In lieu of the season finale of The Walking Dead on AMC and my absolute love for the show, the comic, basically anything involving zombies, I have come to the realization that the gaming industry really hasn’t offered much to zombie games, in terms of gameplay, beside just shooting the crap out of them. Many gamers say that they are tired of the huge number of zombie games, modes, and expansions out on the market, but is it because they do not like zombies or is it because zombie games just suck?
In the typical game involving the zombie horde the majority of those games go toward the action/shoot ‘em up route. Left 4 Dead 2, Nazi Zombies (Call of Duty: Black Ops), Undead Nightmare (Red Dead Redemption), Dead Rising 2, and Dead Nation are some of the most recent zombie games to be released on the market, and they all do the same thing. Zombies offer little resistance, just shoot them in the head and move on. Sure, it is exciting to take a zombie horde head on, shooting off heads and bashing in skulls, but that is all we have been doing. Zombies are no longer scary, they are just small obstacles blocking your way from point A to point B.
In zombie movies and TV shows, like The Walking Dead, zombies have an ominous presence about them being the ever present source of both fear and caution in whatever the characters do. Whenever characters need to get food or supplies, the way they go about overcoming the zombies blocking the way is one of strategy and tactics, not diving head first into a sea of zombies with a shotgun and a crowbar. I think that it would be refreshing to conquer the zombie apocalypse from a more cautious perspective focused on survival — running away, gathering supplies, and outsmarting the zombie horde.
In hopes that some game developer will happen upon this post and actually think I am going somewhere with it, here are some suggestions for the ideal zombie game:
The primary reason zombie games get boring is because the main enemies (the friggin zombies) are not much of a threat. Make them difficult to kill — like “I can only take on one at a time” difficult to kill. And if you get bitten, you’re a gonner man, a gonner.
2. Companion Characters who can Potentially Become Zombies and eat you
Check this out… Instead of having a main protagonist acting as the hero who saves the human race from extinction, players take on the role of any survivor who can get bitten and turn into a zombie themself. Each survivor could have special skills from their day job like police officer, fire fighter, construction worker, or EMT that will provide benefits to the group. There are too many zombie games where the protagonists are constantly getting gnawed on but never go undead. If the character the player takes control of is as vulnerable to a zombie bite as everyone else, you have a reason to be scared of messing up, especially if you loose the ability to heal characters or build a shelter from the death of that specific character. If you do end up biting the bullet with one of your characters you simply take control of one of the other survivors and smash the brain of your undead friend.
What is a zombie apocalypse without options? Survivors are going to have to make their own decisions (and mistakes) on where they need to go and what they need to do. Should they risk infiltrating a Big 5 to get some weapons, or raid the nearest grocery store for survival essentials. A linear setting will just make the game predictable and boring. Players need to have to be able to take a wrong turn down an alley and have book it back to safety from the zombies trying to eat their brains.
4. A Home Base to Build up and Defend
Every zombie story has a safe zone, so why not have a home base that can be used to house your survivors and be a place to run when you are overrun. Building and maintaining defenses, growing a food supply, and managing survivor moral could all be elements in maintaining a home base. All survivors added to the group could take on jobs at the home base like night watch, cooking, and gardening to encourage players to go out and find stragglers giving the group a greater chance at survival.
5.Gather Supplies or Starve
Exploration is key. Making the rewards worth the risk of getting yourself killed by finding new, more effective weapons, supplies, and survivors while dodging danger at every turn would make for an experience that would be more compelling than mowing down the horde with a machine gun. Sneak into a grocery store infested with zombies or raid a gas station to find food and supplies to keep your survivors surviving.
6.Bullets are like Gold
Where do all of these guns come from whenever there is a zombie apocalypse? I have only seen guns in real life when I see a cop or go to an old sporting goods store. Guns need to take a back seat, otherwise the player has too much power. The main way to defend oneself should be with a baseball bat, crowbar, or maybe a small firearm with limited ammo. And, how about, if you go around shooting the heads off of zombies you attract even more zombies to your location. So, using the stealthy ice pick to the head will have a smaller chance of getting you killed.
7. No Assault Rifles
8. Super Effective Weapons and Armor
What is the first thing that real people would do in the event of a zombie uprising? Loot. What gives players incentive to infiltrate an immensely dangerous enemy stronghold? Loot. Ice picks, samurai swords, and .22 carbines (read The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks) as well as some protection against the undead should be rewarded to the most daring and skilled of looters.
I think a zombie game that thinks a little more outside of the box from the “shotgun to the face” type gameplay would be a refreshing entry to zombie games. Make the player survive the zombie apocalypse by making smart decisions, using survival tactics, and party management and we might get people interested in facing the zombie horde again. So get crackin developers.
Tell me what you think about my zombie game ideas or let me know what your ideal zombie game would be in the comments below.