For some time, zombies in video games were associated with only one franchise: Resident Evil. The shambling monstrosities in the 1996 classic were so iconic that they defined the undead horde for a generation of players. Recently, though, they've begun to show their rotting faces in many titles. It's become de rigueur for designers to populate their games with a range of variations on rejects from Michael Jackson's Thriller, but why?
Speaking of Resident Evil, perhaps the series' new direction is a factor. The fourth and fifth game were entirely shambler-free, pitting you against agile, human opponents. Some players reacted badly to this, feeling that zombies were the lifeblood of the franchise and the atmosphere would be ruined without them. (Funny how attached you can get to the living dead, but you know how diehard fans can be). There was clearly a demand for the return of our favourite brain-eaters.
A brief search of XBLA or PSN shows the extent of today's zombie invasion. Dead Nation, Zombie Apocalypse, All Zombies Must Die! and the bitterly ironic I Maed A Gam3 W1th Zombies 1n It!!!1 are just the tip of the iceburg. They're here for the long haul, it seems. The question is: have they outstayed their welcome?
That depends on the player. I've always enjoyed arcade shooters, the kind of games these guys pop up in most. I've never seen the scare factor of a lone undead, pitifully shuffling toward you while wheezing like a heavy smoker. Being surrounded by a horde of them, with just a shotgun for company, is when zombie games are at their best. This seems to be the trend, and it's one I'm happy to see continue. For others, it may just be another irritating cliché.
Article by Chris Littlechild