State of Decay, The Last of Us, ZombiU, DayZ, and Infestation: Survivor Stories: All these games were released recently and all have the same theme of zombie apocalypse, in other words something that is getting way too old and wore out its welcome from 2009 onwards. Zombies are not new to gaming as they have been around since 1999 with Resident Evil 2, 3 as well as House of the Dead; however both the franchises are using this idea differently with their own unique twists and mechanics whereas modern zombie games are pretty much the same thing for years now.
To make sense of this apocalypse of repetitiveness and boredom we must take this horde of zombies step by step, starting from the beginning and taking it further from PC and consoles to portable devices. In 2008, a game called Left 4 Dead hit the scene with its co-op gameplay with fast zombies and special boss zombies, arguably placing zombies back in the spotlight and making them relevant again. Left 4 Dead had a sequel which increased map and gun variety later in 2009 and needless to say, it was met with success from gamers and reviewers alike. Also in 2008, Call of Duty World at War hit the scene with the multiplayer component featuring zombie Nazis, placing that installment in Call of Duty as a number 2 culprit for the zombie craze. As more games featuring zombies got released to cash in on the craze, (The Walking Dead, Plants VS Zombies, Lollipop Chainsaw to name a few from 2009 upwards) more developers take the imitation approach and make zombie games of their own.
“We are creating a first-person zombie survival game” states developer Techland (also responsible for Dead Island another zombie game) when introducing it at PAX Prime 2013 gaming convention. Like we need one more as the game has nothing new in terms of setting, (tropic Brazil-esque island) with elements of parkour being the only new addition to the stale sub-genre of games. In other words, it is still the same setting of zombie apocalypse with killing of recycled models which are more outdated, rotten and worn-out like the objects they are representing as well as seeing the same assets from previous zombie games thus creating the same game we were seeing for years now.
Zombie games are so over-saturated in modern gaming that one can already see a pattern with every game and this pattern just does not stop. This formula involves of using a bat or some sort of melee weapon for an hour until finding more weapons that all behave the same way and going onto saving manikin humans with no personality or character, rinse-repeat. Unfortunately, this formula seems to be loved by most as more and more games flood the market, even on mobile devices.
Just searching the word “zombie” on the iTunes store gives you 80 results per page with the same games with the only thing being different is the premise. Back in the early 2000s World War 2 games saw the same criticism of being stale and repetitive, but they were all different ranging from replaying famous historical battles (Medal of Honor) to more sci-fi settings with Nazis experimenting with occultism and resurrection of Medieval warlords (Return to Castle Wolfenstein) to alternate “what if” style scenarios where Nazis discover nuclear weapons and even defeat the Allied forces. (War Front: Turning Point) Along with that, Nazis are more fun to kill as they know strategy and give you more challenge as they have guns and the ability to call in their friends if they are in trouble unlike zombies who just stand and puke, move really slow towards you (giving you more time to shoot it) and know no strategy. Zombies are nothing but thoughtless, brainless beings that only eat and puke and occasionally move slowly: boring features indeed.
Years of zombie games and people still make them with the same tired ideas that are already overdone with the future of gaming being in jeopardy of boredom and redundancy. However great entries such as Splinter Cell Blacklist, Dark Souls and Arkham Origins also appeared and gave us a reason why we picked up controllers in the first place with a good challenge given from smart enemies, fun premise and unique means of problem solving, something zombie games replace with repetitive killing of the same models. So far, this fact was repeated a lot of times, but this is what zombie games do most of the time, without any experimentation or variety for years now.
Dull, redundant and overdone is what zombie games are, with the zombie apocalypse not scary or even alarming. Gaming experiencing a mental block and gamers experiencing sensory deprivation from insomnia-curing entries which come per year. What should be done? Developers need to experiment and gamers need to think about their past-time a bit more, how many times can you save the same manikin shopkeeper with a bad Texan accent using a rifle which is no different from a machine gun.