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Zombie Driver

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: EXOR Studios
Developer: EXOR Studios
Release Date: Dec. 4, 2009


PC Review - 'Zombie Driver'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 8, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Zombie Driver is an action driving game with a top down perspective and a dynamic helicopter chase camera. Fight your way through the streets of a zombie infested city to save the survivors of a disastrous chemical accident that changed most of the city's population into mindless brain hungry monsters.

Zombies seem to be everywhere these days. The undead-killing action isn't relegated to just Resident Evil titles anymore, having spread to games like Call of Duty and Saints Row. Swarms of brain-munchers also show up in other media, ranging from the "Zombieland" movie to the "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" book, which brings the undead to Jane Austen's classic tale. Unsurprisingly, zombies have also become a popular subject for smaller game developers. They're ideal for games in which you kill huge swarms of enemies, and people just don't seem to get tired of it. Zombie Driver is the latest game to jump on the zombie bandwagon, but while it has its moments, it seems to be just another member of the shambling horde.

Zombie Driver puts you in the role of the only survivor with access to a vehicle in the city. Naturally, the military is depending on you and your car to rescue survivors and kill zombies. It's a fairly straightforward plot, but it gets the job done. The entire game takes place in an overhead view, and as the sole driver in a city full of zombies, you'll never leave your car. Overall, the controls in the game are simple. You drive using the usual WSAD controls, with S serving both as reverse and brake, depending on the speed you're going. The left mouse button fires your current weapon, while the right button is your hand brake. It's very easy to pick up and play the game, although the controls may feel a little awkward during the first few stages. Beyond these simple controls, there is nothing else you need to know. It's very easy to adjust to them, and even less skilled players will be adept at crushing zombies within a few levels.

Zombies are your only real enemy in Zombie Driver. They're scattered all over the city and come in many shapes and sizes. You have regular zombies, speedy infected dogs, strong mutant behemoths, and even zombies who explode like bombs when you go near them. You can run over them without any trouble. None of these enemies are a threat in small numbers, but the danger is when they come in swarms. Every zombie you run over with your car slows your car slightly, and the more you hit, the more you slow down. If you get trapped in the middle of a swarm, the zombies will attack you from all sides, tearing through your car's armor like a warm knife through butter. Consequently, the best way to deal with zombies is to drive through the lightest concentration of zombies in a horde, instead of plowing down everything in your path.

There are no boss enemies or special zombies to encounter. The enemies are dangerous because of their numbers, not their special attributes, so unfortunately, this means that the game suffers from serious repetition in enemies. Except for the exploding zombies, who can be a very serious threat, most of the zombies are just speed bumps in your path. They can be dangerous if you get stuck, but otherwise, they're just slightly different chunks of gore on your bumper.

Your primary weapon in Zombie Driver is your car, which can kill zombies simply by plowing into them. You can also collect glowing power-ups as you drive around the city, and when you roll over a power-up, it is mounted to your car. Each power-up gives you a special weapon with limited ammo:  flame thrower, machine gun, nitro, rail gun and rocket launcher. The flame thrower lets you set zombies ablaze and cuts through crowds with ease. The machine gun is a fast but weak weapon that is great for mowing down individual zombies, but it's less effective against swarms. Nitro makes your car's ramming ability more effective, so you can plow through zombies without slowing down. The rail gun is the best of all worlds and tears through entire swarms but has the least ammo of the bunch. The rocket launcher is difficult to aim but blows up entire groups of undead with one shot. Each weapon is reasonably fun to use, although some are better than others. Your best weapon in the game is still your car's bumper, and everything else is just nice to have.

You're given two goals in each level in Zombie Driver. Your primary goal is rescuing survivors. The survivor's location will show up as an icon on your screen, along with his "health." As time passes, the survivors lose health, and if they run out, they die. To rescue the survivors, you have to drive to their location and kill every zombie around the safe house. Once they're dead, you simply have to park, and the survivors will enter your car. Each location has a certain number of survivors, and each car can only hold a certain number of survivors. If your car doesn't have enough room, you'll have to make a return trip while they continue to lose hit points. Once you've found your survivors, you bring them back to your safe house to complete the rescue. Most stages give you a bit of leeway on rescuing survivors. You usually need to rescue about 70 percent of the survivors in order to win, and you earn a bonus for saving extra survivors. It's usually very easy to rescue every survivor, and you don't have to go out of your way to do so.

