Zombie Driver HD
You know, in real life driving your car at high speed into a horde of the walking dead would be a terrible idea. You’d smash up your bonnet, ruin the paintwork, get covered in entrails, and on top of that you’d be picking strands of pulped zombie testicle out of the glove-box for months. Not to mention the points on your license. Luckily for fans of vehicular zombicide, however, neither the laws of physics or basic road safety regulations mean anything in the world of Zombie Driver HD!
It’s some point in the near future and careless scientists have caused a nuclear meltdown or some shit, releasing hordes of slavering undead into the cities and highways of America. Quite how this has happened is not made clear, but I got the feeling I wasn’t meant to think too much about it. Presumably the surviving world leaders are all quaffing jugfuls of weapons-grade hallucinogen, because their ingenious solution to this problem is to send a man in a taxi off to sort everything out. You are that brave man in a taxi.
The title will give you some clue as to how gameplay pans out. You’ll zip about with the usual loopy top-down arcade racer handling, pulping zombies as you crash into them, and picking up various health and weapon pickups along the way. Your armoury includes a pair of satisfying dual-mounted machineguns, rockets, railguns, and a flame-thrower that compared to the other guns is about as useful as having a can of Febreze sellotaped to the front of your car. Sliding about smooshing enemies with hand-brake terms and railgun blasts is inherently pretty fun, and it’s made even more so by the amusingly gory effects that send chunks of blood and gore flying about. It’s all pretty basic stuff, but the game gets those basics right.
You can put your zombie-squashing skills to use in three different modes. The first is the laughably titled ‘Story Mode’, which actually contains less plot than your average Michael Bay film. OK, OK, I know this isn’t the sort of game that’s going to be concerned with developing a complex narrative, but you have to have some reason to work your way through a campaign which promises to last eight blinking hours. As it is, story mode will begin to test the very limits of your patience very quickly. Fun as the basic drivey-splatty gameplay is, it really doesn’t lend itself well to a sustained campaign- there’s a few different objectives like escort missions that mix things up a little, but it all essentially comes down to running over batch after batch after batch of zombies. And rescuing interminably chatty civilians with unskippable dialogue. It gets old quickly, is what I’m saying.
Tournament mode, or ‘Blood Race’ as it’s called in-game, is where your time will be better spent. Here you’ll find various different races to take part in, with a few different objectives. Some are simple time trials, others are last man standing endurance battles a la Mario Kart, or kill-based deathmatches. Zombie Driver feels more at home when it’s played in shorter bursts, and there’s plenty of arcade fun here for those who want a quick session. Unfortunately, developers EXOR Studios have elected to leave out head-to-head multiplayer, both online and offline. It’s an odd decision, since the core gameplay would seem to lend itself so well to single console Micro Machines type chaos. As it is, the lack of a traditional multiplayer option will dramatically shorten the lifespan of the game for the majority of users.
‘Slaughter Mode’ sticks you on an enclosed arena and sends waves of enemies at you. You then drive about smashing things like Mel Gibson in an American high-street at three o’clock in the morning. That’s about as complicated as it gets.
In lieu of a head-to-head mode you can compete with both friends and strangers via the online leaderboard, checking out your scores against theirs in the various different events. Battling to maintain the highest score can be a reasonably entertaining diversion, but it’s hardly a substitute for taking on your friends in person.
It’s a shame that corners have been cut with the multiplayer side of things, because Zombie Driver is an endearing game in many ways. The graphics are glossy and neat, the driving is satisfying and there’s a pulpy charm to the whole package. There’s a decent amount of content for the price tag, too. The problem is that the singleplayer package stretches the pretty basic gameplay worryingly thin, and leaderboard competition can only keep you interested for so long. If you’re looking for a decent arcade romp you could do a lot worse than pick up Zombie Driver HD. It’s just that you could do a lot better, too.