Sunday, 13 March 2011

Top 10 Zombie Infestation Games

Many gamers believe that the onslaught of videogames themed around zombies, or the apocalypse there of, is a fairly recent trend. While it’s true that the current-generation of videogames consoles offers plenty of shuffling undead to empty those shotgun rounds into or hack apart with your chainsaw, this is nothing new. Every mainstream videogame system has received its fair amount of infestations, and today here's a look at ten of the best.

So what were the criteria for the Top 10 Zombie Infestation Games of all time? Well, the zombie onslaughts had to be unique, or groundbreaking for their genre. SEGA’s House of the Dead is a fantastic game, but a light-gun game downing zombies and mutants was hardly inspiring. D3 Publisher’s underrated Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers and Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad featured the hacking-and-slashing of zombies whilst wearing, you guessed it, a bikini. But aside from the strange fashion sense, the Onechanbara games were fairly familiar combat-based affairs. Instead, ten games that pushed the boundaries in one way or another follow below.
10. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4
            “But they’re not zombies!” You may well cry, but in truth none of the enemies featured in the Resident Evil series were zombies by the classic definition. Instead, they’re the result of an artificial infection – the modern day zombie as opposed to the traditional rise-from-the-grave horror cliché. So, the Ganados, infected, lumbering enemies with a mind only for killing, are just as credible under the label “zombie” as any in the series.
9. Trapped Dead
            The newest title on this week’s Sunday Special Top Ten, Trapped Dead is Headup Games and Iceberg Interactive’s modern take on the top-down panic-shooter, much like the famous Commandos series. Here, the player must fight their way through hordes of zombies in a fashion not too dissimilar from Valve’s hugely popular Left 4 Dead series, but without reason nor rhyme – just the will to survive.
8. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
            Perhaps the most popular of all recent zombie infested videogames, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare surely need little introduction. Originally devised as a downloadable content (DLC) pack for Rockstar Games’ phenomenally successful Red Dead Redemption, the pack soon saw its own retail release at a wallet friendly price, playable without the original disc: essentially making Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare a whole new game in its own right.
7. Carmageddon
            Younger gamers may not appreciate just how much the modern industry owes to Carmageddon. Light years ahead of it’s time, Stainless Games’ violent creation featured the first soundtrack ever delivered by a successful chart band and included some groundbreaking physics and movie-making software. Of course, it also offered the most graphic depiction of vehicular combat the industry had ever seen, and it did it with style. Players received bonuses for their ability to handle the unwieldy vehicles as well as utilising the many ludicrous power-ups wisely, as well as the style with which they ran down the lumbering pedestrians. Of course, in the original version of the game these pedestrians were in fact humans, but due to UK censorship Carmageddon hit store shelves featuring only zombies with green blood – including the cows.
Dead Rising
6. Dead Rising
            Dead Rising makes its way into this week’s Sunday Special Top Ten not so much for its zombies – fairly run-of-the-mill as they are – but for its setting. Willamette Mall was such a stroke of inspiration that, at the time, it blew away audiences the world over. Never had a videogame depicted such a contemporary setting for its over-the-top violence, and rarely has it since. Of course, the incredibly ‘gamey’ mechanics of Dead Rising put many players off: while there were plenty of gamers happy to play the game as intended, battling their way through the story and deadly psychos, many just wanted to hack apart zombies, an activity that quickly lost it’s lustre.
5. Zombies
            A cult classic from videogames’ 16-bit heyday, Zombies (known as Zombies Ate My Neighbors is the US) was an instant success thanks to its simultaneously two-player co-operative gameplay, bizarre weapon set and ludicrous boss fights. Originally released on both the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and Mega-Drive, an eventual Virtual Console release on Wii saw Zombies receive even further praise fifteen years after release. Fans of the title has been calling for an Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network release, reworked to allow for online play, but whether or not te game will ever be presented as such remains to be seen.
Resident Evil
4. Resident Evil
            Resident Evil was undeniably the videogame that put the horror genre at the forefront of the industry. Without it – or without a game as successful as it was, at least – it’s obvious that the horror genre would not have become as popular as it is now. The reason the original title placed so much higher than that of Resident Evil 4 should be obvious to most; while the enemies here are no closer to the traditionally accepted definition of a zombie in terms of origin, there is a significant difference in the looks department, with the basic enemies of Resident Evil fitting the part much closer.
3. Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse
What’s better than surviving a zombie invasion? Causing one of course! In 1933, during the Great Depression, Eddie Stubbs is a traveling salesman trying to make a living. He temporarily finds happiness with a girl named Maggie Monday, but he meets his unfortunate end when Maggie's father comes home, chases him outside and murders him, dumping his body in the wilderness. Twenty-six years later, Stubbs rises from his grave, taking to the newly established town of Punchbowl to enact his revenge.

Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse
In Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse, the player is cast as Stubbs, with the primary goal of killing humans and devouring their brains. Eating brains will convert those humans into zombies, causing them to fight alongside the player, creating a zombie army that has since influnced many titles, including Tecmo Koei Europe’s PlayStation Portable sleeper-hit, Undead Knights. A game surpsingly open to intrepretation, Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse unfortunately missed out on the audience it truly deserved due to arriving too late in the lifespan of the previous generation of consoles, and given that the developer, Wideload Games, was purchased by Disney Interactive back in 2009, it’s unlikely that Stubbs will ever return.
2. Plants Vs. Zombies
Plants Vs. Zombies
            One of the most prolific casual game developers in the modern industry, PopCap Games broke the mould with Plants Vs. Zombies. Rewriting the fairy recently written rules of the Tower Defence genre, Plants Vs. Zombies is not only effortlessly enjoyable, but it is also irrefutably charming. Placing your grooving sunflowers and wild-eyed walnuts as a defensive line as Crazy Dave blathers at you about upgrades, Plants Vs. Zombies is certainly a unique game, and that’s before we even get to the zombies themselves.
            Dozens of zombie types are included in the game, from high-jumping zombies to American Football players, and the infamous removal of a Michael Jackson inspired zombie – redrawn as a more generic disco dancing zombie at the request of Jackson’s estate after the King of Pop’s untimely death. The game has been subject to significant commercial success as well as critical acclaim, reportedly being one of the highest grossing games on the iOS format, the recently released Plants Vs. Zombies Game of the Year Edition is a fantastic package for PC gamers and the Xbox LIVE Arcade edition even goes so far as to include a number of multiplayer modes.
Left 4 Dead
1. Left 4 Dead
            One of the most frequently reoccurring videogame series in Electronic Theatre’s Sunday Special feature, Valve’s Left 4 Dead games are phenomenally popular titles, and with good reason. Featuring four playable survivors trying their best to escape from the zombie apocalypse, and somehow managing to repeatedly find themselves in an even worse situation, both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 offer one of the most immaculately designed co-operative experiences videogames have ever seen.
            Tense struggles against the zombie hordes, players have to cover each others backs as they attempt to find an adequate escape route, managing their limited supplies and ensuring each player has the right equipment for the job. Left 4 Dead 2 throws worsening conditions into the mix, be it the weather or the seemingly insane obstacles that the players must overcome, and all the while it’s delivered with such distinction that few imitators have tried to take it’s crown for the fear of almost inevitable failure. One of the finest examples of why the current-generation consoles can be used for more than just prettier visuals, Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are simply the best vision of a zombie infestation that videogames have ever witnessed.


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