After infiltrating popular culture through a variety of mediums, zombies have become so synonymous with gaming, that it’s difficult to recount a time when you weren’t barbarically brutalising, these marauding rigors. An apocalyptic world teething with decomposing humans has become such a common occurrence, that the entire “end of the world” concept has become a formulaic set of circumstances, so fraught with tedious story arcs, repetitive gameplay elements and insufferable characters that prevent progress, due to your very conscious attempts to manipulate them directly into the infected’s vicinity. The dramatic impact that should instantly induce terror has been expended, due to repetitive overuse of a once terrifying notion; a world full of demonic cannibals and you, a lone survivor armed with just a gun, a couple of clips and bowels of pure steel.
But let’s be clear, zombies aren’t an articulated subject, there’s no deep meaning. Zombies dont symbolise the archaic characteristics, of mans barbaric past, or our anomalistic desire for destruction and it’s not a self-reflection of our own morality. Zombies are just a vast collection of the walking dead, no purpose, no emotional awareness, just an unquenchable desire to ingest your gooey insides. You can’t incorporate any great meaning in their existence, for the purposes of an entertaining new direction for the subject, it just wouldn’t work. But if the mythology of the living impaired remains unchanged, then certainly the characters that inhabit the same world, should be altered.
Sure, decapitating zombies in any number of inventive and often hilarious ways (Dead Rising 2) is fun, but integrating a character development that doesn’t feel apathetically half-hearted, is a responsibility rarely taken by developers, particularly ones that allow you to empathise with the plight of the survivors, rather than resenting them. Naughty Dogs “The Last Of Us” looks set to buck this narrative issue, by making the survival horror genre into a more character driven experience, and I’m confident that if anyone can achieve this, its Naughty Dog. But what zombies could really benefit from is an extended break, so that when sufficient time has elapsed, surviving a “post apocalyptic world”, wont feel like such an aggravating pursuit.
Do you believe zombies are too overused? Let me know what you think.
My first memory of Resident Evil was when I was around 13 years old, after purchasing Resident Evil 2 from a relatively shifty salesman at the local market who had previously sold me another game a week before, that didn’t work (thankfully, this one did). Admittedly I was probably a little young to be involved in a game that was heavily focused on a viral outbreak that transforms ordinary civilians into flesh munching cannibals, but with that minor oversight aside, the overwhelming sense of fear that consumed me as I emerged from the wreckage of the truck which was now fully engulfed in flames, and stepped into the abnormal and ravaged Raccoon City, was a terrifying delight. Every room I entered and subsequently exit felt like a huge achievement, to a point where I would shriek with delight at the fact I was still alive (just). It was my first experience with a game of a more mature nature, and it blew my impressionable young mind. But the series as a whole has been struggling of late, with every new iteration striding further and further away from the originals ideals and leaving many fans reeling and disjointed. Many believe that the series has lost touch with its terrifying roots, which the most common abuse directed towards Resident Evil 5, but was it really that out of touch?
Resident Evil was on the brink, the tired formula and gameplay where becoming painfully outdated, even by the time Resi 3 was released, and it took Capcom long enough to finally introduce the drastic alterations the series so desperately craved, and we were rewarded with Resident Evil 4. A darkly sinister game that captured the trepidations of the originals whilst incorporating a far more engaging way to navigate through the twisted world of Resi, a true classic by anyones standards. Resident Evil 5 offered much of the same, but failed to garner the same praise as the 4th, why? 3 of my main complaints when I first played the 5th were:
1. The surprising lack of terror.
2. The non-zombie ensemble.
3. The co-operative play.
But after a more recent play through I finally realised that none of these detract from the overall enjoyment, let me explain and address the previous gripes.
Yes, Resi 5 wasn’t the least bit scary, although those damn mutated bugs were unnerving, you never really felt unsettled enough to cower in fear behind your teddy bear (not that I ever did cough), but after so many incarnations, how can Capcom continue to scare fans who’ve seen it all before? How can they still include zombies? I mean where is the challenge in blasting round after round into shuffling, marauding, well, idiots, enemies needed to pose a challenge and zombies just didn’t. Ok, the Sheva dilemma. When I recall my first experience teaming up with Sheva Alomar all I remember is a haze of frustration and continuous expletives, and during a recent play through I found I was pleasantly surprised….at how accurate my vision was, she’s insanely irritating! *RANT ALERT* Because of course the obvious approach to defeat a giant deformed bat, is to continually fire rounds from your sidearm; yeah, that’ll work, how about using that shotgun I spent time/money customizing?!! *Rant Over* There is salvation however, in the form of co-op, yes it’s not as terrifying as battling hellish creatures on your own, but it is a darn site easier.
