TWTGTW #4: Zombie Apocalypse Victim

I’ve never really understood people’s fascination with zombies. I think that some of that is down to my complete disinterest in the horror genre. I’ve just never been one for blood, guts and scary movies. As a result I’ve missed out on all the “classic” zombie films, such as Dawn of the Dead.

Of course, to be cool, these days you don’t call them zombies… they’re “infected”. They’re not the dead, come back to life, they’re victims of some disease or experiment. Is it just me… or is that just not quite as scary?

Despite my complete ambivalence towards the brain-munching hoards, I’ve somehow found myself playing three zombie games this past month…

The first game was Resident Evil 5. I’ve never actually played a Resi game before so this was my first experience of the franchise. With hindsight, it might not have been the best game to start with.

One thing that I quickly realised was that I had completely the wrong idea about the series. From everything I’d heard in the past, and from all the comments regarding the racism issue, I’d got the impression that Resident Evil was a pretty serious, gritty and realistic franchise. How wrong I was.

After fighting what I could only describe as a giant troll I soon found myself up against a man who turned himself into a huge sea monster. I have to be honest and say that I just found this a little bit silly. I usually don’t have any problems with battling over-the-top, fantastical creatures, but those enemies just weren’t what I was expecting to see in this particular game.

Then there’s the fact that the infected hoards are running around, pretty much acting like your standard first person shooter baddies, using weapons and throwing grenades… They just didn’t look, act or feel that much like zombies to me.

Of course, silly enemies aside, what usually drives me forward through these types of games is the story. However, when it comes to Resident Evil I think I’m just a little too late to the party to understand or care about much about what’s going on. Plus what is, I’m guessing, a major plot twist seems a little bit obvious… Let’s see, Mr Hero-man tells us about a missing (presumed dead) franchise heroine and… oh look… here’s a mysterious (masked) female assassin… I wonder what’s going to be revealed later on.

So far I’ve played through the first few chapters of Resident Evil 5. I will say that the further I’ve got into it, the more I’ve understood and actually “got” the game… but I can’t say that I’ve ever found myself particularly enjoying it… Will I go back to it and progress further? I’m not sure and, to be perfectly honest, I’m not really that bothered. It’s undoubtedly a good game and plenty of people like it. It’s just not a game that really appeals to me.

Speaking of lack of appeal, I’m unable to describe in words how little interest I initially had in playing Left 4 Dead (my second zombie game of the month). I’m not a huge Valve fan and a first-person shooter that doesn’t really have a story held little attraction for me, especially as everyone kept saying that you really needed to play it online to fully enjoy it.

A curious thing happened though. A few weeks ago, it appeared on Steam at an extremely cheap price. It was an offer that was just too good to refuse and, as everyone was still going on about how great a game it was, I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about…

Left 4 Dead might not have many of the features I usually look for in a game… but, gosh, it is still a blast to play! Even an anti-social, solo gamer like myself can extract a fair amount of fun from working through the four campaign levels. Some people may complain about the AI team members being a bit pants, but the sad fact is… my computer-controlled companions are much better players than I am.

Each of the movie-inspired scenarios sees you and your fellow survivors fighting through hoards of zombies, desperately trying to reach the next place of safety. It’s a fast-paced, quick reaction shooter and even though your undead foes possess quite a turn of speed their basic animal, swarm-like behaviour ensures they exhibit the necessary brain-dead qualities we’ve come to expect from our zombie friends.

I enjoyed playing the PC version of Left 4 Dead so much that I actually went out and grabbed a copy for the 360 as well. I’ve even spent a little time playing the game online (something that’s quite unusual for me) although I have yet to master any of the skills necessary to effectively control specialist zombies in the versus mode. I’m glad I gave this particular game a go. Sometimes it pays to explore titles you wouldn’t normally try.

The third game in my personal zombie trilogy is Plants vs. Zombies, the latest release from Peggle developers Popcap.

It’s a humorous take on the currently extremely popular tower defence formula. In this game you have to stop advancing hoards of cartoon zombies from reaching your house and eating your brains by placing horticultural obstacles in their way. Your arsenal of plants include basic pea-shooters, venus “zombie” traps, spike shooting cacti, exploding cherry bombs and spore puffing fungi.

I must admit that I initially wasn’t that impressed by the demo. It seemed very slow and not particularly challenging. Then Popcap added Steam achievements to the game and that, together with a temporary reduction in the price tag, caused me to take a second look and hit the purchase button.

I’m glad that I did as I’ve been thoroughly enjoying playing through the game. There is just so much to do. For starters there are absolutely loads of different plants to choose from and a multitude of zombie types to fight. There are also three different “areas” to battle on, each requiring slightly different strategies and different seeds to be placed in your arsenal.

As you play the game you unlock puzzle modes, survival challenges, a large collection of mini-games and even a Zen garden where the time spent looking after your plants is rewarded with in-game currency. The money you earn can be used to purchase new species of plants and other extra game features.

There are some great additional modes of play. Rapid decision making is required in the games where you’re gradually given a random selection of plants. Other levels see you smashing open jars to reveal the zombies or seeds hidden inside. There’s an interesting plant version of Bejewelled, where you move your flowers around to create groups of three whilst continually being attacked by waves of undead. You can even take on the role of the enemy and attack the flowers yourself in a series of levels where the Michael Jackson-style dancing zombies, in particular, become really useful.

Plants vs Zombies is not a particularly difficult game but, because it contains so much content, I’ve no hesitation in recommending you pick it up for PC or Mac. Due to the control scheme, I can’t see them producing a version for the 360 or PS3 but, should it appear in a suitably priced handheld form, it has the potential to be a big iPhone or DS hit.

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One Response to “TWTGTW #4: Zombie Apocalypse Victim”

  1. I found Resident Evil 5 to be a slow burner. I didn’t especially enjoy the early levels and played through them out of necessity more than anything else as I was reviewing it and didn’t have a choice. However the further I got, the more I enjoyed it. By the end of it, I loved it and now that I’ve unlocked various infinite ammo options, I’m really enjoying it the second time round. Is it a classic? Definitely not. But it is good fun, just no Resident Evil 4!

    Oh and perhaps strangely, I don’t really like horror films because I’m too much of a wimp but I love zombie related offerings. Films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are so over the top, I find them amusing half the time. I might just be strange though 😉

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