When Tom handed me the game I had two thoughts:
1) Carmageddon – with zombies!
2) Why are there three quotes on this box with no reference to who they’re from…?
Zombie Driver is based around your typical zombie story. You’re in a city that’s conveniently close to a chemical plant that just so happens to have a disastrous accident turning nearly everyone in the city into mindless zombies (how is it that zombies go from humans to half rotten monsters in the space of 5 minutes in nearly every story?) except for you and a few other lucky bastards. When the story mode begins, I find a small comic type of opening scene, much like the cut scenes in Witcher 2. For a game which I can only guess had a fairly low budget, this was done really well.
The story mode consists of 17 missions where an army General – who had been sent to the city to quarantine it – tells you about a group of survivors you need to rescue and in return he’ll sell you upgrades for your car. You might also have a secondary mission (usually more fun than the primary) like killing a certain amount of zombies, or clearing an area out. You start out with a yellow taxi, and through the missions you unlock new cars from a super car to an army buggy.
All the cars handle the exact same with regard to steering which although unrealistic, had its practicalities. Each car is better suited to different missions, and being forced to learn how to control a new type of car for 1 or 2 missions would just have been a pain. The only way cars did differ from each other was in passenger capacity; with the smaller cars only handling 4 passengers, the mid-sized cars taking 6, and the bus carrying 48 people (which seemed totally pointless as you never need to rescue that many people in a single mission), and their base properties. Cars had three properties; armour, ramming capability and speed, which can all be upgraded a maximum of 3 times. The only problem with this model was that there were no benefits of using the older cars. As soon as you unlocked a newer car, the previous mission gave you enough cash to upgrade it a couple of times, and previous cars became obsolete.
The army General was also kind enough to give you the ability to attach weapons to your vehicle to make the zombie mowing that little bit easier. Ranging from miniguns to rocket launchers, each weapon type also has 3 upgrades and a different purpose depending on your play style or the mission type and all have a limited ammo capacity. Once unlocked and paid for, these weapons are obtained by driving over pick-ups all around the city Mario Kart style.
There was (from what I could tell as I ran them all over) five types of zombies:
- Your usual generic run-at-you-but-then-stand-around-awkwardly-while-you-kill-it zombie.
- The stand-miles-away-and-throw-things-at-you-like-a-scorned-girlfriend zombie.
- The puppy zombie which just seemed to be faster, squishier awkward zombies.
- The huge muscley beefcake zombie (think Tank from Left 4 Dead) that will stop your car dead if you’re not moving fast enough as you hit it.
- The evil boomer type zombie which is the only one you really have to watch out for, due to it exploding when you hit it, and taking off a third of your cars health.
Whilst you’re driving around saving helpless – wish I could say Princesses, that would have made the game – survivors and ramming into not so helpless evil zombies, you’ll slowly rack up a score which is calculated from what the game boasts is a “dynamic combo system with tricks and hordes of zombies to try it on”. There seemed to be little rhyme or reason to it other than the more you kill, the better, and if you can get a boomer to die as well then they’ll add some extra points. The score didn’t seem to be used for anything other than some extra cash at the end of each mission, but money was never a problem so I saw no point experimenting in how to get the highest possible score with it.
Unfortunately that’s about it for the story. There’s very little difference in any mission apart from unlocking new weapons and cars and little to no replayability as there’s nothing different you can do. 17 missions may be an odd number, but it was when it needed to stop. By the time it took me to get to mission 15 I was already bored of it and there was no need for it to go on any longer than it did so I’m glad that Excalibur didn’t flesh it out to 30 odd missions so they could claim an amazing 4 hour story mode like some other companies might have done…
Anyway, that doesn’t matter. If you were looking for an amazing story from a game about running over zombies, you’ll be greatly disappointed. If however you were looking for a game that would let you mindlessly kill zombies for as long as you could survive, or a race based Twisted Metal game, they have a mode for that. When I originally saw the two extra modes on the start screen I thought they had just shoehorned it into the game as a selling point. Boy was I wrong.
The Blood Race mode is track based racing game with three events. Your basic Race type like Mario Kart with a number of AI controlled cars to race against and blow up. The tracks weren’t completely linear either, there was lots of shortcuts and other routes to take. The AI was actually pretty damn good too! The second event was an Eliminator where you had to kill as many cars as possible in a time limit, and the third event was an Endurance event where you had to race around a track as fast as possible with your time limit being increased every time you passed a check point.
Can’t spell Slaughter without laughter (really bad joke but had to be done). This mode was so much fun. I spent over an hour playing this mode and only noticed how long it’d been when I paused it to pee and it was dark outside. You start the game with any of the cars you wish, and have to survive constant waves of zombies in a small area for as long as possible. Every time you survive a wave you get a bonus upgrade for your car from more armour to a weapon upgrade. This mode made the game worth the money to me, it showed Excalibur understood that people wanted an easy to play, don’t have to think, kill everything in sight game.
Now, no game can be perfect. There is always going to be something that will bug someone (or recently a bug that will break the game), and Zombie Driver is no exception. The camera angle is nearly birds’ eye view, a lot like GTA 1 and 2, which although annoying to begin with I don’t think it’d work any other way. The animations of the zombies are a bit lacking with each zombie only seeming to have about 4 or 5 still images each. However, this may have been down to the number of zombies (with 100+ sometimes being on the screen), highly animated enemies may have caused older computers a lot of trouble. The music was repetitive but not distracting, just simple ambience music looped.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. It knew what people would want from it and delivered on it well. After all, the only thing more fun than strapping dual miniguns to a taxi is fixing a bus up with nitrous oxide and flying down the motorway leaving a massive streak of zombie blood behind.
7 infected prostitutes out of 10