Note: Dead Island: Riptide is out today, and inevitably someone will challenge you on your (correct) view that it's not very good. Here's how to react.
Zombies used to be the most rad enemy. A mindless horde of killers that won’t stop until you’ve completely destroyed them or they’re chomping on your brain.
Unfortunately, much like all things that are good in this life, they became incredibly popular and were done to (un)death. Now, a game with zombies in it doesn’t excite - if anything, simply announcing anything with them in results in a rather fitting groan from the gaming community at large.
Speaking of which, remember Dead Island? The sequel is out today – or has just come out if you're reading this later – and as you’ve no doubt already read it is another wildly mediocre romp through a holiday resort filled with shambling corpses - like a hyperviolent Butlins weekender. People seem to like it, mind, so you’re no doubt going to see many a debate as to what makes a good zombie game at some point in the near future. Make sure that you are right.
Here’s all of the knowledge you need to be able to convince anyone you’re an absolute authority on the subject, and fatten your brain up with useless information so you’re a nice, succulent feast for the undead come the apocalypse. (With some bonus quotes to drop into conversation to really show them who is boss.)
This is The Modfather, not perma-crap hair suffering tedium artist Paul Weller. Since its release as a mod for po-faced war simulator Arma 2 a year or so ago, its parent title has gone on to sell a frankly Minecraft amount of copies just so people can play this. DayZ is about as close as anyone has ever got to creating a real, true zombie survival simulation, where you’re just as likely to be killed by another player who is after the contents of your backpack than one of the shambling horde. Like a classic Romero flick, humanity, when forced to deal with their own inevitable end, is usually far worse than the zombies.
The airfields in DayZ are an absolute killzone for new players, as they are PvP hotbeds. Stumbling across one of them is likely to result in you being sniped by a bandit from a mile away. Bastards, the lot of them.
The DayZ community refer to one of the rifles as the ‘Dinner Bell’, as firing it will attract all the zombies in the area to your position. Rumours that is was once called ‘Pavlov’s gun’ have been made up purely to make this article slightly funnier.
Be careful with the physics in this. They’re not quite there yet, and in fact are dangerous in and of themselves. It is an alpha after all. For instance, trying to shut a warehouse door behind me once resulted in me breaking both of my legs and being eaten by the zombie I was trying to escape from. Good old life.
“Mate, I’ve been playing DayZ back since they let you start with a gun!”
ZombiU was a bit of a brave launch title for the Wii U. A really difficult, interesting semi-roguelike game doesn’t exactly scream money, but it is one of the best zombie experiences for a long time. The zombies here are lethal - a confrontation with one you can cope with, but two or more is going to result in injury or your death. Brilliantly, death is one of the best things about this, as each ‘life’ you play as a totally different person, different name, age, profession etc., and should you make it back to where your last character fell, you’ll find them, zombified, wandering around with your previous loot on them.
ZombiU is set in London, which makes it actually terrifying if you live in one of the areas in which the game takes place. Which I do. So it is terrifying.
Also, because it is set in England and not America, you can’t just find guns in bins and prams and stuff. Your main weapon is a trusty cricket bat. THWACK.
Zombi was actually Ubisoft’s first ever published product, in 1986. And to think, you people kicked up a fuss waiting for Duke Nukem Forever...
“Look, who hasn’t wanted to run around Shoreditch smacking people in the head with a cricket bat? It can’t just be me?”
The Walking Dead
Winner of every single award imaginable in 2012, Telltale’s The Walking Dead is based on the brilliant and absolutely ruthless comic book series (as opposed to the lukewarm TV show). It's basically a ‘choose your own adventure’ – there’s not much in the way of ‘gameplay, as such – but the choices you have to make carry so much emotional weight, it is difficult to not have a complete breakdown somewhere around the third chapter. It also achieved the impossible, and made a major child character not only likeable, but made you care about her. Clem...
