Saturday, 3 November 2012

Top ten Zombie computer games and franchises




Well earlier on today I gave you my own personal list of top ten zombie flicks. That was hard enough as it was, but this task was significantly harder. Lets be honest here the computer games industry has a tendency to churn out sequel after sequel of a game that just so happens to perform well. Take Resident Evil for instance, which one of those would you pick? Well obviously it'd be Resident Evil 2, but wouldn't you feel even slightly bad you'd left out the Original and Resident Evil 4? I know I would. So this is my list of favourite zombie games and franchise... yeah that's a cop out, but it's my Blog and I make the rules... what you thought this was a democracy? Well it isn't, so here's your dictators list:

Zombies ate my Neighbours (or as I knew it Zombies)


The version we got in the UK was a horribly censored version of the game people got in the USA, which itself had been censored. However, years later I came back to this game via an emulator and I remembered the fun I used to have with it and my friends. Honestly I dread to think of the hours we wasted playing this game. It's camp and colourful 16-Bit graphics also add to the surreal nature of the game and what it depicts, it honestly seems bizarre now to think that this game was considered gruesome and worthy of censorship in its day. It get's on my list for pure nostalgia value, and the fact it is the first zombie computer game I can ever remember playing, it gets...

6.5 brains out of 10

House of the Dead


I'm totally cheating here, because I'm including the entire House of the Dead Franchise in here, not just the first lightgun game. Lightgun games are a genre of game that seem to have become increasingly rare, almost to the point of being extinct until the Nintendo Wii and Playstation Move and Xbox Kinnect came along. However, the House of the Dead games remain some of the best examples of this almost extinct genre there is. I love them all, but by far and away the most mental and utterly brilliant game in the franchise is the awesome Typing of the Dead. I know I wouldn't be as awesome wicked at typing my articles as fast as I am today without my obsession with this game.The franchise gets...

7 brains out of 10

Dead Nation


An exclusive for the PS3 and only available on the PSN Store, this game ate into a huge chunk of my social life when it was released. This top down shooter is a classic example of the genre and arguably the best top down shooter I have ever played. No seriously. It is insanely good, and the fact that it is an utterly brilliant zombie game to boot with a great upgrade mechanic and co-operative play for taking on the undead horde makes it a must own if you have a PS3. I also love the infection map, which shows how good each nation is doing at fighting off the zombie apocalypse by including the results of every player from that nation. Fighting off the zombie horde has never been this jingoistic! Sure it's an archaic game form, and yes in the age of hyper-realistic FPS's and 3D worlds the top down nature of the game might seem anachronistic in today's world of console gaming, but it is well worth a look, and well worth it's...

7.5 brains out of 10

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare


Is this a proper full on rlease? Or was it just a DLC for a full game? I did agonize over whether I should include this, or not. Well you could actually pick the disk up on its own in game stores, so I'm saying it was a full release, even though it was a DLC for another game. The fact that as a DLC it contained more gameplay and was greater than many full releases is just a testament to how fracking awesome this game truly was. I mean I loved Red Dead Redemption as a game and Undead Nightmare was a totally new and brilliant way of playing the game, I think it must potentially go down as not only one of the best zombie games ever made, but also arguably the best DLC ever released. Fanbloodytastic! Its inclusion though has had me questioning why I didn't include the Borderlands DLC 'The Zombie Island of Dr Ned'. Truth is I felt that wasn't as big a departure as Undead Nightmare was from the core game... weak reasoning maybe, but it is what I genuinely think, even though it is utterly brilliant too. Totally deserving of getting...

8 brains out of 10

Dead Island


Lets be honest here, this is a fairly recent addition to the pantheon of zombie computer games, pushing out many far more established games and franchises. Truth is though it is totally deserving of its place on my list. Grand Theft Auto has a lot to answer for in the world of gaming. It has created the whole sandbox genre, where there are no real levels, and the ability to just play in a world that developers have created. Dead Island takes that idea and puts you on a tropical island overrun by zombies to brilliant effect. The game though caused a bit of controversy before it was even released because of its official launch trailer, nobody would deny it is an effective piece of marketing or indeed film making. However, it did not include any official gameplay footage and was nothing more than a pre-rendered advert. The tone it set though was far more serious and less comic than the other sandbox zombie franchise Dead Rising, and while the game itself is less comic than Dead Rising, the gameplay and storyline aren't exactly as gritty a harrowing as the trailer. Nevertheless this is an utterly absorbing game and one well worth getting if you haven't already got it. I give it...

