current undead trend, our decomposing friends have been eating their way through gaming’s protagonists and our neighbours since the 80s in Zombie Zombie and Beast Busters. Since then we’ve been entertained by some truly awesome zombie-based games.
The recent resurgence can be largely attributed to Call of Duty: World at War. In a stroke of genius from Treyarch, players fought off waves of Nazi zombies, that grew harder, better, faster, stronger as as the player progressed through the stages. With both single player, and extremely fun co-operative play, Nacht der Untoten provided unparalleled enjoyment. And to the delight of almost everyone ever, zombies are back in Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Call of Duty isn’t the only franchise to sprinkle some zombie all over their previously undead-free games lately. Yakuza: Of The End was recently announced by SEGA as a spin-off from the main Yakuza franchise. Nobody saw this coming. Least of all the beheaded. Such is the love we have for the dead. Literally any franchise can be improved with the addition of a few thousand corpses.
Horror may be the conventional origin of the zombie, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with this refined formula. The Dead Rising series has perfected a variety of ways to eliminate zombies. Barbells, boomerangs, golf clubs, guitars, shampoo and stepladders are all part of the unique and stylish weapon system. You can even use a lawnmower to dispose of your foes, à la Lionel in Peter Jackson’s Braindead.
But if you prefer your undead armies a little more epic, there’s always this:
Every gamer rejoiced when Rockstar announced the wealth of downloadable content relating to the critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption. But amongst the legends, the liars, the killers and the cheats, it was our putrefied friends that got us excited the most, as Rockstar unleashed an Undead Nightmare on the world.
Red Dead Redemption‘s characters are defined and unique. It will be interesting to see how they interact when faced with the marauding creatures of the night. The game also has a truly impressive animal kingdom. A kingdom that consists of some seriously scary stuff. As if the humble cougar wasn’t an able enough adversary, now it’s dead! In reality of course this affliction would render the opponent much weaker. But this isn’t reality, this is Rockstar.
The Old West lends itself perfectly to a zombie invasion. The environment is vibrant and alive, unlike the corpses that will soon roam its plains. An armada of the undead appearing atop the vast, rolling vistas of Cholla Springs. An army of the departed atop the sky-high, sun-drenched red mesas of Diez Coronas. A cavalry of cold corpses within the labyrinthine woodwork, beneath the veils of perfect snow blanketing the treacherous Tall Trees. I can’t wait.
We certainly haven’t seen the last of this menace. With the current trend it won’t be long until even the casual games get zombe-related DLC. Here’s what to look out for:
Nintendogs: North Korean Edition
Theme Hospital: Graveyard Shift
WarioWare: Shit, everyone’s dead…
Dr. Kawashima’s Brrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiinnnssss Training
Article first published as It’s The Zombie Apocalypse. Bring Friends. And Extra Controllers on Technorati.