LOS ANGELES--If there's one thing we can take away from this year's E3, it's that zombie games have overrun the show--almost like a horde of zombies. There are zombie adventure games, zombie third-person shooters, zombie MMOs, and even zombie strategy games. It's been difficult to walk more than five feet on the show floor without bumping into another game infested with shambling undead monsters.
The trend isn't all that surprising. We get a deep sense of satisfaction when eviscerating souless, mindless zombies. It's something you just don't get when beating up aliens or robots.
Mindless corpses are also easy on A.I. programmers. Game developers are enamored with zombie massacres, and have started cooking up games that give you more creative ways of dealing with the walking dead. The Dead Rising series is famous for turning common household items into tools for committing zombicide, and PopCap's Plants vs. Zombies titles have you cultivating plant life to fight back a zombie home invasion. It's getting kind of ridiculous.
For reference, here's a quick list of just some of the upcoming games showcased at E3 that have you tearing in to the living dead:
- Dead Rising 3
- Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
- Dying Light
- The Evil Within
- The Walking Dead: 400 Days
- Plants vs. Zombies 2
If you ever get tired of slaughtering the walking dead, you can take their side in Ray's the Dead. This game from indie developer Ragtag Studio lets you play as a member of the animated cadaver club, amassing an army to take out anything that has a pulse. There weren't many of these types of games at this year's E3, which is a shame, because I'm starting to feel sorry for all the zombie abuse we're putting our rotting friends through in other games.
One possible explanation for the overwhelming presence of zombies in games is that we've run out of real-life enemies to kill. As the fidelity and realism of in-game violence increases, it's becoming less socially acceptable to create games centered around butchering anything with a living human face--even Nazis and terrorists.
Zombies are an acceptable humanoid replacement, and their undead status gives developers plenty of leeway to go crazy with the gore. There aren't very many games that will let you throw a normal human under a lawnmower, but I could probably list at least five zombie games where this is a commonplace occurrence.
Next-generation graphics may lead to more games featuring non-human targets. There's already enough outcry about violence in video games; just imagine how people will react when tyou shoot an uncannily realistic digital representation of a person in the face in the name of entertainment. It'd be like the old Mortal Kombat controversy all over again, except this time in HD.
For now, zombies will have to satiate our bloodlust. I don't mind thinning out the ranks of the living dead, but I hope we see a wider variety of enemies, and more creative gameplay expression than "kill everything", at next year's E3.