As we wait for Microsoft and its third parties to release their much-hyped next-generation games, we're left with a number of smaller Xbox 360 titles finding new life on the new console. I'm talking about a game like Zombie Driver, a moderately successful action game that was good on Xbox Live Arcade and even better on Xbox One. And while Zombie Driver won't be enough to hold you over for the system's main course, it does make for a delicious snack at an attractive price.
Although I had mixed feelings the first time around, I was eager to give Zombie Driver a second chance. For as tired as I am of the zombie tropes, it's hard to resist a game built around driving over hordes of undead walkers. Throw in a good deal of explosive firepower and missions that harken back to the days of Choplifter, and you have a pretty great concept for a video game. I was excited to figure out why this game didn't click with me when I first reviewed it in 2013.
At first glance, Zombie Driver looks a whole lot like Grand Theft Auto 2. It's a top-down open world experience, not unlike Rockstar's controversial action game. That's where the similarities end. In this game, the player always stays in their car and there are never moments of grand theft auto. In fact, this Xbox One game is more akin to a game like Carmageddon or Twisted Metal.
Don't worry; your vehicle is heavily armed. Each of the game's numerous cars, busses and vans can shoot a variety of explosive weapons. Around the city you'll find weapon drops that include automatic guns, a flame thrower, missile launcher, rail gun and more. But don't get too comfortable, because it's easy to run out of ammo. Even after purchasing weapon upgrades, you'll still need to keep close eye on the bullet supply.
With few exceptions, your goal in each stage is to drive through the hordes of zombies in order to rescue the few survivors still clinging on to life. Usually you'll need to clear the area of zombies first, which may include destroying a nest. Sometimes there will be more survivors than your little car can hold, so you'll need to make multiple trips through the walking dead.
Not all missions play out like this. Occasionally you'll commandeer a tank and tackle a boss fight. One stage you'll drive around in a fire truck making sure the entire city doesn't burn down. Yet another mission involves you driving a large bulldozer and clearing debris from the main roads. Sadly, this type of variety is rare. Usually you're saving people, which can become a bit tedious as you play through the lengthy story mode.
To the developer's credit, they did find new and unique ways of saving people. Some stages are set at night, limiting your vision to whatever is in the view of your headlights. Not only does this make for some incredible lighting effects, but it also makes battling hordes of zombies insanely tough. This, and other quirks, help make the repetitive missions a little easier to swallow.
Each of the 31 missions has a secondary objective, something that will net the player bonus money or, if you're lucky, new vehicles. An early example has you fighting off a mob zombies attacking the Mayor's estate. If you're victorious you'll earn a brand new ride, a very classy limousine. Other bonus missions are as simple as beating a level in a set amount of time or killing a large amount of zombie dogs. Players should beware, some of these optional objectives are tough, and if you die you'll have to start the whole mission over from the beginning.
Cars play a big role in Zombie Driver HD. Players start with a taxi, a reliable vehicle that can seat up to four civilians. The seating is important, since you'll often be asked to pick up six to 10 people. There's a sports car that is fast, but it only seats three people. The limousine seats six people, but it's difficult to maneuver and is ridiculously slow. Eventually you'll earn better rides, like the ambulance and the 48-seat bus.
With only a few exceptions, most levels give you enough time and incentive to roam the city looking for secrets. Mostly you'll pick up money, which you can use to upgrade your weapons and vehicles. It's also interesting to see how much work went into building this city. You'll stumble upon a surprising amount of hidden alleyways and shortcuts. Although I did get tired of the drab colors and grim tone (perhaps unavoidable in a game about a zombie apocalypse), I found the city to be a lot of fun to explore.
On top of the lengthy story, players will find a completely separate racing mode. Here they'll play various racing events in order to earn money to pick up new cars and purchase upgrades. Although not as fully realized as the main campaign, this racing mode is a lot of fun. The races allow you to use weapons, so destroying the cars ahead of you suddenly becomes an option. Some races are all about shooting down other cars, while others want you to stay alive as long as possible. There are several tournaments to take part in, as well as single races to replay for cash. It's a fun diversion from the single-player story.
This updated Xbox One release improves the game in a number of ways, both big and small. The big change is that Zombie Driver finally runs at a solid 60 frames per second and 1080p. This makes a big difference to both the gameplay and presentation. Although small, the zombies look good and leave a satisfying puddle of blood on the street. There are also a number of impressive weather and wind effects, another thing that shines in this Ultimate Edition.
On top of looking better on Xbox One, Zombie Driver also features a lot more zombies on the streets. For those who played the Xbox Live Arcade version, you'll know that it already had a lot of zombies wandering around. Now there are more...a lot more. It doesn't make a substantial difference to the gameplay, but the city certainly feels like it has been completely overrun by the walking dead.
Speaking of changes, this brand new Xbox One version features an extra camera angle simply known as "Retro." This changes the perspective slightly, making it look even more like Grand Theft Auto 2. While I'm sure there are people who will enjoy this extra challenge, I found this camera angle to be infuriating. Thankfully it's only an option.
Zombie Driver may not be the type of game that makes a lot of game-of-the-year lists, but it is a good time with an infectious gimmick. This is a fun variation on Choplifter and gamers who spend 15 dollars won't feel cheated. If you're looking for a game about driving over zombies, then this is one of the best.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.