Developer: EXOR Studios
Cost: 800 MS Points
Zombie Driver HD Review (Xbox 360)
When the world comes to an apocalyptic end and is over-run with endless hordes of the rotting undead, are you going to bunker down and live out the rest of your days in a dark hole or will you ride the storm and say no to death?
Well, Zombie Driver HD looks to give you an experience more akin to the latter, but unfortunately chooses to do so with a game that has moments of extreme fun and enjoyment but many more of pure tedium and repetition that will leave you wanting to find the nearest dark hole to dive into.
Zombie Driver is a simple game to understand; you’re given a car, told to drive it and shoot anything that moves, all while attempting not to get blown up in the process. Killing zombies and collecting upgrades are basically all you need, or should, care about. Yes you have to rescue pesky civilians in the story mode but doing so rewards you with more upgrades and more cars so again, that’s all you should care about.
While killing zombies and collecting upgrades is a relatively enjoyable experience, the novelty begins to wear off after less than an hour. The game’s story mode is merely a few hours long, is actually devoid of a narrative for the most part, and is repetitive to the point of frustration.
Each mission basically consists of you finding a trapped civilian, rescuing them from an encirclement of zombies and ferrying them back to base like a taxi service (ironically the first vehicle you command is a taxi). The first few times you do this aren’t so bad but once you’ve done it five or six times consecutively with little variation in the formula, things begin to get tedious.
Zombie Driver’s story mode uses that term extremely lightly because there is no story there to speak of. Because of its lack of variety and excitement, it falls to one of the other modes in the game to provide the excitement, and that mode would be the slaughter mode.
Slaughter mode is basically the all-familiar ‘horde’ mode that you’ve played in other games like Gears of War, only this time you’re on four wheels rather than two feet. You have to survive endless waves of undead whilst killing as many of them as possible to crank up the combos and collect humungous scores to put you on the leaderboard. Slaughter is arguably the most fun element in the entirety of Zombie Driver but even the novelty of that begins to dissipate after an hour, simply because it’s so easy to collect a giant score if you choose to sit down and put the time in.
Whether you’re playing the story mode or slaughter, the reasons to keep playing after you’ve finished or gotten bored are minimal to the point of non-existent. There is no multiplayer to liven things up or incentives to continue playing. The result is an empty experience that rewards you with very little, if anything, for choosing to spend time on the game despite finishing what it has to offer. The longevity just isn’t there. At all.
Outside of the aforementioned issues, Zombie Driver also struggles with an awkward control style. For a start, the camera seems too close to the vehicle, which results in awkward movements and a difficulty in keeping focus on where you’re going when it’s shifting around. The top-down viewing style can also take a while to get used to as anticipating when the current road will end and the next will start are as much a concern as making sure you don’t slam into a wall.
Not only that, the combat can be tricky as you have to constantly reverse in order to get back into the fray, which can be irritating when all you want to do is mow down the pack of zombies sitting tantalisingly in front of you, not to mention it leaves you open to being surrounded by zombies that can, and will, pound your car till it’s ablaze. But you’re in a car, and cars don’t move sideways so certain navigational limitations have to be expected, obviously.
Zombie Driver wants you to do not much more than drive through zombies and shoot them, and for the most part it works well in giving you the tools to do just that. You can change your car and/or purchase upgrades for it before missions, albeit with a horrendous user interface complete with miniscule text that almost needs a telescope to read, and there are plenty of weapons and upgrades to collect mid-play, such as machine guns, flamethrowers and rockets. The tools are there for you to use against the undead population, it’s just unfortunate that using them isn’t as fun later on as it is when you experience it for the first time.
Aside from a flawed control scheme and other problems, Zombie Driver generally doesn’t look too bad. It’s certainly not spectacular but for an Xbox Live Arcade title, it more than passes as acceptable. The lighting effects during night-time segments are actually rather impressive and even during the day it manages to look fine.
In the sound department, things are also of a decent standard. The same cannot be said for the voice acting, however. In the infrequent times when you encounter somebody with a voice, the acting is generally sub-par and was clearly not a main focus of the game. Certain civilians sound as though they’re reading from a script and not much more, and while that may not be a huge problem in a game like Zombie Driver, it’s noticeable nevertheless.
It’s undeniable that Zombie Driver is a fun title – for a short time. That fun would last longer had the game not chosen to have a story mode that makes you feel like driving the car into the wall fifty times just to see what would happen, or if it had multiplayer to make the raw enjoyment of the slaughter mode have a longer life.
Unfortunately any novelty that you experience with Zombie Driver quickly disappears the longer you play it, and that won’t be long at all. The ingredients were there for a wonderfully fun and quirky game but the finished product is a limp and tasteless specimen.