Zombie Driver: Ultimate Edition / 19th of July 2014
It feels strange to be reviewing a game that, in essence, is almost five years old, but the original Zombie Driver from Poland’s Exor Studios was first delivered to PC owners via Steam way back in 2009, before it was later reissued to PS3, Xbox 360 and Ouya owners as Zombie Driver HD, which-being the penultimate step in this particular story-brings us to the version that has now, via the ID@Xbox program, made its way onto the Xbox One. Though the question still remains, is it any good?
Well, if one were to answer this based on its uninspired title, the answer would be an overwhelming no. Zombie Driver’s name is such a “heart on its sleeve” affair, that most gamers will immediately recognise what it is that the game is all about, though the sad part of this, is that it’s actually not that bad at all, despite its severe lack of depth.
In Zombie Driver, player are tasked with using vehicles to mow down hordes of zombies (which come in rather plentiful supply) and preventing other survivors from becoming lunch for the undead. The first mission certainly starts things off well enough, easing players into the game rather well and introducing the core skills that the player will need in order to survive. The problem, however, is that after this, the game doesn’t really get any deeper at any point across the expanse of its thirty-one levels, pretty much every one of which involves the same formula of slaughtering zombies and rescuing civilians. The action, however, is presented in such small, bite sized chunks, that it just manages to avoid becoming too stale or boring, and even manages to offer something in the way of replay value.
There is a story mode, of course, but the real core aim of the game, is point scoring. It’s just pure and simple, good old fashioned gameplay that drives this release along, the search for the high score, and it is this that will keep players coming back for more. On each of the levels throughout the campaign, there are secondary objectives that can be completed, doing so results in rewards such as additional funds, or sometimes, they can unlock extra upgrades to the range of eight or so vehicles housed in the game. Unlocking, and purchasing, said upgrades is vital, and the key to scoring big, allowing players to improve their vehicles in numerous ways, such as, damage resistance, speed and weaponry (there are several types of which to upgrade). Doing so, of course, will allow the player to tackle the zombie hordes with confidence, and despatch them quickly.
Visually, Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition is actually quite impressive in places, whilst on the whole the graphics are merely functional, the vast array of weather effects, particularly the fog, actually appear to be of notable quality. However, the real highlight is the lighting, which is demonstrated superbly by the night time levels, where eerie shadows appear to stretch out ahead of the car, merging with the night as the glow of the headlights manages to beat back the pervading darkness. For here, on these few occasions, Zombie Driver is in actuality, a rather beautiful looking video game, and praise must go to Exor for their fine work here.
The main detractor from Zombie Driver, besides the easily ignorable name and shallow gameplay, is its quite shoddy presentation, menus appear cluttered and difficult to read, whilst its laughably bad voice acting, which might actually find itself on a rung below the voice work in Synetic’s Crash Time series (Autobahn Pursuit in Germany), is almost indescribably bad. Of course, deficiencies such as these can lend a video game charm, and to a certain extent, that can also be said of Zombie Driver. It is a game so entrenched in the past that it makes no qualms about it, alluding to nothing more than what it is, a thoroughly simple and yet surprisingly fun action title.
Aside from running over enemies, vehicles can be fitted with machine guns, rockets, flamethrowers and even rail guns, which, when combined with nitro boosts help players in maintaining their combo meter so that they can reach those new, high scores. These are essential on some levels for completing secondary objectives, but even more so on the bonus game mode, Slaughter, which is essentially a survival mode. In this, players must pass through a set number of waves of enemies, unlocking an improved weapon for each one that they pass. Additionally, there’s also the Blood Race mode, which is essentially a Micro Machines styled top-down racer-with zombies-but unfortunately this falls short of being the selling point that it should have been for one simple oversight, there’s no multiplayer. As it is though, Blood Race is good, but it could have been great.
This new Ultimate Edition features full 1080p, 60fps visuals with a vastly increased number of zombies on screen at once, meaning that there really doesn’t seem to be an end to their number, but whilst this obviously doesn’t impress as much as Capcom Vancouver’s Dead Rising 3, there’s still a lot going on. There are also wholly new, and upgraded environmental effects and animations, making this the best looking iteration of the game to date, though one would certainly expect so given the power of the hardware running it.
Ultimately, Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition is a more than worthy addition to the ID@Xbox program, and whilst it may not prove to be an essential purchase, it is certainly worth every penny of its low end price point. For, whilst the main cusp of the game may not deviate too much from the formula established on its very first level, there’s still plenty of gaming to be found here, if, that is, you can look past the monotonous mission design and sloppy presentation that blights it.