Matt Keller
05 Oct, 2007

Easy Mode Volume 2.7

PALGN Feature | Dial 'Z' for Zombies.
We’ve hit October – the year is really flying by! With Microsoft’s 400lbs gorilla, Halo 3, out of the way, we can start focusing on, you know, games that aren’t overly marketed to man-children. The fact that so many of you are touting this $US170 million in a day record is quite disturbing (especially when it might not even be true), but nobody bothers to point out facts like Halo 3 has not caused any significant increase in 360 hardware sales, or the fact that the game sold some 320,000 copies less than Halo 2 on its opening day (based on $170M divided by average selling price of $US78). I guess if you flood the airwaves, magazines and internet with crap about how awesomely popular your product is, then people will start to believe you, regardless of the truth behind the matter. I could go on and on about how much Microsoft overinflates the importance of Halo in the industry (No game from the Halo series is a top 20 worldwide best seller), but I’d end up boring myself. There are far more interesting games to be released in the next 6 months, many of which will dwarf Halo 3 both critically and commercially.

Matt’s Somewhat Serious Bit

In this world of video gaming, a number of enemy types have become quite prolific across a number of games. While the common Nazi is the one that springs to most people’s minds, I feel that it is the zombie that is the best common enemy in video gaming today, and since the release of Dead Rising, easily the video game enemy with the highest death toll. Most video games have adopted the zombie type seen in George A. Romero’s Dead series of films. Typically reanimated shortly after death as a result of a ne’er explained apocalyptic event, the Romero zombie has limited neural capacity, mostly retaining the instinct to feed relentlessly on the flesh of living organisms. In some cases, the zombie has been shown to use blunt weapons and firearms, but never really effectively. Seldom are zombies seen in roaming solo – their strength is always in numbers.

There's no justice like angry mob justice

There's no justice like angry mob justice
Zombies can easily be disposed of with sharp blows to the head, though the frequent ineptitude of characters in zombie films usually forces the rediscovery of this fact time and time again. If you are bitten by a zombie, you will become a zombie, particularly if the main character was attached to you at any point. The Romero zombie is slow and lumbering, largely due to the onset of rigor mortis, though they are capable of lunging when tempted with fresh meat. This is in contrast to the Fast zombie, seen in 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake, who is seen to be both lightning quick and rather strong. The Resident Evil remake has presented both types of zombies in the one game – the regular zombie will turn into a much more threatening Crimson Head if the zombie is not decapitated, or corpse is not torched, almost discouraging the killing of our undead friends.

Now it’d take far too long to go into detail about the specific types of zombies featured in each game, so I thought I’d just take a moment instead to detail a few of my favourite video game zombies.

If movies and TV are to be believed, then everybody loves a fat guy, particularly when he is at a ‘kegger’ wearing a toga or Hawaiian shirt. Can this love of the lard extend to the undead? Dead Rising’s fat zombies were a constant source of amusement, with their incessant attempts to feast on Frank’s flesh, or devour one of his many followers in the Willamette mall. Particularly amusing is when one places objects on these zombie’s heads, such as a bucket or a Serv-Bot helmet. While not really threatening alone, Dead Rising’s zombies found their strength in numbers – though even the mightiest of undead armies cannot withstand the deadly force of a speeding truck. While inspired by the original Dawn of the Dead, Dead Rising lacks the (almost preachy) critique of consumerism frequently purported by the former, but more than makes up for it in its share of gore.

Originally developed by Q Studios under the watch of Apogee before its release by Monolith, Blood was one of the last, and arguably most advanced of the Build Engine games. Its horror centric theme provided many hours of chills and thrills, but my favourite part of the game was always found in the destruction of the game’s many zombies. Shoot them, set them on fire, steal their souls, use a voodoo doll on them, and my particular favourite, gib their body and use their head as a soccer ball – the game even had a stadium level for multiplayer zombie head football. It’s a pity Blood 2 sucked so much.

House of the Dead was arguably one of Sega’s most successful arcade franchises, largely due to its gruesome depiction of zombie destruction, addressing the age old question of “What do you do when a zombie with half a face runs at you?” While the game’s cringeworthy voice acting caused us to ‘suffer like G did’, one cannot ignore the fun provided, particularly in the Typing of the Dead variation, which makes typing fun. I personally am looking forward to being able to try House of the Dead 4 – if anyone knows the location of a machine in the country (Melbourne area preferred), let me know.

Zombies Ate My Neighbours was a bit of a departure for LucasArts back in 1993, as the company had mainly focused its efforts on personal computer formats – largely adventure games and Star Wars flight sims. Zombies had players set loose in a neighbourhood being ravaged by our undead friends, and later other monstrosities. The zombies in the game look rather crazy, especially springing from the ground in people’s backyards, which leads one to believe that everyone in the neighbourhood is some sort of serial killer. Armed with a water pistol filled with holy water, it is up to Zeke or Julie to save the neighbourhood from the undead.