Whatever you do, don’t get this mixed up with The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. A game so bad, it almost appears to be going out of its way to get things wrong. It is also based on the TV series, which I think is no coincidence.
When talking about The Walking Dead, and the decisions made at crucial moments in the story, it actually works as quite a good indicator as to which of your mates are sociopaths.
An entire generation of gaming nerds, should they actually manage to shut up about Firefly long enough to procreate, are going to call their child ‘Clementine’. Trust me.
There is no choice quote here. Just, whenever anyone mentions Clementine, start openly weeping.
Look, listen. Hear me out. I know that Minecraft isn’t a traditional zombie game as such, but it actually has all the hallmarks of the better aspects of zombie fiction - more so than most ‘actual’ zombie titles. You build a makeshift shelter out of found resources to protect yourself and others from the horrible things outside that do nothing but kill you. You find more resources, get more confident, expand. All it takes, however, is that one mistake, or that one person that decides to sabotage it all, and suddenly the enemies can get at you. That’s the plot to Dawn of the Dead, right?
Is there any more tense experience than that first night on Minecraft? You’ve knocked together the most basic of shelters as darkness falls, and you just have to sit there and wait until daybreak, listening to the creatures around you shuffle about.
It is 2013 and I’m writing a knowledge guide to Minecraft. You’ve already played it. You know all this!
“Look, I know Minecraft isn’t a zombie game as such, but... *repeats this entire section from memory*
Resident Evil 4
The best game ever made. Resident Evil 4 gave the entire survival horror genre a well needed boot up its rotten arse when it was released, and still hasn’t truly been bested. Instead of your traditional zombie, the Ganados are the antagonists here; crazed, infected villagers who still retain enough of their humanity to be able to use weapons, plan traps and communicate with one another in an attempt to murder part-time David Bowie impersonator Leon S. Kennedy. In Spain.
You can German suplex the ganados to finish them off if you shoot them in the knee and rush up to them. The German suplex is a contender for ‘best suplex of all time’, so this is clearly a huge positive. I’ve not yet played a game that hasn’t been improved by the ability to suplex.
The Merchant is one of the greatest characters ever. He shows up, sells you an arsenal of weaponry from inside his coat and then wanders off. “What’re y’buying, stranger?”
When one of the ganados is sneaking up behind you, another will occasionally yell out "Detras de ti, imbecil!" which translates to “Behind you, imbecile!”. Brilliant. Can’t say you weren’t warned.
“I think it should be mandatory on every website that it should state whether or not the writer has played Resident Evil 4, because I’m not sure I can trust someone who hasn’t...”
Left 4 Dead
Valve’s other multiplayer masterpiece. You and three mates play as survivors of a zombie outbreak and have to dart between safehouse to reach a means of escape. The whole time, an A.I. director controls the pace of the game, from making it ‘too quiet’ to suddenly filling the area with screaming zombie bastards. It keeps changing things up, making every play session a little bit different. Throw in another bunch of players who are controlling certain types of ‘special infected’ and the end result is carnage and arguments with your mates.
There’s hundreds of Easter eggs in the Left 4 Dead franchise. My favourite is probably Zoey occasionally humming the Final Fantasy fanfare when she is nervous. I marked out when I heard that.
In one of the DLC packs – ‘The Sacrifice’ – one of the players must go back to restart a failed generator so that the rest of the team can escape and complete the level. It is a suicide mission... who is it going to be?
The Witch is one of the most terrifying enemies of all time. She sits on the floor, crying, and as long as you all switch off your flashlight and leave her alone, she’ll continue to do so. Thing is, if a zombie horde forces you to cross paths with her, she’ll rush screaming at one of your team and kill them in one hit. She’s best avoided, but then you always get that idiot who is trying to one-shot her with the combat shotgun...
“If there was a way that I could drill into my head and forget I had play one game so I could experience it again for the first time, it would be Left 4 Dead. That first night just scraping through each mission by the skin of my teeth is still the most thrilling multiplayer experience I’ve ever had.”