In addition to your primary objective, you'll also be given a secondary objective, which comes in many shapes and sizes. Some require you to kill all the zombies in a certain area, rescue every survivor in the map, or finish the stage within a certain amount of time.  Each secondary objective is completely optional but rewards you with special prizes that range from cold hard cash to new vehicles, weapon discounts and vehicle upgrades. Most involve clearing zombies out of an area, and that is very easy to do. The hardest of the lot are the timed missions, but you usually have enough time to finish them and get back to base without much difficulty. A really boring secondary mission is the one where you're tasked with killing a certain amount of zombies. These numbers are usually far excessive of what you would kill in a regular mission, so they involve driving around and essentially grinding zombies. The worst of these involves killing 1,500 zombies in a single mission, when it's rare to kill more than 300 to 500 in a normal instance. Weapon and health recovery power-ups are common, so although this is tedious, it's not difficult.

As a mode of transportation and a weapon, your car is very important. You begin the game with a taxi cab, but as the game progresses, you'll find that you have access to more cars, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The sports car is ridiculously fast but not very durable and can only hold three passengers. This can hurt its usefulness, since your goal is to save people from being munched by zombies, and you need all the space you can get. This is perhaps one of Zombie Driver's biggest problems. Survivor space is the most important aspect of a car, and one car dominates in that respect. The bus is the slowest car, but it can hold 48 survivors, well over quadruple the amount of any other car in the game. It may be slower, but since you only have to make one trip to save survivors, it ends up being the fastest anyway, in true tortoise-vs.-hare fashion. It's also very durable for ramming into and plowing through zombies. Once you have access to the bus, there is no reason to use another car. The exception would be the rare timed missions, but you can just use the police car or super car for those segments.  It takes a lot away from the game to make one vehicle so much better than the others, and it makes things a bit boring when you know that choosing any other car would just make things harder.

Completing missions and killing zombies earns you cash to spend on upgrades for your vehicles and weapons. You can upgrade a vehicle's speed, durability or ramming power. For weapons, you can upgrade the strength of the power-ups that you collect. The rail gun may start as a simple laser, but by level 3, it'll be firing twin beams of hot death. As long as you're completing the side-quests and killing a number of zombies, you can usually afford to upgrade every weapon and two or three cars. Perhaps most annoying is that a lot of the best weapon power-ups aren't available until just before the end of the game, so you have very little time to play around with them. Zombie Driver does not offer a New Game Plus mode.

Zombie Driver's biggest problem is that it is short and repetitive. There isn't a lot of variation in the missions, and although it's fun to plow through zombies, you'll get tired of it long before the end. This is especially true once you get the best weapons and zombies stop being a threat. As for the game length, there are only a handful of missions, so you'll probably finish the game in a couple of hours. That isn't too terrible for $10, but there are other similarly priced games that offer significantly more play time and replay value. There aren't any additional gameplay modes either, so once you've finished the game, all you can do is start over again.

Zombie Driver is not a bad-looking game, but it's not impressive either. It runs smoothly, even on a weak system, and everything in the game is easily identifiable, which is very important at high speeds. The zombies look average, and the only truly interesting sight is the explosions of gibs each time you plow your vehicle through a crowd. The audio is rather lackluster. The sound of your car plowing into zombies is satisfyingly meaty, but there is not much else to praise. Any available music is quiet and unmemorable, so if you plan to play Zombie Driver, it's best to do so with your favorite MP3 playlist queued up.

Zombie Driver isn't a bad game, but given the number of similar games on the market, there isn't really much to recommend it. The gameplay is solid, but it's also uninspired and repetitive. Mowing down zombies is fun, but it quickly becomes a case of "same old, same old" after the first few levels. There is little variation in the missions, and the side missions add little to the experience. The ability to customize your vehicle is nice, but you'll end up using the bus or limo most of the time anyway. The biggest problem is that the game is both short and lacking in replay value. Even at the budget price of $10, Zombie Driver doesn't offer enough bang for your buck. Gamers with a serious thirst for zombie-killing may find something here, but others would do better to look elsewhere.

Score: 6.5/10

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