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Have You Played… Urban Dead?

"There are four dead bodies here"

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Urban Dead [official site] is the zombie apocalypse MMO I’ve always wanted, stuck in the body of a web browser game. Back when I played, you’d begin life as a doctor, fireman or just a mall rat. But inevitably you’d forget to board up the house you’re in and log in to discover yourself a walking corpse, only able to communicate to other players through groans and grunts. With some luck and compassion, however, those human players might actually understand you.

The zombie “language” of Urban Dead is great. You type in your sentence and the game scrambles it up with “ggrrrrs” and “hhharghs” and “bluurgs” before broadcasting it to other people. If you learn how to anticipate the changes in the lettering, you can construct sentences as close as possible to English. This meant you'd find the odd player who had done their research shambling up to protected buildings and speaking in a weird half-understandable zombielang, asking to be revived and brought back to human form – something that can only be done by another player with a specific device.

The trouble, of course, is that this is all done in a browser with old HTML buttons and the need to constantly refresh the page (Nexus War was another good one of these, but it’s now defunct). When I was younger, this only added to the sense of a city where things can go wrong quickly. Survivors and zombies would engage in big “refresh battles”, boarding up windows and doors with every click, or clawing and smashing them down in opposition. You might hit a button one moment, with the building secured, only to click again and discover you’ve been bitten to death and thrown out of the safehouse with the other unlucky souls.

It’s still running, something of which the prolific creator Kevan Davis can be proud (he’s the developer who also made the original Zombie Infection Simulation). And though I probably wouldn't have the patience for it today, I certainly won’t forget those sieges at Caiger Mall.

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