8 brains out of 10

Siren: Blood Curse


This is arguably not a zombie game, yes it fits into the survival horror genre, but there are discussions about whether the zombies in the Siren Games are actually zombies at all. I say that they are, and that they are Japanese style zombies, in fact in the games they are called Shibito, or 'corpse people'... now if that's not the definition of what a zombie is, I don't know what zombies are at all!!! Not many people will have played these games in the West at all, and that's a crying shame, because the Japanese really know how to do survival horror, and hell they do a particularly twisted form of horror any way if you've seen many Japanese horror films you'll know what I'm taking about. I mean if I could've wangled a way to convince you all ghosts were zombies, I'd have totally included the Project Zero franchise as well! Instead I'll have to make do with Sony's little series. The first game in the series 'Siren' was released in 2003 on the PS2. It was part of a wave of Japanese survival horror games that included the original Project Zero and of course the exception Silent Hill 2, which again wasn't included because I wasn't sure the bad guys in it were truly zombies. As such the genius of Siren was actually missed by many as it was crowded out by bigger franchises being in its launch window.

By the time Siren 2 came out in 2006 a few more people were taking notice of the franchise, but it still didn't really set the sales charts alive in the west. The Siren games are genuinely some of the scariest things I've ever played, with some genuinely ingenious gameplay mechanics. The games have deserved far more recognition than what they have actually received and I think it's a genuine shame that not many people in the West have played them. They are easily a match for the bigger and more recognised horror franchises of Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Project Zero.  In 2008 Sony trid giving the franchise another shot, this time on the PS3 with Siren: Blood Curse (or new translation in its native Japan). With improved graphics and a new take on the original game with a new set of protagonists I think Sony were hoping that by releasing the game as a series downloadable chapters they might be able to find new audiences for their often over looked franchise. Sadly, again it didn't set the charts aflame. If you own a PS3, and have a connection to the Internet you need to download this game and give it a shot. You will not be disappointed. As a series it gets a thoroughly deserved...

8 brains out of 10

Dead Rising 1 & 2


Wow, when the Xbox 360 first launched I think it's fair to say it launched with a pretty weak line up of games. I mean I had Kameo: Elements of Power, was an up-scaled Xbox project that had switched from being a Gamecube project, which actually started life as a sodding N64 game! Seriously!!! Didn't anyone think this might be a problem? I also had another Rare game, Perfect Dark Zero... yeah the less said about that the better. Only Call of Duty 2 and Project Gotham Racing really deserved any play time. But, none of them really explained why the leap from PS2, Xbox and Gamecube was actually necessary. They were prettier versions of games that could have all happily appeared on the current gen systems of the day. I was unimpressed with my Xbox 360. That is until Dead Rising was released! It always takes zombies to save the day doesn't it? Any who, here was a game that almost certainly couldn't have been done on the current gen system of the day. The huge amount of on screen zombies would have killed the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube put together!!!

The game had its critics though, no question. It was a very harsh game that treated the player like a wounded puppy that needed to be kicked to death. It was hard. You could only have one save per file. So if you went down the wrong path and saved, but wanted to go back to an earlier save... well that was tough! Also when you died you were given two options, either you went back to the last save point, or you could start the game again. Harsh. Except you kept your experience points from your play up until that point, known as prestige points or PP. You see, I loved it. I went around just mashing up zombies and ignoring the actual game for about 2 weeks straight. I found loads of nifty short cuts, all the cool weapons and loads of weapon combos, as well as working out the best route potentially through the game. All while turning Frank West (the lead protagonist) into a one man zombie slaughtering machine!!! When I felt I was up to the task of tackling the story I did. Honestly one of the best games on the Xbox 360 to this day.


