Phil vs. Phil: Should Zombie Games Be Shot in the Head Already?

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Phil H:

Don’t Hate the Zombie Games, Hate the Zombie Game Makers

On this point, I can’t argue with the esteemed Mr. Owen: zombie games are getting lame.

As a massive fan of the subgenre dating back to Resident Evil and the films of George A. Romero, it’s hard for me to admit, but there are just too many zombie games. Zombies, for some reason, are in every damn game lately, from Dead Island and Left 4 Dead to titles like Mass Effect (the husks) and Gears of War (those boring lambent humans). Why does every game need some element of zombies?

Well, in terms of game design — they’re probably easy to make. Zombies have no tactics and no intelligence. They just react to players entering an area, shamble toward them, and die. If you can render lots of zombies in an area, your work is basically done.

And there’s also the psychological effect. The reason zombies pop up in so many sci-fi games is probably because there’s not really any fate worse to imagine than the total loss of self. When you become a zombie, you’re a soulless shell, corrupted and ruined with nothing of the “you” in you. And then you attack your friends and family. That’s pretty much the definition of suck.

But it’s getting out of control, and as Owen mentions, zombie games are getting to the point where they’re creatively bankrupt. But it’s definitely not the zombies’ fault.

As I mentioned in my column, “Dead Island and the Game We All Wanted to Play That Never Existed,” there is one incredible zombie game out there that has yet to be made, and for which there’s a market awaiting it. I’m thinking Fallout 3 with zombies. Metro 2035: The Zombie Apocalypse. The Walking Dead: The Game.

The trouble with zombie games, just like zombie stories and zombie movies, is that they get hung up with the idea that zombies are the most important part. On the contrary: zombies are the least important part. Putting players into situations of utter desolation, fear, anxiety, hopelessness and impending doom, with characters they care about — that is the most important part.

Zombie games that exist purely for the killing of many zombies can go. I’ve squashed enough undead brains under my boot heel to last a lifetime plus a reanimation afterward. But there’s still something worth saying in the genre, I think, and I still want to hear it.

Follow Hornshaw on Twitter: @philhornshaw.

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4 Comments on Phil vs. Phil: Should Zombie Games Be Shot in the Head Already?


On October 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

They should make a zombie game based on the Return of the Living dead series. The jokey ones where the zombies were completely unstoppable, no matter how you killed them.


Brandon J. Clark

On October 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I dunno… I used to hate on all the recent zombie games but Dead Island makes it all fresh to me again.


On October 7, 2011 at 7:14 pm

agree with Phil H. here. The breakthrough zombie game is waiting to be made. Dead Island is a step in the right direction, but L4D, while a great game, is not the direction zombie games should be taking.


On October 9, 2011 at 7:54 pm

History will take care of separating what’s good and bad in this genre. Sure there’s a lot of them, but only a few of them are good. Left 4 Dead is one of them, mostly because of coop feature. Versus mode in fps’s is something that really bores me, there are millions of them, and nothing special comes up.