Sacrificing horror for a more action inspired approach will remain contentious, and will continue to divide and possibly alienate fans, but without these controversial modifications, Resident Evil probably wouldn’t be here. I’ll admit that when it comes to Resi that I’m a purist, in the sense that the series needs to be more apprehension focused, but don’t dismiss Resident Evil 5, because despite its obvious annoyances, there is still satisfaction to be had with these new nightmares.
Zombies, where would modern gaming be without these shuffling disintegrating corpses? Would we be better off as a nation? Or living in a far greater age with more originality and generally new concepts? Possibly, but that doesn’t stop each of us purchasing at least 1 zombie themed game a year, so why argue with popular demand, it’s what we yearn for (apparently). Say what you will about zombie games, at least you know what to expect; blood, disembowelment, gruesome deaths and more blood, and Lollipop Chainsaw appears to be luring a certain breed of gamer, the slightly depraved kind. The lead character, who is a female cheerleader, brandishes a chainsaw which she utilizes to literally liquidate any and all brain-munching zombies into a fine, sticky past, whilst her ex boyfriends recently (and still living) severed head hangs ominously from her belt, (don’t ask, because I’m struggling with this myself). Lollipop Chainsaw is very much in the early stages of development, so more definitive information on this particularly obscure idea are still few and far, but what is known is that its being crafted by both Goichi Suda (Sudo51) and former Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka, both of whom worked on Grasshopers previous project, Shadows Of The Damned. So it’s probably not entirely unfair to liken Lollipop Chainsaw to titles such as Dead Rising, just a bit more OTT, if that’s even remotely possible, and tongue firmly in cheek.
Lollipop Chainsaw will be released in 2012, check out the link to watch footage, and keep an eye out for a subtle reference on the heroines top, to a zombie, directing legend.
Does Lollipop Chainsaw sound like your kind of game? Or is the games industry already saturated with similarly executed ideas? Let me know your thoughts, cheers.
Modern day gaming takes many various forms to entertain the masses, whether it’s an engaging single player so consuming that you develop a rather unhealthy obsession with the content, (damn you Uncharted) *shakes fist furiously*, or a multiplayer experience that’s far superior and evidently more fun than the single player format. So imagine my surprise when today I ventured down to my generic electrical store to purchase Dead Island, only to discover that the cooperative play is only available online, dum dum dum! Do you realize what this means? 1: That I probably should have done sufficient research on the game before trouncing all the way down the high street to obtain it, and 2: That this bitter blow left me reeling, and it was this lack of offline co-op that directly contributed me terminating the purchase of Dead Island. You probably feel that im being a little to judgemental and yes, perhaps even a tad OTT, but allow me to explain.
I’m not opposed to online gaming, quite the opposite, I am fully aware that the future of the video games industry lies in the online world. For example, who really purchases titles such as Call Of Duty, Battlefield and Portal 2 just to indulge in the one player campaign? Show of hands? Not many, because as important as single player is, it’s the online capabilities that prolong your amusement, but from my own online exposure, you do lose a certain camaraderie when participating online. It all feels a little distant, despite the constant need for communication (especially in the case of Portal 2), and the growing community located throughout PSN. For me personally, Dead Island deciding to focus its co-op attention on the web is a very disappointing decision, as this now leaves me unable to invite friends round to satisfy our basic human rights, by decapitating hordes of cannibalistic zombies on a tropical island, whilst consuming vast quantity’s of Wotsits and beer. It’s these social interactions that make playing games not only more rewarding but additionally more fun, which in a gaming community that’s obsessed with constantly chasing trophy’s and improved high scores can sometimes signify that fun, is sadly disregarded.
The inconvenient truth for me however is that despite my forlorn grumblings, I’m still likely to purchase Dead Island, due to the actuality that I’m an enthusiastic gamer trapped in a world of commercialism, and nothing to do with the fact that, deep down, I’m just another whingeing hypocrite, nope, not at all *cough*.
Is offline multiplayer as important to you? Or do you prefer to play online? Let me know your thoughts and opinions, cheers.