It was like being in a George A Romero film. Insane amounts of zombies, bonkers bad guys known as psychopaths and lots of hopeless citizens to save. Splendid. It was so good they made an even better sequel set in Vegas, as opposed to some shopping mall. The development reigns were handed over to Blue Castle for the sequel and the protagonist was Chuck Greene... but there were even more zombies, better weapon combos and more outlandish ways to kill the living dead, like motorcycles with chainsaws on them. Genius. The game wasn't as cruel and unrelenting on its players as the original was either. Zombies seemed easier to push out of the way, and escape from. But, this seemed to please most people who had failed to fall in love with the original because it wanted their Braaaaiiiiinsssssss a bit too much. But, the best addition from my perspective was the two player online co-op mode. Being able to run around butchering zombies in tandem is one of the best online experiences you can get to this day on 360 or PS3. If you haven't tried it, you've missed out big time. So what does this franchise get? Well they get a combined score of...

8.5 brains out of 10!

Left 4 Dead 1 & 2


There's something undeniably playable about Valve games, yeah I know they are from subsidiary Turtle Rock, and it is they who produced the sodding game, but it was closely monitored by Valve and overseen very carefully. First and foremost Left 4 Dead is a great first person shooter (FPS) and would stand up pretty darn well in that category on its own rights. The fact that it is also one of the greatest zombie games of all time in my humble opinion is just quite frankly the icing on the cake! Both Left 4 Dead games would make it onto my Xbox 360 must own list of games. Graphically they aren't the best games on the marketplace, but they more than hold there own on that score. Where the game truly excels though is its co-operative experience. This was the first game that really made me sit up and take notice of what the next generation of consoles and the Xbox 360 in particular would produce, and what Xbox Live was all about. Sure I'd played online games before on my PC's, but to have a stereotypical 'console' type game designed specifically around online play was awesome.

The game is an online experience, its four players pitting their collective wits against the never ending horde of the living dead, as they pursue you relentlessly. You have to work together properly, it is not one of these co-op games where a really good player could haul you through the game either. You all needed to pull your weight. I have played the first game again and again, with friends and complete and utter random strangers, and I never got annoyed or frustrated at the experience, so good is the zombie head popping mayhem of it all. Even failure is enjoyable in this game, because ultimately don't we all just want to see schmucks eaten alive by zombies? Valve made a big fanfare about their 'AI Director' which is supposedly a clever bit of code that monitors the players abilities and adapts the challenge accordingly. I couldn't tell you whether is worked exactly as they wanted it to, but it did seem to keep you on your toes all the time and you had to be ready to adapt and help people out.


The sequel didn't quite live up to expectations for me, as I felt it was just more of the same, even though it did tweak some of the bugs from the first game and tidy the whole experience up. That's not necessarily a bad thing as I did want more of the same. It's just that I personally would have liked to have seen a bit more innovation in the game series. Plus for some reason I didn't find the online community of Left 4 Dead 2 as good and as welcoming as the original. Perhaps that's because by the time of its release the asshats were already taking over Xbox Live. Ultimately it remained a damn fine sequel, but because so much of its genius and beauty was centered around the co-operative play, the fact that the online community had degenerated into a bunch of whining teenage dicks, who couldn't understand what the game was about, it was ultimately harmed as a product by its USP. I only really played the game with my friends in closed sessions. There was none of the logging on and playing with randoms that there was with the original, which had really made that game for me. Despite this though the games remain two of my favourites on the Xbox 360, and for that reason Valves zombie franchise gets...

9 brains out of 10.