Lastly, we have the most fearsome zombie of them all – the Crimson Head from 2002’s remake of Resident Evil. The remake of the zombie infested classic discouraged the killing of its undead in a way – zombies in Resident Evil needed to be correctly disposed of within an hour of their death at the hands of Chris or Jill. There were two ways to do this – set the corpse on fire, or (in the classic zombie way) destroy the brain – i.e. decapitate the zombie with your shotgun. If this is not done within an hour, the zombie will respawn as a Crimson Head, a super zombie if you will. With lightning fast reflexes and far more deadly attacks, the Crimson Head is a zombie you don’t want to screw with. Of course, in classic survival horror fashion, there’s only so much gasoline (and shotgun shells) available in the mansion, so the player needs to be particularly careful about which zombies they kill.

The future for the video game zombie is bright indeed with games such as Left 4 Dead and They Hunger: Source on the way. I’d like to see a couple of new types of zombie games – a little flash game called The Last Stand has quite a good premise, in that you are alone at the start of the game and must protect your little bunker from hordes of zombie attacks at night, whilst searching for survivors and new weapons by day. It’d be cool if we could see a more fully realised version of the game, perhaps taking a few notes from Bullfrog’s much loved Dungeon Keeper series – ultimately, aren’t most zombie films about a group of people trapped in the middle of an outbreak? Ah well, we’ll have to wait and see if someone brings a new element to games featuring our brain eating friends any time soon.

Quote of the Month

The following is an excerpt from an interview between Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime and MercuryNews.

“Q: There's been a lot of buzz about Microsoft's Halo 3. How do you expect it to affect the console battle this holiday season?

A: Will they sell a lot of software? Certainly. Will it sell hardware? I think it's an open question. Why? Because I think that the Halo 3 consumer already has the hardware, because they're playing BioShock and Crackdown and a variety of games that are, in the end, quite similar: first-person shooter experience, multiplayer capable online. Tell me what's new?

Q: So do you feel like you need to counter Halo 3 in some way?

A: No.

I am fortunate to have a series of (games) that are all going to drive substantial sales for me and are all targeted to different parts of the consumer mix.”

Reggie Fils-Aime

Reggie Fils-Aime
Historically, he’s right – Halo 2 did not lead to an meteoric rise in sales of the Xbox for the month it was released – but there was a marked increase in Xbox purchases in the months leading up to the system’s release, due largely to a constant flow of releases that appealed to that demographic. Crackdown, while a good game, was pretty much a vessel for the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta – it would be interesting to go back and see what sort of effect it had on sales of the console. With great games, price drops, pack-in deals and superior hardware having been released, how many of you would have waited until September 25 to get your machine? You cannot deny that the game will have some effect on the sale of the console for the week of release, but will the Halo effect carry on into October and beyond? And what about the one-two punch of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (at least for non-PAL gamers - when will you buggers listen to me and import your Nintendo goods?) - both are generating a lot of buzz, and are actually popular worldwide with a much wider audience than that of Halo.

It Came From Japan

This month’s Japanese-only gem is somewhat of an anomaly. It’s based on a popular western property, but the game was only released in Japan, and secondly, it was released some four years after the release of said property. Yes, it’s Super Back to the Future Part II, developed by Toshiba for the Super Famicom.

Eight years to go and still no flying DeLoreans or cybernetic implants

Eight years to go and still no flying DeLoreans or cybernetic implants
Based on the second (and in my opinion, best) movie of the three, Super Back to the Future Part II is almost a Sonic the Hedgehog-style game with Marty and co. shoehorned in. The game follows the basic plot line of the film, with stages in 2015, the alternate 1985 and 1955. The presentation itself is quite good, with a awesome SNES rendition of the Back to the Future overture, well animated sprites who are anime-style super deformed versions of the characters – Doc Brown and Biff look rather hilarious, too. A rather fun diversion, and miles better than the other Back to the Future games, which belong in my “Once You’ve Played It, You Can’t Unplay It” bit.

Cross Media Mania

It’s not often that one associates the terms “video game movie” and “good” but it happens from time to time with the original Mortal Kombat film. The film itself is an anomaly in the fact that a) it’s a video game movie that doesn’t totally suck and b) it’s a Paul W.S. Anderson movie that doesn’t totally suck.

Things quickly turned back to normal with the release of Mortal Kombat Annihilation. Whereas Mortal Kombat was a reasonably classy, Enter the Dragon-style martial arts romp, Annihilation is more of a “how many Mortal Kombat characters can we cram into 90 minutes” type of deal. It’s a mish-mash of the plots of Mortal Kombat II and 3, with Shao Kahn wishing to take over earth realm, and Rayden (now played by James Remar of The Warriors fame). Many characters from the games show up, only to be disposed of quickly – Johnny Cage is killed mere moments into the film. Hilarious costumes and low quality special effects follow – including the bizarre animalities in the film’s climax.

The five on the right last for about a grand total of 10 minutes

The five on the right last for about a grand total of 10 minutes
While the film is watchable purely for its cheese value (and its awesome soundtrack), it started a chain of events from which the Mortal Kombat franchise has never truly recovered. Mortal Kombat 4 was released shortly after the film, and was significantly less popular than its three predecessors, while Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero and Mortal Kombat: Special Forces are some of the worst titles Midway has ever released. It was only after Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance that the series once again gained some traction with audiences.

