The title “Zombie Driver” can be seen two ways. It can be seen as incredibly generic and indicative of ‘just another’ zombie game, or it can be seen as basic and right to the point. I would like to imagine it as the latter. You’re a driver, and you kill zombies. If the thought of mowing down zombies in a top-down environment doesn’t get your blood pumping, then look elsewhere for your entertainment fix. You will run over zombies. A lot of zombies. While this year is Zombie Driver’s HD debut on the PS3 and XBOX 360, it has been available for the PC since 2009. Does this HD gore-fest deserve your dollars, or is it just another B-rated addition to the zombie canon?
As mentioned before, this game is about a driver (you) and zombies (not you). You play a taxi driver who apparently didn’t notice the steady decline in cab fares as the zombie apocalypse happened outside. Things have gotten so bad that the army has called on you to run missions for them. The plot is pretty thin and only serves to get you to drive to point A in order to rescue, destroy, or kill B. The voice acting is campy at best and the attempted twists and turns of the narrative can be seen from a mile away. It’s a bit of a shame that there wasn’t more effort put into the games writing, but it serves its purpose well enough to keep you interested. Some might be a little more critical of the game for having a paper-thin plot, but you know, I don’t imagine that plot was high on EXOR Studios list when making this game.
What shines the brightest about this game is its gameplay, though even that isn’t without a few drawbacks. The game is presented in a top-down style (like the early GTA games) and each mission has a location marked on your map. Your goal is to get to said location and, probably, kill whatever is there. The more missions you complete the more cash you will earn in order to upgrade your car or purchase new weapons. You can also earn extra cash by performing secondary objectives or by running over large numbers of zombies. The real fun is what happens along the way. It is up to you to decide how best to get there. You can follow the main roads, but you will leave yourself open to larger hoards of zombies and lose out on some unique power-ups. However if you feel like testing your skills (which can be especially hard during a rescue mission) you can drive through fences and back alleys, maybe finding a quicker route, but possibly leading to more damage done to your car along the way. The controls feel responsive, but a little unfamiliar at first. After the first few missions they should come as second nature. A second reason for this unfamiliar feeling is that EXOR did a great job with the game’s physics. You simply can’t mow through a huge crowd of zombies without taking substantial damage, and can even come to a stop if you go through too many. The environment acts this way too, no two objects interact the same with your car, and it is the small touches like these that make the game stand out.
This game is not, however, without its drawbacks. Firstly, the menu and mission texts are much too small. It becomes a constant strain to read them and eventually you’ll just decide to look at the red mark on your map and figure it out when you get there. It is a small problem overall, but it does stand out. The main game is also over quite quickly. I wouldn’t say it isn’t worth the $10 price of admission, but it does seem like there was some unfulfilled potential left that EXOR could have easily filled. They do add a few additional modes to even out the package, and it works quite well. Slaughter mode exists for those who just want to wipe out hoard after hoard. It has you playing against progressively harder and larger waves of zombies with upgrades occurring between each wave. It’s a fun little diversion, but feels much like the main game without the mission-oriented format. The third mode is a letdown for the reason that this game offers no sort of multiplayer support at all. While it would be incredibly fun play through the main game or the Slaughter mode with a friend (either local or online), the Blood Race mode would have been amazing. Blood Race puts you up against AI driven cars and zombie-infested roads. The mode offers the standard race to the finish (with all guns and upgrades available) as well as the ‘take as many opponents out before the timer runs out’ and the ‘hit checkpoints to increase your time’ offerings. While each mode is fun on its own, the entire game would have benefited greatly from the inclusion of some sort of multiplayer.
At $10 (on XBLA and PSN) it’s hard to go wrong if all you want is a zombie splatter fest, but it’s easy to see why some might be drawn away from this title. Zombie Driver HD earns 4 stars, but I can see why some might feel it a little less deserving. While it does offer a highly enjoyable, if not brief, maniacal romp through the zombie apocalypse, there isn’t really much meat beneath the surface. It’s a fun arcade-style driver with zombies and if that’s what you’re looking for, well you can’t do much better than this.