Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fave Zombie Video Games

There are even a few stinkers I can't
part with...
I blame my parents. Or thank them, depending on how I look at it. Given that Halloween is only two weeks away, as I look for random things to blog about around my office, I can't help but notice that many of my interests include a significant subset of horror-themed items. Whether comic books, movies, novels or video games, the horror theme runs deep. I suppose, though, that's what happens when you're taken to see the original Alien in theaters at the ripe old age of ten.

Having written about a number of horror themed comic books and movies (often without intending to post them in October), I thought I'd mention a few of my very favorite console video games that include a horror theme. As easy as it would be to simply label them all "zombie games," the list of possible titles I've played include necromorphs, undead, bio-chemical creatures and hell spawns. The term "zombie" does seem a little limiting.  In my 30+ years of gaming (more frequently in some phases of my life than others), I've come across many games from the horror-survival genre, and there are three (well two, plus a throwback) that continue rating high on my personal replay-ability scale even after hours of gameplay beyond concluding their respective primary storylines. While some games are incredibly entertaining for short periods of time (2012's Lollipop Chainsaw, for example), the games that I can drop into my console every so often and continue to enjoy are those that qualify as (a few of my) "favorites." In no particular order:

Read Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (2010)

"Cattle rustlin' and bank robbery are at an all-time low; 
Murder, blood-drinking and psychotic episodes seem to be somewhat prevalent."

Full disclosure: the original Rockstar Games Red Dead Redemption (2010) is the answer I often give to the question of "What is your favorite video game." Originally available as downloadable content for the open-world wild west game Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare is the perfect mash-up. While the base game is (in my estimation) the greatest Western game ever produced, the added zombie storyline considerably extends the game's re-playablity. The blend of Western and horror elements is brilliant. The basic premise is that you, as protagonist John Marsten, try to find a cure for the plague which is turning locals into zombies. Along the way there are opportunities to hunt mythical beasts, acquire unique weapons, and of course, eliminate oodles of zombies. As was the case with the original game, the smaller moments from the cut-scenes add an additional emotional level to the game play, but whether you experience them in their entirety depends on how far you play (go ahead, kill that last Bigfoot). Great game-play, great graphics and great narrative--an amazing downloadable expansion pack.

MediEvil (1999)

This is one favorite that I regrettable no longer am able to play (had completely forgotten I'd ever had a Playstation system!), but the memories I have of playing MediEvil are wonderful, not just because of the gameplay or Tim Burton-esque (when Burton was still cool) character design, but because I would often play with my daughter watching. An early Gothic horror-comedy action-adventure game, MediEvil has you play as the protagonist, Sir Daniel, as he seeks to redeem himself by travelling and battling to protect the medieval Kingdom of Gallowmere. At the time, and as you can tell from the trailer above it was a few system generations ago, MediEvil's graphics and gameplay were such that it was like playing a three-dimensional cartoon for the first time.

Dead Space 2 (2011)

"Isaac, we're all gonna burn for what we did to you..."

The second in a trilogy (so far) of games, Visceral Games/Electronics Arts' Dead Space 2 is an amazing sci-fi horror survival game with a strong narrative, excellent graphics and multiple levels of challenge. When I first began playing this, former high school students of mine warned me not to play the sequel as it would only pale in comparison, and they were correct. Dead Space 2 is so complete a gaming experience, requiring a wide array of skills (shooting, manual dexterity and brain games) that it always a joy to return to. Series protagonist Isaac Clarke's (as in Asimov and Arthur C.) life changes for the worse when he accepts a mission to a damaged space vessel in an effort to make contact with his girlfriend who is stationed there. Dead Space 2 picks up three years after the original and Clark, after being held captive and information retrieved from his memory by evil (are there any other kind?) industrialist and religious zealots, has to fight his way off a station/asylum infected with necromorphs. Clarke is written as a reluctant, damaged hero who begrudgingly accepts his role in a larger conflict he really wants no part of. Like all the games listed here, the voice acting is excellent and the characters well-developed. This game is a great example of why video games are often a superior entertainment experience to movies, the hours of entertainment one receives for the purchase price far outpaces any movie I've seen in recent memory.

There are of course many other games I have played and played and played that offer both amazing cinematics, tremedous voice work and gameplay experiences. including Left 4 Dead 2 (2009), Dead Island (2011), Resident Evil (pick one, except Operation Raccoon City--BLECHHH!) and the last game I'll purchase for my X-Box 360, The Evil Within.

Oh, and thanks Mom and Dad!

Wikipedia's List of Zombie Video Games

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