The Zombie Invasion

By Alec Meer on October 28th, 2008 at 12:05 am.

How many zombies does it take to make a meme? How many zombies is too many zombies? And why is every game suddenly obsessed with them? Well, even more so than usual.

It certainly seems like the en vogue way to drum up renewed interest in a game right now – no less than three usually non-zombie-centric titles have made the headlines in the last few days thanks to a little unexpected undeadery.

First up, we’ve got Call of Duty 5 announcing its new zombies-in-world-war-2 mode, apparently unlocked upon completing the singleplayer game:

The reaction to it is interesting – there’s been so much “oh, not WW2 again” negativity towards the game from some corners, but the revelation that it’s got a little of the fantastical thrown in with all those Nazis seems to have gotten people talking. Bodes well for Wolfenstein, I guess.

Over in console land, GTA IV’s enjoying a zombie outbreak, spread by infected players traipsing across multiplayer servers and passing on the zomb virus to all and sundry. It’s an almost an ARG, becoming a global epidemic that can be monitored via Rockstar’s somewhat superfluous Social Club community site. With the PC release hitting soon, hopefully this Halloween-themed (Hallothemed?) bonus will trickle down to us lot too.

Then there’s the World of Warcraft plague, something of a herald for the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion. It’s a similarish concept to GTA’s, only here the scale is naturally massive. Players can contract the infection all too easily, and if they don’t manage to cure it within a couple of minutes, they become zombified (and remain so until kiled). They can then zombify passing innocents thanks to a gruesomely effective area of effect Retch attack. Oh, and zombies can attack anyone, be they player or AI.

Cue piles of corpses, mass ganking and cities ritually devoid of NPCs. Quite a few players are pretty damned ticked off about it, feeling they’ve been pushed into PVP and that their questing and shopping is being horribly disrupted by all this undead tomfoolery. Well, yeah. But zombie invasions aren’t exactly known for their convenience. Blizzard say it’ll all be over soon, but it’s been an interesting social experiment. “This event absolutely was meant to shake up the status quo of the average WoW day, and in that it’s been successful,” says a post on the official forum (via Blues). It’s certainly created hype for Lich King, plus it’s a hint to those long tired of WoW that perhaps Blizzard really do have the stones to make dramatic changes.

Three games, three unexpected zombie outbreaks. Oh, and Left 4 Dead on the way too. We’re dreaming of a green, foetid Christmas.

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36 Comments »

  1. jambamagamba says:

    Good stuff! and with Dead Set on the telly and many a zombie film due out, it should be a rancid few months.

  2. gbarules2999 says:

    I am unabashedly in the camp that enjoys zombie games/movies, even though on a certain level I know they’re kind of lame.

    Left4dead, please.

  3. jdog61 says:

    I agree theat the zombie gameplay is infecting gamers around the world with loads of undead coming our way this christmas.

  4. Gladman says:

    @jambamgamba

    Worst actors I’ve ever seen.

    @ CoD W@W

    Do they not have ANY original ideas

  5. Down Rodeo says:

    I did not expect that from CoD. It leaves me cold.

  6. Dracko says:

    Originality is over-rated.

  7. sinister agent says:

    I love zombies as much as the next man (provided, of course, that the next man loves zombies precisely as much as I do), but there really does seem to be way too much of a zombie fad going on these days. I worry about seeing too much of a good thing, you know?

  8. Ruke says:

    Call of duty 5: “Well, we figured we’d rip off the exact gameplay concept from left 4 dead, all the way down to the 4 person co-op mode. Sure it’ll be half assed and added on at the end, but hey, we have to be able to steal sales from someone.”

  9. Greyface says:

    Let me guess, does Blizzard have a human NPC named Sha’un who has Red on him and uses a cricket bat?

    Ridiculous the levels they go to.

  10. Noc says:

    You know, when I read the COD5 thing, the first thing I thought of wasn’t Left 4 Dead. It was Killing Floor, a Zombie mod for UT2004 that my friends and I had a blast with a few years ago. The reason is that both of these games seem to involve more barricading yourself in somewhere and desperately trying to keep the zombies out, while L4D seems to be about moving forwards through a zombie-infested level and clearing them out as you go.

    And KF was tremendous fun.

  11. Muzman says:

    The zombie zeitgeist is a little thick at the moment. But so much of it feels obliged to be cheap and dodgy. Maybe the concept can’t survive classing up, I don’t know.
    Games seem to be the best place for them though. Old zombie movies were all about ‘what would it be like?’, before it all got a little rote. Now you can live it!

