Zombies are one of the most traditional game villains. Ever since titles like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, people have had a healthy fear of the undead. Likewise, an interesting take on zombies as enemies, such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead or Dead Rising, can make an entire game interesting and inject life into it. Unfortunately, it seems the reception to two recent releases suggest the zombies fad might not be able to keep some games going anymore.
One is State of Decay 2. This is one of the Xbox One’s only exclusive games in 2018. It is the follow up to the original game. It was supposed to improve upon the original and be a compelling title. Find survivors. Maintain a settlement. Work together. Oh, and this time multiplayer lets you do all of that with a friend. You would think the threat of zombies would lend more weight to everything, especially since permadeath is present and a character who falls is done for good.
Except, State of Decay 2 does not always do enough to set itself apart from the original game. As you can see in CheatCC’s review, it can feel like zombies are an afterthought. Sure, they’re the ever present enemy. But the real weight here comes from surviving in what has become a post-apocalyptic world. The zombies could really have been anything – generic monsters, werewolves, dragons, daywalker vampires or perhaps mummies. The AI is not great. The zombies are not as interesting as the day-to-day survival elements. And frankly, all the technical problems can not be overshadowed by the novelty of zombie survival again.
Another instance appears to be the upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive, Days Gone. For those unaware, this is an open-world game about a bounty hunter biker named Deacon St. John. He cruises around a zombie-infested world. Oh, except some of the zombies here are called “freakers” and happen to be evolving, which makes a huge difference. While the idea of an open-world zombie game seems promising, early demo impressions suggest that the whole undead enemy thing is not going to be what will draw people to the game.
Now that some hands-on impressions are in the wild, we’re hearing that Days Gone may not be totally thrilling in the initial builds. People who have had a chance to try it are claiming it will need some sort of strong story to be interesting, as it seems to be like other open-world games, like Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Last of Us, and Far Cry 5, only with zombies replacing the human or robotic enemies. Even the idea of exploring the forests of Oregon does not seem that appealing, considering Far Cry 5 just took us to Montana. And having to constantly maintain and fuel up a motorcycle is not as engaging an activity as riding machines or even wandering another post-apocalyptic area on foot.
Zombie games need to get more interesting. They have to experiment more, so we have different twists on the enemies. It looks like 2018 could end up being known for two undead menace games where the shambling opponents aren’t interesting enough to be the games’ main draw. If companies don’t keep up, we might have to take a required break from zombies.