With the arrival of the new console generation, I think it’s time for developers and publishers to finally turn their backs to the old and worn out genre, that is zombie games.
During the last decade, the video games scene has seen its share of zombies. From Resident Evil to Dead Rising to The Last of Us we have all witnessed the idle, groaning mindless shell of a former human being who stand around in the dark corners of post-apocalyptic worlds. They like to bunch up and – at the sound of a car alarm or gunshot – sprint towards any kind of normal human existence, often resulting in a mindless killing spree and hundreds headset-ruining cries out for help.
It works, I can’t take anything away from that – because I, myself, have played my fair share of zombie games, including the likes of Dead Island or Left 4 Dead. And as individual video games they are brilliant – the constant presence of the mindless zombies will at first keep you on your toes and make your heart go racing. But as the years have gone by, I find myself not being very frightened by the hordes of zombies coming my way. Because I’ve figured them out – I know where the developers like to put them around the maps, and I know that their sole tactic in life (or actually their afterlife) is to scream while throwing themselves at my fire axe, assault rifle or improvised morning star.
And so, I honestly think that zombies should take find a nice cabin out in the woods and take a little time off. I think it’s time for something else to take their place, when it comes to destroying headsets and clenching the assault rifle. Actually, we’ve actually seen a little taste of what that might be.
Creative Assembly has – for some time – moved away from the huge scale battles of ancient history and turned their heads towards something more – retro. But at the same time, it looks like the perfect place for the gaming industry to be moving towards. With CA’s attempt at the Alien franchise, they have turned the heart pounding action around, making it entirely focused at the struggle between the player and a single, intelligent enemy. No more mindless, predictable hordes coming your way. Instead the opponent takes shape as only one thing – but intelligent in a way that makes it predict the way you play. I think it would be a massive step forward for gaming if more projects like this would surface in this generation. With the new generation of consoles, I would think that the technology is definitely available to actually create an AI with these capabilities – If not, I would still be very excited for games like Turtle Rock’s upcoming Evolve which – instead of your traditional horde – pits 4 players against a single enemy. I want to be scared of something that I can’t predict, something that knows – or has an idea – what my next move is.
There are of course some difficulties with regards to actually implementing such an enemy in a game, without it being focused solely on multiplayer like Evolve does it. With zombies, a clear setting could always be established: civilization has gone to hell and zombies are everywhere. That makes it possible for the developers to create an entire universe like we’ve already seen in for example Dead Island or The Last of Us – huge cities or island paradises that all set the stage for your adventures. If the single enemy were to be used in a game, the setting would have to be much more isolated given that a single monster or alien wouldn’t be able to control an entire city without being Godzilla or something close to that. When I say isolation, I’m thinking space stations, office buildings or cave systems – but then again, you can only do the “abandoned space station” thing so many times. However, I would still like for the developers to give it a try. Both Evolve and Alien: Isolation are a step in the right direction and I can’t wait to play them both. Those two games just might be the start of a new era where zombies are not all over the place. I surely hope so.