  12. malkav11 says:

    With the possible exception of Left 4 Dead, I think free online games like Kevan Davis’s Urban Dead and the Last Stand games (not to mention the amazingly wonderful, though not actually terrifically zombie-oriented Zombie Smashers X2. Wait, that’s neither free nor online. But it’s indie!) are still capturing the joys of the zombie milieu best.

  13. thefanciestofpants says:

    Every game has room for a mode with zombies!

    For fuck’s sake Alec, I’m really trying NOT to play WoW again. Thanks a lot.

  14. Mark Stephenson says:

    I guess it’s down to WWZ that zombies are back en vogue it’s justa shame by the time the film comes out that it will be seen to be hanging on the coattails of everyone else. I enjoyed Dead Set last night too.

  15. Muzman says:

    Most of the nineties til now seems thick with zombie stuff. Then you get Resident Evil movies, 28 Days Later, Romero remakes doing well and then Romero himself is back and it’s all looking up for zombies. Books, comics etc just the icing.
    They are a good 21st century boogeyman. There might be too many things around at the moment but hopefully it stop us from moving on from friggin UFOs and such.
    There is a serious counter attack being amassed from vampires at the moment though (I’ve had about enough of them too).

  16. Muzman says:

    *sigh* proofreading is for chumps.
    …hopefully it won’t stop us moving on from UFOs…

  17. Premium User Badge

    MonkeyMonster says:

    oooh, zombies v vampires with humans in between…. Vampires would have to protect their source of food – oh the irony!

  18. Muzman says:

    You’ve been scooped there I’m afraid (also apparently being made into a film)

  19. Tei says:

    I don’t really like the ravenhold part that much. Maybe is my #14 favorite part. But It has character, and flavour, I have to admit that.

  20. Rosti says:

    I quite like the Zombocalypse but I’ll say I prefer it when breaking new/interesting ground rather than just as a short hand for villains (if the same game would happen with ‘Damn Commies’, for example, then that might be better for a retro vibe. Neither drink water)

    So to conclude: Zafehouse YES, Generic FPS Target NO!

  21. Darth says:

    Zombie flash game, for all interested; http://www.zombiegames.net/games/The-Last-Stand-2.html

  22. Iain says:

    A browser-based Zombie MMOG. It’s been going for ages, so you may all know about it, but it’s been one of my favourite work avoidance strategies for a couple of years now.

  23. Bobsy says:

    Anything that really annoys the WoW community, I heartily approve of.

  24. Aubrey says:

    That barricading stuff is straight out of Cottage of Doom.

  25. Alex May says:

    The barricading mechanic is really nice as proven by my own game Cottage of Doom.

    oh man i’m getting good at this self promotion thing, phew

  26. Premium User Badge

    MonkeyMonster says:

    After discussing it in the chat room last night – I’m awaiting Steve’s zombie text based adventure… :D

  27. cullnean says:

    dead set was on the telly box last night, twas good

  28. YogSo says:

    When I read about the zombies-in-WWII mode, the first thing I thought was Fiends Of The Eastern Front. Now, that would be a cool setting for a videogame, and slightly more original than the good ol’ zombie meme. I mean, everybody knows that Romanian Vampire Lords > Zombie Nazi Soldiers, right? Rebellion should give it a go…

  29. Ergates says:

    Zombies are great in games because, basically, they’re like Nazis. They’re essentially humans, but humans you can gun down in vast numbers without feeling bad about.

  30. qrter says:

    The reason is that both of these games seem to involve more barricading yourself in somewhere and desperately trying to keep the zombies out, while L4D seems to be about moving forwards through a zombie-infested level and clearing them out as you go.

    L4D is more Zombie Classic, though – you generally are moving towards a helicopter pad. It’s more about the moving forward than the clearing out.

    (Look, I have to defend to myself preordering the damned thing a few days ago.. ;) )

  31. Fumarole says:

    Ahem,

    Nothing compared to Left 4 Dead!

  32. Matt says:

    I loved Dead Set last night. It was so awesomely shoite, as was to be expected/intended. And Zombie Davina ftw!

    Played L4D at Showdown, but couldn’t quite get into it. Mainly due to the sounds of the event going on in the background. I really need to play it on my own in my bedroom in the dark with headphones on. T’will be nothing short of sexcellent.

  33. smorg says:

    You just can’t beat a zombie invasion. Except with a cricket bat maybe

  34. pepper says:

    Ah, nothing can beat slaughtering zombies whilst enjoying a nice glass of beer/wine/liquor of choice whilst wielding a saw-off underneath a sunset….

  35. x25killa says:

    Bbbbrrraaaiiiiinnnnsssss?

    I also notice this zombie trend. Now, where did I place that rifle…

  36. pepper says:

    I think the zombie trend was worse a couple of years ago, with all the movies coming out that featured a zombie doomsday scenario.