Dead Space


Like Forbidden Siren before it I've had a few internal arguments as to whether or not this actually constitutes a zombie game. You could look at it both ways, but just like I chose to call Forbidden Sirens zombies 'Japanese zombies' I'm calling the  Necromorphs 'sci-fi zombies', anyone who disagrees will be sent to the Church of Unitology for re-education!!! The first game and I actually had a bit of a troubled start. I'd read the previews, and I'd seen the footage online before it was released, and I thought it looked fabulous, the sort of game that was right up my alley. So when it came to downloading the demo I was was really excited. Then I played the damn thing. Whoever it was who decided that the section they included in the demo of the game was the right way to show it off needed their brains examining. It was ridiculously hard and they'd given you no indication of how to deal with the Necromorphs, or what to do. So I died in many a frustrating way, and the fact that the protagonist, Isaac, was such a clunky and slow lump of turd to move turned me right off the game as no real context was given to why.

Then the reviews came flooding in, 9 out of 10, 96%... "the best survival horror game in years"... the accolades kept rolling in. My friends told me it was ace, normally it's me telling them what to buy, but that demo had put me off so much I just couldn't face buying it. Eventually I borrowed the PS3 version off of a work colleague... it was bloody brilliant. The whole game makes sense only if played from the start, it slowly introduces you to the Necromorphs and how to dismember them to... erm... re-death?... yet again. The Necromorphs are arguably my all time favourite computer game zombies, they are utterly relentless, scary as hell and just all sorts of fun to blast to crap. EA and Visceral Games have an absolute stellar hit franchise on their hands.  Right from the first moments on the Ishimaru Space Ship I have been hooked, and have brought all things Dead Space that I can. I even came close to capitulating and buying a Nintendo Wii to play Dead Space: Extraction, but thankfully it came bundled with the PS3 version of Dead Space 2.


Dead Space 2 by the way ups the ante in every conceivable way over its forebear. Sometimes sequels suck, but generally speaking the second game in a franchise is normally the best in my experience. Getting to grips with Isaac all over again, this time on the Sprawl space station above Saturn's largest moon Titan, was a gruesome delight. The puzzles are better, the combat is smoother, the storyline more involved and quite frankly the Necromorphs are even more terrifying than they were the first time around. If you haven't played either Dead Space game I urge you to go out and buy both of them right now. I personally think it is one of the best franchises from this current generation of consoles, and you still have time to experience them both before the release of Dead Space 3 in early 2013. I for one can't want to play it. Even though the Franchise is only two games and spin-off old, it has to get...

9.5 brains out of 10.

Resident Evil Franchise (mainly 2 and 4)


I mean come on, it had to be the top spot didn't it? This franchise has spawned 23 individual game releases, oh yes it has!!! Over an 18 year period, every game that has included zombies in it has had to compare itself to this now venerable franchise. It is an absolute behemoth, having been responsible for 5 zombie films in its own right. There is no arguing that Resident Evil is THE zombie game franchise. Don't believe me? Check out this timeline:

  • 1996 - Resident Evil (PS1)(Eventually released on Windows, Sega Saturn and Nintendo DS)
  • 1997 - Resident Evil: Director's Cut (PS1)
  • 1998 - Resident Evil 2 (PS1)(Eventually released on Windows, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast and Gamecube)
  • 1999 - Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (PS1)(Eventually released on Windows, Dreamcast and Gamecube)
  • 2000 - Resident Evil Survivor (PS1 and Windows)
  • 2000 - Resident Evil Code: Veronica (Dreamcast)(Eventually released on PS2, PS3, Gamecube, Xbox 360)
  • 2001 - Resident Evil Gaiden (GameboyColor)
  • 2001 - Resident Evil Survivor 2 Code: Veronica (arcade and PS2)
  • 2002 - Resident Evil (Gamecube Remake)(re-released on Wii)
  • 2002 - Resident Evil Zero (Gamecube)(re-released on Wii)
  • 2003 - Resident Evil: Dead Aim (PS2)
  • 2003 - Resident Evil Outbreak (PS2) FIRST ONLINE****
  • 2004 - Resident Evil Outbreak: File 2 (PS2)
  • 2005 - Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)(Eventually released on everything including your Casio calculator... OK maybe not on a calculator)
  • 2006 - Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (Nintendo DS)
  • 2007 - Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)(Later released as part of a compilation with Darkside Chronicles for PS3 Move)
  • 2009 - Resident Evil 5 (PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows)
  • 2009 - Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii)(released as part of a compilation for PS3 Move)
  • 2010 - Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition  (PS3 and Xbox 360)
  • 2011 - Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (Nintendo 3DS)
  • 2012 - Resident Evil Revelations (Nintendo 3DS)
  • 2012 - Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows)
  • 2012 - Resident Evil 6 (PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows)

