Ever since I was about 10 years old and owned a single movie—a VHS tape of a dupey, scratched Night of the Living Dead (still the definitive version imho)—I’ve been fantasizing about the perfect zombie video game.
In my first version, the player ran through the rooms of a farmhouse, hammering windows and doors shut against the electronically moaning zombie hordes. I even wrote this up with pictures (it looked quite a bit like Berzerk) and sent it to Atari. Thankfully they never acted on it or the E.T landfill would be even deeper.
Now that zombie survival-horror is ubiquitous on all the platforms (with at least 6 titles released or announced in ‘07-‘08), you’d think I’d be happy as a ghoul licking a marrow pudding pop, but still I haven’t found a game that scratched that zombie itch.
Many titles get it right in bits: Resident Evil has the lighting and atmosphere, Silent Hill has the skin-crawling creepiness, Dead Rising has the slapstick, Manhunt has the sneaking, Alone in the Dark has the items management (though is apparently crap otherwise), other horror and fantasy games have glimmers of what I want to see. The problem is that most focus on the action—especially that panicked moment when you’re surrounded and down to your last two shells—but they ignore (or misfire) on the elements that complete the zombie experience: wish fulfillment, existential dread and isolation. Without these a zombie game is just a darkly-lit first person shooter with a visually monotonous enemy.