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The Zombie Invasion

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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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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