By now you’ve probably already seen the incredible trailer for the upcoming zombie game, “Dead Island.” If you’re like most people, you can’t argue how solid it was put together, and deny the amount of hype a single trailer can gather despite not showing really anything of what the game will actually be like. If you’re not like most people, perhaps you sat unimpressed at yet another piece of zombie entertainment.
Zombie’s have always been a staple in videogames, but at this point in time, these classic undead characters seem to be popping up out of the grave in just about everything. From re-writes of classic novels… with zombies, to comic books, and movies, the zombie craze seems to have gotten its 15 minutes of fame, and then some.
A few days ago I posted the trailer for Dead Island on my Facebook page, and a few friends immediately responded, and one in particular said, “Trailer is super well made. You sick of zombie games/stuff yet?” I knew the whole zombie thing was getting out of control, but it wasn’t until he asked me that, that it really struck me. We’ve got zombie modes in games, zombie themed games, most of which are copying exactly what we see in our zombie themed movies, we now even have zombies on TV! You can’t escape it. I feel bad for anyone who hates zombies.
My answer to him, surprisingly (even to myself) was no. I am not sick of it. Not yet. I still think there’s a lot of great ideas that have yet to be done with zombies, especially in videogames.
One of the biggest opportunities I think the industry has with zombie entertainment is along the same lines as Valve’s massively popular ‘Left 4 Dead’ series. I was one of the few who never really got sucked into it. I purchased it, and gave it a fair shot but it didn’t captivate me like everyone else. The reason behind it mostly was there was no fear behind any decision being made, or behind any of the situations. Valve decided to take a more arcade, or pure action stance with the series. I’d love to see a much more slowed down version of Left 4 Dead. Think the original Resident Evil meets Left 4 Dead meets (wait for it) …Rainbow Six. I’m not insane, and here’s why.
In Left 4 Dead, I never felt truly responsible for anything. I never felt much of anything to be honest, beside the occasional sense of overwhelmingness. But what if you took the eeriness of the original Resident Evil, and the gameplay of Left 4 Dead, and slowed it all down. Make every move count. There could be a character who’s strong, and carries weapons for everyone, a medic who knows how to use the supplies, and is the only character that could administer medical help, and other characters that specialize in other essentials. You need each other to survive. Provide a reason to actually care when your friend gets snatched up, and you’ll end up with a real feeling of dependance. That of course, can lead to fear. Everyone watching everyone’s back.
So what’s with the Rainbow Six element? Rainbow Six online play to me has always been the absolute best at making me feel like everything I do counts. Every decision I make, whether it’s to look out a window or not – even for a second, could be the difference between my squad-mates surviving or me with a hole in my head. The reason Rainbow Six has this atmosphere is because every bullet matters. It’s very realistic. You can’t run around jumping like other FPS games. You have to be somewhat strategical and approach the game differently. So let’s take our Left 4 Dead type game, and slow it down. Again, in Left 4 Dead, you face nonstop phases of zombie hordes. It was cool at first but very quickly the novelty of it wore off on me. Let’s slow it down, fewer zombies, greater consequences. They could still be physically fast, and ferocious, but there would just be a lot less of them. If every zombie had the ability to kill you, then every single zombie would be terrifying. Every moment spent playing would be absolutely scary, if at any moment a zombie could pop out and bite you.
Imagine you and your friends making your way through an abandoned school, down a sinister looking hallway. The lights are all broken, except one in the distance which is flickering on and off. Everything feels tight, it’s a claustrophobic walk from one end of the hallway to the other and both sides of you are littered with lockers. Who knows what could be waiting to jump out at you. The joy of the game would be the sense that at any moment, things could go from perfectly fine to horribly bad. I’d have just as much fun if nothing ended up popping out of the lockers then if something actually did. The sense of relief, and making it one step further with everyone alive would be good enough. But let’s say a zombie did jump out and manage to scratch or even bite one of your teammates. Game over? Sort of. What if just like in every zombie movie you’ve ever seen, that means they will eventually turn into a zombie? What if they had a certain amount of time to continue helping your squad reach the next destination before the CPU took over and they turned into a zombie? It’s up to you to kill your friend, and move on. Perhaps it was your medic? Now whoever has to carry the medical supplies, has to carry less ammo to make up for it, and will take longer healing wounds because being a medic isn’t there specialty. Because you didn’t work together perfectly, you are now without one of your teammates, and the game has now gotten harder, and the intensity is only heightened.
I have a lot of ideas, and I hope developers begin taking different approaches with this element, because even though we’ve been flooded with zombies, there’s still a whole lot left that we can do with them. I’m excited to see if ‘Dead Island’ makes an appearance at E3, or if any more details are shed on the actual gameplay because the emotion apparent in the trailer is a step in a new, better direction.
How about you? Are you sick of this zombie apocalypse? What would you like to see appear in the next zombie game? For more thoughts, check out Platform Nation’s own Paul Simister and his article here.