Thoughts and opinions expressed in Easy Mode remain those of the author, and do not reflect the opinions of PALGN, its affiliates, advertisers, partners or its ever-growing army of the undead

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6 years ago
if only someone would release a game with Pirates, Ninjas AND Zombies.
6 years ago
Personally I've always felt that you can tell the exact moment that the designers ran out of fresh ideas - when the first zombie appears.
6 years ago
Oh man. Please tell me that BTF game will be on some VC at some point in the future!
6 years ago
I'm not that worried about games (or movies, TV shows, et al.) being riddled with lumbering undead cliches, just as long as there's some element to it which bares some sort of originality*. RE4 is riddled with scary cliches: Zombies, midgets, ethnics (if you're a subscriber to the Ball of Bullshit that it TT and ACA - but I digress), yet it was still a great game due to it's gameplay - though most on this space already attest to this logic, I'm guessing.

By the way, there's a House of the Dead 4 machine down at Playtime in Highpoint, Maribyrnong (it's a short drive from Melbourne, donchaknow?) if that sort of thing tickles your fancy. Just bring a pair of sunglasses, as prolonged exposure to all of the neon/fluoro clad teeny-boppers that usually populate that arcade will make you blind - although you will leave slightly tanned from the aforementioned eye-peircingly bright.

*The exclusion, of course, being the recent Transformers** movie, which had so many cliches in it (Good vs Evil, Zero to Hero, Good guy gets the girl, mindless army folk, wafer-thin plot, Freudian undertones, etc - I could go on for days), it went the whole circle and became original again.

**Now a game with Pirates, Ninjas, Zombies, Transformers, Aliens, Cpt. Planet, and Ducks! That would be an interesting experience.
6 years ago
Neat overview of Zombie games; my brother is absolutely obsessed with them.

Speaking of which while we were in Sydney we went to Galaxy Arcades. It's quite a good arcade which had House Of The Living Dead 4 and Mario Kart 2. If you wanted any impressions HotLD was bloody addictive (we spent over $40 playing it over two days) and was a tight typical shooting game experience. Apart from that a friend who is a fan of the series said it was quite a letdown in terms of the overall series.

Also lay off on Mortal Kombat Annihilation icon_razz.gif As an 8 year old fanboy that movie kicked so much ass! Even though even I cringed when I saw some of those 3D effects (a hydra and dragon spring to mind).
6 years ago
Crimzin Zomgbies
They never did explain why you couldn't just stomp on the zombie's head when it was down... kinda like the way you can when they're trying to gnaw your leg off.
6 years ago
Big Pete wrote
Also lay off on Mortal Kombat Annihilation icon_razz.gif As an 8 year old fanboy that movie kicked so much ass! Even though even I cringed when I saw some of those 3D effects (a hydra and dragon spring to mind).
I have a copy of the film - it's sort of a guilty pleasure/so bad it's good type movie. Soundtrack is the best bit.
6 years ago
Great read.

I agree that zombie games are going to become popular this gen and can't wait to see what type of things they are going to bring out. I was a major fan of Dead Rising, since I was a major fan of Dawn of the Dead. But i hope they start including night lights with the purchases, or maybe a remix of the wiggles tape.
6 years ago
I love Romero's work and videogames that expand on that mythos also find a place in my heart. Has anyone played Land of the Dead - Road to Fiddler's Green on PC? It's an FPS. There's also the updated clone of Zombies Ate My Neighbours called Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia which has a multiplayer feature. It uses the Unreal engine and appears on both PC and Xbox 360.

For those looking for some free zombie game lovin, look no further than http://www.killthezombies.com/ - i recommend Zombie Grinder 6000 (a guilty pleasure of mine).

Thanks for the great read Matt.
6 years ago
to be fair in regards to the comment about 28 days/weeks later, they are not zombies . more its just enhanced their rage to extreme levels due to the virus (so their still human , just with alot more strength/anger)

but anyway zombies are fun to shoot lol
6 years ago
There are many debates about this, but I'll throw my two cents in and u can tell me what your thoughts are.

The main factors that define the term "zombie":

* Someone or something that was once human and acted accordingly. They expressed a full range of emotions, could communicate openly and were in control of their actions through their own will alone

* Hence this was once a living organism

* Once a zombie, will attack anything living that is not a zombie and will travel in numbers if possible and attack in groups

*Transmission of the condition occurs through the bloodstream and the affliction can be passed along to others through this means

So i suppose, bar the obvious undead / eating brains part, humans infected with Rage can quite easily be likened to a zombie themselves. You could say the films are a new age extension of sorts to the zombie genre.
6 years ago
It's weird, I have seen nearly every zombie movie ever made, yet I can only think of one where the zombies want to eat brains, Return Of The Living Dead (and sequels if you want to be technical). Who would have thought that this film would have had so much impact on the zombie world. Hats off to Dan 'o' Bannon. (if anyone can think of any other brain addicted zombie films let me know, I will want to see it).

Send More Paramedics
6 years ago
Fetidchimp, I recommend The Mad and Slither. Both are great.
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