So what are the stand out moments from this franchises long and distinguished career? Well the original that kicked it all off introduced the world to zombie attack dogs. Come on, any of you who have played the game all have memories of the first time they came crashing through the windows of that tight and twisty corridor. Blind panic and soiled undies I'm sure! The first game introduced so many staples of the series it's untrue, when the zombie apocalypse does eventually happen I'm telling you we'll all be looking for red, green and blue herbs, go on admit it! It was however the sequel Resident Evil 2 that truly blew the mind. It was better looking (yeah OK it's crap by today's standards), the camera angles weren't all wonky and actually added to the gameplay, there were more zombies on screen and more variety in the zombies. The game was just bigger in scope, and although the haunted mansion setting of the first game was cool, what with its mutant plants and all, the setting of Raccoon City just made it feel all just a little bit more cinematic, plus it was HUGE. Many argue that Resident Evil 2 is still to this day the best in the franchise, I'm torn, but if anything it is a close second.


Next up I guess we have to mention Nemesis. It wasn't the best Resident Evil and in fact I really disliked it. But, the introduction of Nemesis was utter genius. Here was a bad dude who quite frankly you couldn't stop, and you couldn't kill. Without Nemesis we wouldn't have had Silent Hills Pyramid Head and many other gaming bad guys I'm sure. Then there are the lightgun games, starting with Resident Evil Survivor, Resident Evil Survivor 2 Code: Veronica and then the Dead Aim versions. They might just have been cheap rip-offs originally of Sega's House of the Dead, but the addition of third person movement to the Lightgun genre and other neat little tweaks actually breathed new life into what was a dying art form, and ultimately many of the series lightgun innovations wound up back in the House of the Dead series of games. The other innovation of note for the franchise during want are known as the wilderness years between 2000 and 2005 were the co-operative online enabled Outbreak games for PS2. It's fair to say that they weren't the most technically gifted games, but they showed there was a demand for such co-op zombie bashing that others took note of.

But, despite the awesome Gamecube re-boots of the originals, and indeed the pretty spiffing Resident Evil Zero, the Resident Evil series had gone through a bit of a rough patch between 2000 and 2005. Capcom had always tied their franchise to platform exclusivity, in the early days its association with PlayStation had served it very well indeed. A brief dalliance with Sega and their Dreamcast for Code: Veronica proved pretty disastrous for the franchise, as that ill-fated system was doomed from the off sadly. A quick switch of allegiance to Nintendo also proved that Capcom's attempt at holding Sony to ransom were not wise. Sure the re-boots they released did well, but the Gamecube simply did not have the market penetration that the PS2 did, and the taking of Nintendo's coin to make the franchise Nintendo exclusive actually harmed Capcom so much that there were rumours they came close to bankruptcy before the release of what I believe is still the best game in the franchise... Resident Evil 4.


Resident Evil 4 had a tumultuous development, that went beyond the word protracted. Development on this game originally started in 1999 for the PS2, if rumours are to be believed from members of the team who have since left Capcom, it may have even started earlier, possibly as early as 1997. That would mean it had 8 years in development! There were many scrapped versions of the game along the way, there was a scrapped version in 2001 (it eventually became Devil May Cry), and then again another version was scrapped in 2002, known as the fog version. Then there was the hook man version revealed at E3 2003, which looked more like a ghost game than it did a zombies game. It did however feature the games now stock over the shoulder moving camera view. Yet again it was scrapped. When the game finally came out it was more akin to a third person action adventure, gone were the normal slow shambling zombies that were a staple of the franchise and in came the Ganado, or 'bonkers European psychopath zombies that could run' as I like to call them, although I'll concede Ganado is the snappier title. The game dropped the fixed cameras the franchise had become known for, in favour of a moving camera that was fixed behind the shoulder of the games protagonist Leon. It was undeniably a Resident Evil game, but felt fresh and different, and I still love playing it to this day.


