Zombie games seem to be popping up in all sorts of unexpected places lately. First person shooters featuring the shambling undead are an obvious example, but everything from tower defense games to overhead twin stick shooters seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. Adding to the pile is Zombie Driver, a game that combines 2D driving elements with every zombie cliche you can think of.
Unlike most games that take place during some sort of zombie apocalypse, Zombie Driver puts you behind the wheel of a variety of different vehicles. These vehicles each have their own inherent strengths and weaknesses, and each can be upgraded with additional weapons and armor among other options. The police car, for example, is nimble but can only carry a small number of survivors. The limo, on the other hand, will reduce your trips back to base to drop off people you’ve rescued, but is a lot trickier to maneuver through hordes of the undead. Completing levels will unlock more vehicles, and each level is preceded by a section that allows you to choose and customize your ride.
The customization system in Zombie Driver is adequate, but I always found myself wishing for a bit more depth. Using the money earned during missions, upgrades such as increased armor or bigger battering rams can be purchased. Each bestows an improvement of some type to your car, increasing its health or speed, for instance. In the case of weaponry, attributes such as the machine gun’s rate of fire or the rocket launcher’s damage can be increased. Upgrades are purchased as generic levels of improvement, leading to a fairly uninteresting visual representation of them on your car and excluding any possibility of coming up with your own custom layouts for your vehicle’s equipment. It’s hard to criticize a fairly simple and inexpensive game for a flaw like this one, but I feel as though deeper car customization would have really made this portion of the game far less average and mundane.
I spent most of my time with Zombie Driver playing through its seventeen story missions. These start out slow and forgiving to allow new players to get the hang of things but quickly grow increasingly difficult. A briefing before each mission adds a touch of story and background but none of it is particularly compelling. These story bits are one of the few things that actually change from mission to mission, with many of them consisting of objectives that are near carbon copies of the other levels.
You’re generally tasked with cruising around the city to rescue one or more groups of survivors who are holed up somewhere and desperately in need of rescue. Handy icons show the location, distance and health level of these survivors, but occasionally confusing terrain and an overabundance of obstacles that can’t be destroyed or driven through make actually getting there a frustrating task at times. Items like fences and railings can be smashed through by your vehicle, but other objects that seem as if they should be easily breakable will stop your car like you’d just driven into a brick wall. Such problems are especially surprising considering that the developers have been touting their usage of Nvidia’s PhysX, a technology that allows for more realistic physics to be applied to in-game objects. One would think that a highly destructible environment would be the result, but unfortunately that’s just not the case.
There’s some decent presentation here, though. Sufficient graphics are paired with an upbeat heavy metal soundtrack that will definitely get you in the mood for killing zombies. The city in which the game takes place is large and fairly detailed, with lots of little powerups and other bonuses for you to find and explore. The zombies themselves come in a variety of forms and their unique attributes and abilities help to keep players from getting comfortable with any single tactic.
Negative points aside, Zombie Driver does satiate some sort of primal gaming urge. Regardless of the handful of small problems that the game suffers from, there’s something that’s just plain fun about covering a car in steel and pointy bits before driving it through hordes of zombies at insane speeds. Doing so while you’re blasting away with a vehicle-mounted flamethrower only makes the situation all that much more ridiculous and entertaining. Zombie Driver is a simple concept that’s been paired with imperfect execution, but the end result lands clearly on the positive side.
Title: Zombie Driver
Price: $9.95 (Available as a download at www.zombiedriver.com)
ESRB Rating: Rating Pending