“Survive Or Get Pulled Apart”
Those fellas that like to chew on human flesh appear to be very popular at the moment. Over the last for years we’ve seen a staggering rise in the number of zombie games being released. Some of my personal favourites are the Dead Rising series and the new XBLA game State Of Decay. Both are different in their approach to the idea of a zombie apocalypse, Dead Rising preferring a light hearted comical approach to the subgenre while State Of Decay is much more of a ‘survive or get pulled apart by the undead’ sort of thing. But one of the most important elements that separates these games, and often separates fan opinion, is the preference for fast and manic zombies or the choice to go with slow shuffling zombies.
“Those Things Are Creepy”
Typically within the more recent video games we see a preference for those very athletic hordes that just love to chase you around. We’ve seen it in the recent Call Of Duty games, Valve’s Left 4 Dead games, the Red Dead Redemption DLC ‘Undead Nightmare’ and so on. As these games are all heavy on the gun play it makes sense to have crazed chompers running around. They’re a lot harder to shoot, because they move fast, and makes quick reactions at the heart of the gameplay. And as typical elements of survival horror are generally not taken into consideration (other than the need to stay alive) spraying a hundred rounds in the direction of a fast zombie is no problem as there is often plenty of ammo. Plus there are very few things scarier than a crazed undead mutant creature sprinting at you with the sole purpose of eating your guts. Have you seen 28 Days Later? Those things are creepy.
“It’s Slow, But Builds Suspense”
But the fast zombies do take something away from the popular zombie subgenre of survival horror. That something being suspense. The action is quick and violent, but over quickly. This isn’t the case with slow, shuffling, old school zombies. While these zombies are easy to shoot, e.g. Dead Rising or Resident Evil, in numbers they prove to be an unending, unstoppable enemy. It becomes a war of attrition, slowly wearing down your will to fight as you whittle away at their huge numbers. Before long you’re overwhelmed and no matter what you do you don’t have the strength to kill them all. It’s slow, but builds suspense. Then you mix them with a dark and creepy setting, and everything starts to grind away at your nerves. There is only so long you can cope with being afraid.
“Pressure On Your Hardware”
It’s only technical problems that limit the use of slow zombies. As seen in the first Dead Rising, having so many undead on the screen at one time puts a lot of pressure on your hardware. So much information to process can cause it to crash, but it does seem to be a problem that can be fixed. You don’t get this with fast zombies. You can use processing power for explosions, blood and gore, or any number of exciting action elements. Making it much more exciting, adrenaline pumping experience is alright for some people, but not for others. It can compromise the quality of the story, some want more drama and less action.
“Back To Story”
Again I’m back to story (did I not talk enough about it last week). The most common cause of zombie-ness these days is the spread of an aggressive virus or disease. This most likely derives from modern day fears of killer diseases and super viruses that plague us through the media. But as the more youthful of our readers may not realise, zombies weren’t always the side effect of a virus outbreak. They were once the result of a supernatural event, like the stories of ghosts and vampires. This shift in origin stories may be partially responsible to the rise of the super fast zombie. After all the supernatural zombie, risen from the grave, is rotting and falling apart. It can’t run. But if someone gets infected, their muscles and joints are still able to work. So you get fast zombies.
“They Stumble As They Go”
That’s not to say you don’t get fast zombies and suspense. Just check out State Of Decay, those things run at you. Not quite in the sense of Left 4 Dead, as in State of Decay they stumble as they go. That’s a pretty good compromise. And the entire game is based around survival as you have to look after your base and search for supplies. Plus, much like in the very popular Arma 2 patch, Day-Z, you have perma-death. Permanent Death! No respawns! That’s a true fight for survival. And that is what you do a lot of, fighting. It can be very action packed, depending on your play style. So maybe, with a good compromise, we could resolve the age old argument of which is better. But do you really want to compromise? I didn’t think so.
So it depends on what sort of story you’re looking for. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. Choice. What are you looking for in your zombie focused games? Survival or explosions? Outbreak or voodoo? Suspense or action? Slow or Fast? Which is why neither one is the best. It all comes down to personal preference. Neither side wins.
Except slow zombies, because I prefer them. And I win.