Zombies have been a persistent pop culture phenomenon since George Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. Not only have the undead been chronicled in films, they’ve had their fair share of appearances in television, books, and, of course, video games. Zombie Driver HD (ZDHD) approaches the zombie genre from a slightly different angle, literally. It’s a top down, free roaming driving game where the main objective is to kill zombies, rescue survivors, and kill more zombies. The killing part is nothing new, but using your car as the main vehicle for destruction is a excitingly different way of taking down the enemy. Originally developed for the PC by Exor Studios, ZDHD is now available for download on Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360) and the Playstation Network (PS3), with enhanced HD graphics.
ZDHD has three game playing modes to keep things interesting: story mode, blood race, and slaughter mode. All three options feature top-down perspective driving chaos, not unlike the original Grand Theft Auto—just with more weapons, better graphics, and the inability to get out of the car. Story mode features 31 missions, sub quests, and bonus objectives. In addition to having a solid variety of walking dead infesting the streets, the missions also feature intense boss battles with grotesquely mutated zombie behemoths. The developers also included a slew of weapons to enhance the undead extermination experience, the rail gun being a personal favorite.
The controls are fairly simple and intuitive, but there are enough nuances to give the player some room to improve. Driving is smooth and control varies between the different vehicles. Customizing speed and ramming ability also changes the way the different vehicles perform on the road. The blood race portion of Zombie Driver HD pits gamer against fellow, artificial intelligence based, drivers in three different game types: race, eliminator and endurance. Slaughter mode features 7 different areas in which wave after wave of zombies are sent after the besieged driver. Blood race and Slaughter mode both have leader boards, allowing players to compare stats with their friends and the rest of the XBLA or the PSN communities. However, there are no multiplayer options. Initially, it felt as though the game would get old after a few rounds, but Exor included just enough game types, weapons, and other enhancements to keep it engaging.
Story is not one of ZDHD’s strengths. In this respect, it was somewhat disappointing halfway through the first cut scene. It offered very little in the way of back story or explanation, and it really suffered from a lack of narration. If the game’s creators intended to mock the B-movie, lack of plot, cash-in-on-the-zombie-craze sort of situation that has existed in Hollywood over the decades, then they’ve succeeded. However, I’m inclined to believe they focused more on gameplay than narrative. A good story could have made the game a bit more special, but in the end it’s still chock full of zombie-bashing good times. After all, that’s what makes these games fun to play.
Having never played the pre-HD PC version of Zombie Driver, it’s impossible to comment on the improvement between the original and the HD release. Be that as it may, the graphics and artwork are great, and the frame rates are excellent. There was no stuttering, even as massive undead hordes clamored their way towards the vehicle. The ravaged city settings are full of frighteningly detailed body pile-ups, devastated structures and urban wildfires. The dynamic lighting, especially in the night driving missions, would give any triple-A title a run for its money.
The soundtrack to the game is just ok. The music is strictly a background affair meant to offer atmosphere, and it gets the job done. It’s not particularly memorable, but it fits. Overall, the sound effects aren’t bad, but some of the weapon sounds lacked a bit of oomph. The explosions are nice and boom-y, and the bone-crunching zombie-splattering is good for a chuckle. The biggest downfall of the audio is the terrible voice acting, which is also hampered by its bad dialogue. In the game’s defense, the dialogue and voice acting really does make it feel like a cheesy B-movie from the 70s or 80s.
There’s no denying that Zombie Driver HD is a solid, zombie-slaughtering good time. While it does suffer from a lack of an engaging narrative, sub-par dialogue and voice acting, it makes up for it in mindless, brain-eat… err… undead-crushing enjoyment. Which is what this game is all about. ZDHD is certainly a smart buy for gamers who enjoy the zombie genre or yearn for the nostalgia of GTA and GTA2. It provides more than enough challenges and game play hours throughout the campaign, blood race, and slaughter mode to justify its $9.99 price tag.