Resident Evil 5 was the next main entrance into the franchise, with some weird Nintendo platform offshoots jammed in-between its release and that of Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 5 wasn't a bad game, in many respects it improved on the formula set down in Resident Evil 4 massively. Yet strangely as it was now on the current generation of consoles it seemed to show its age just a little bit when compared to its contemporaries. Set in Africa (somewhere) the game now focused around Majini's, they were basically like the Ganados from Resident Evil 4. While I enjoyed the game it did feel a bit formulaic. True the addition of the online co-op mode was a welcome one and I enjoyed playing the game through multiple times with lots of mates... but I felt something was missing. That brings us to 2012, or the year of Resident Evil as Capcom's marketing team would have us call it. They've released Revelations on Nintendo 3DS to critical acclaim, they've released Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City to pretty much a critical panning and there's the next installment in the franchises main storyline, Resident Evil 6, which itself has had a bit of a critical panning. The franchise might now be starting to shows its age, and it might need another Resident Evil 4 type make over, but despite the franchises ups and downs it is the grand daddy of the zombie games, and as such it gets the full maximum...

10 brains out of 10.

Conclusion

Well there they are, yes it was long, yes I wrote a lot, but you should be used to that by now, so it's your fault really for reading it. I honestly love all of these games and I just wanted to share a bit of my love for them with you. Hopefully those of you who stuck with it will have enjoyed the read, and the trip down memory lane. Yeah I know I've missed off Wolfenstein 3D, Stubbs the Zombie and Call of Duty Zombies. Yeah I feel a bit bad about Wolfenstein 3D, but the re-boot sucked donkey balls so I'd rather not discuss it, and if you were a real geek you'd know that CoD Zombies is nothing but a jumped up rip-off of Timesplitters 2 zombie mode, which by the way fact fans, is still significantly better than CoD zombies even after all this time. In fact it was so good after digging it out again that I very nearly put it in my list. As to Stubbs the Zombie, yeah, that does suck a bit I guess, as it was a pretty cool game if you ask me, a new twist on the genre and certainly very funny, but hey life is harsh sometimes. Just ask the living dead! So what do you guys think? Have I missed any good games out? Things you'd like to add?  Let me know what you think of my choices. Peace out!

6 comments:

  1. System Shock 2

    The grandfather of Deus Ex, Dead Space and Bioshock.

    Its my favorite zombie game by a mile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah Levine did produce an awesome game with System Shock 2. I enjoyed the game and I still think it's a classic. But I was faced with some of the same issues I had with the necromorphs. Namely were the bad guys zombies? It's questionable. The 'alien' infection in System Shock 2 was a bio-engineered and was alive. I'm not sure they therefore count as a version of the living dead. Great game though, and while genetically I'll agree it's the grandfather of Dead space and Bioshock, it is not the grandfather of Deus Ex. The two games were in development at the same time. In fact Deus Ex and its RPG elements were shown to the world prior to System Shock 2, it's just Ion Storm and Eidos held the game back a few months to sort out some issues they were having with the Unreal 1 engine. The two games were launched less than a year apart.

      Delete
    2. While you are correct, howver System shock does predate Deus Ex. I used the incorrect phrasing in that case.

      SS2 came out just before, but SS1 was years before. Theres no SS2 without SS1, and Deus Ex is part of that game evolution trend.

      I'd also say Doom3 borrows more from SS2 than it does from Doom

      Delete
  2. Many people around the world are so hooked with the zombie apocalypse idea. To take advantage of this trend, developers create and franchise zombie-related games. Well, when you say games, these are for all ages. I don’t know when this trend will fade away, but for now, let’s just enjoy it. Well, I haven’t got tired from playing Left 4 Dead. :D

    Clint Shaff

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great Blog!! That was amazing. Your thought processing is wonderful. The way you tell the thing is awesome. You are really a master.
    Retail Franchise

    ReplyDelete