Switch version tested
Review code provided
Amongst all the hype and furore of an impending zombie apocalypse, there is one thing that we can all be grateful for: zombie games. From the good, the bad and the downright ugly, we have seen all manner of developers attempt to cash in on the zombie obsession. My experiences with said zombie games are somewhat of a mixed bag, with Dying Light, Dead Nation and Left 4 Dead up there with the very best that gaming has to offer, whereas games such as #KILLALLZOMBIES… not so much. Zombie Driver Immortal Edition joins the horde: a previously released Xbox 360 title that promises an ‘insane mix of cars, speed, explosions, blood, and zombies!’ How well does it hold up on the Nintendo Switch, and was it even worth the port in the first place?
For fear of losing you early to cries of ‘yet another poor zombie port from a previous generation of consoles’, I am going to cut to the chase: Zombie Driver is worth playing. It is far from perfect, for reasons I will divulge, but it offers a unique twist on the zombie slaughter genre and provides a fix for anyone interested in zombies, driving, or ideally, the two combined.
EXOR Studios have included in this ‘Immortal Edition’ all of the game modes from the previous iteration, along with every piece of downloadable content that was released. The three-game modes on offer are as follows:
Story Mode: Your atypical mission-based storyline justifying the reasons why, during a zombie apocalypse, you are a lone fighter on a mission to rid the city of the undead. There are 31 missions available alongside sub-quests and bonus objectives to complete.
Blood Race: Offering a tournament of events ranging from standard races with weapons, elimination battles, and endurance races involving checkpoints, the scores are calculated after each event and the winner is crowned at the end of the tournament.
Slaughter: Seen before either as ‘Horde’ mode or ‘Waves’, the objective is to score as many points as possible with wave after wave of enemy. Achieve at least a bronze medal in order to unlock the next map, of which there are 9.
I started with the Story Mode, predominantly because it is first on the list of options from the main menu but also because, ordinarily, the story is the main focus of a game. As I progressed from mission to mission, I found the levels to be both short and purposeful. Each mission had primary and secondary objectives, and these were explained to me during the short briefing given at the start of each mission. Shared across one screen, the briefing included a written letter, a picture of the objective and a map indicating the locations. As well as this, a voiceover from your mission operative informs you as to what the objectives are and why. This proved to be an easy and informative way to set the scene, rather fitting as the story wasn’t that interesting or engaging.
The gameplay itself is relatively simple: make your way to the objective, mowing down anything in your path, and making use of weapon and health pickups along the journey to aid you. There is an added incentive to hit as many zombies in the undead-ridden city as the Mayor has promised cash for every zombie annihilated. Your earnings can then be spent on upgrading your vehicles. Commonly, there is more than one location to visit to complete the primary objective, and it often requires you to defeat a horde of zombies that are attacking innocent victims. Once defeated, you will then collect the survivors and return them to base. There is the odd boss battle or two, and these highlight the creativity of the developers in designing the NPCs. The concept of shoot on sight is still apparent here though too.
At the end of each mission, your statistics are displayed, including: time played, your highest combo multiplier and the total cash earned. At this point, you will be informed as to whether you have successfully unlocked one of the 13 vehicles available, and can then proceed to the car and weapon upgrade screen. There is the usual focus on speed, weaponry and armour. You can upgrade the ability to drive through groups of zombies, improve your resistance to attacks, and make your weapons even more powerful. It was pleasing to see that my upgrades had a direct effect on the gameplay, and I was keen to earn as much as I could to improve my chances of success.
Before playing the other elements of this title, I had a few issues which were hindering my enjoyment of the game. For one, I felt that whilst the narrative developed over time, the missions themselves did not. All too soon I found the missions to be lacking in engagement and I was just going through the motions. To the credit of the developers, they have tried to combat this by mixing up the objectives, but I think it was inevitable given the concept of the game.
My second critique, which I later found to not apply to the other game modes, was the inability to aim your weapon. You can only shoot the way you are facing, and thus it means there are times where you are moving back and forth to get into position which makes for a rather unnatural experience. Mapping the right stick to aim your weapon would have alleviated this, and I believe, made the Story Mode much more smooth, and therefore enjoyable, as a result.
Last on my list, and a rather unusual one, is that the menus in Zombie Driver: Immortal Edition are difficult to read. This is a direct result of the aspect ratio not matching the screen size, however this is only apparent in the menus themselves. An odd design decision, and one it would be great to see patched out at a later date.
Whilst I feel the ‘Slaughter’ game mode is self-explanatory, the ‘Blood Race’ is a hidden gem that I believe is the games greatest strength. Much like many other arcade driving games, the ‘Blood Race’ is focussed on providing a tournament between 4 racers. Across a series of events, you earn points in order to top the table at the end. You compete on smaller versions of the free-roaming map which have been turned into circuits or arenas.
The three event types are superb, and really bring the core elements of Zombie Driver to life. I enjoyed racing against others and using the weapon pickups to destroy them, or competing in the Elimination whereby I had to defeat as many opponents as possible in the time limit. Even the Endurance races were enjoyable, in which you were effectively racing against the clock, using checkpoints to increase the time you had left to race in the hopes of setting the longest time. It is a travesty that EXOR Studios have chosen to omit local and online multiplayer from the package, as this would have been the perfect fit. It would also have improved the longevity of the title, which is a real shame.
The audio and visual elements of the game are serviceable without ever being standout or overly impressive. Care has been taken to ensure that the sound effects are meaningful and in keeping with the atmosphere, and there were additional touches such as helicopters overhead which kept it realistic. The visuals were what I had expected from an Xbox 360 arcade classics port, but they have managed to breathe life into this undead city – no mean feat.
Although simplistic in its nature, Zombie Driver Immortal Edition packs quite the punch. The longevity of its story mode is questionable, even when completed, but the inclusion of the excellent tournament mode, Blood Race, makes it a worthy addition to your collection – if you like zombies and driving that is. With weather conditions, a night and day cycle, and creative environments included, there is a lot to both enjoy and give credit to the developers for. It may be a port of a game from a bygone era of consoles, but its wholesome, satisfying fun – some of the time.