Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition combines two of my favourite things; zombies, and more zombies. Just when you think to yourself, “there can’t possibly be more zombies in this game”, BAM, Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition delivers hundreds upon hundreds of more zombies for you to smash into in a variety of motorized vehicles. That really is the crux of this game; you, your car and a shit tonne of zombies. But the wonderful thing about it is that Zombie Driver knows this. You’re not going to be forced to sit through mindless cut-scenes that explain the ins and outs of the zombie apocalypse. You’re not going to be made to come to grips with your character’s back story, or guilt tripped into feeling the weight of remorse from your actions or the deeper meanings behind your mindless rampage of motorised vengeance against the undead. Zombie Driver isn’t about that, it’s about mowing down zombies in a range of cool vehicles. You can’t get any more simple than that.
The story itself, as you might have guessed, is simple as well. But there isn’t any need for a convoluted plot with an epic back story here. That’s not to say that there isn’t any meat to the story, though. The game’s set in a post-apocalyptic city with the majority of the friendly city dwellers being turned into flesh eating, car smashing zombies. As a humble taxi driver, you stumble upon some civilians that need your help. Once you’ve helped out the stranded survivors, you run into the army who recruit you to their cause. Their cause being to save more people in the city and slowly expand their base of control across the wasteland. At first, the story seems quite straightforward, but as you advance through the various missions, you start to get the feeling that there’s a little more to it than meets the eye. The game is narrated by some of the army personnel, and gaps in the story are filled in by the various survivors that you will encounter in the missions. There are one or two funny characters that will put a smile on your face here and there but, in the most part, this game’s all about over-the-top gruesome zombie smashing fun.
As I’ve already mentioned, Zombie Driver really is simplicity at its best. It’s a top-down driving game, much in the style of the classic GTA titles, in which you have to complete a number of tasks in a post-apocalyptic city infested with zombies. These tasks range form saving stranded survivors to killing giant super zombies that resemble what can only be described as a rotting Jabba the Hutt, all of which must be completed in your car. You can upgrade your vehicles, as well as unlock new ones, as you progress through the game by using cash that you collect through destroying objects and enemies in the environment, collecting cash bundles that are dotted around the map or accomplishing your objectives. To help you in your efforts to save the city’s living inhabitants, you can also find weapons dotted around the map in the form of pickups. These range from machineguns to flamethrowers, and each weapon can be upgraded as well. There are also health pickups that repair your car, and nitrous pickups that will both speed up your vehicle on straight roads and give you a nifty little boost to help you escape those pesky zombie hordes, especially if you’re being crowded out.
You can kill the zombies in a number of ways, from shooting them to running them down, the latter being the most satisfying but also the most damaging to your vehicle. Each car has a different set of properties, some will be good for ramming, others for speed and the bigger cars will have more seats to hold a larger number of survivors. You’ll have to make an educated decision about which car you want to use, depending on what your objectives are. So you might have to sacrifice speed for strength, or both for capacity depending on what you’ve been told to do. The zombies damage your car by throwing things at you, smashing the car with their fists or blowing up, depending on what type of zombie they are. That’s pretty much how the main campaign mode works. But there are other game modes, one of which is just as fun.
The campaign mode really grabbed the majority of my attention, and it took me a little while to try out the other modes. Whilst the campaign is fun, and quite addictive, one of my favourite parts of Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition is the Slaughter mode. In essence, this is a pure survival mode. You’ll face off against waves of zombies with a very basic car to start. There will be few pickups dotted around the small map at the very beginning, so the first few minutes of the mode will be focused on survival and tactful ramming. Once you pass the first few waves, you’ll start to be awarded pickups that are randomly generated in the map. From then on the game mode is all about tactics, if you want to do well that is. I found myself driving for almost a minute, trying to avoid the clusters of zombies and spare my final drops of health, all in the hopes of reaching the repair pickup. It gets quite addictive trying to beat your own score so, for me at least, the best parts of the game are the campaign and Slaughter mode. There is also Blood Race, a mini race game in which you’ll compete against other AI drivers in a bid to reach the finish line first. This mode has the occasional zombie in it, but it’s mostly about destroying the other competitors with pickups and winning the race in some form of carnage induced style. But, overall, this game mode is disappointing. It feels a little rushed and a little unnecessary. I completed about two races, but got bored pretty quickly, so I’ve not really got back to it. I think that the main limiting factor to this particular game mode is the game’s controls. It isn’t easy to steer some of the vehicles, and it doesn’t really lend itself to a racing style game. It led to one or two moments where I couldn’t quite take a corner as well as I’d have liked, or I crashed into a wall because I couldn’t steer past it. It highlighted some of the difficulties of controlling some of the vehicles which I didn’t really notice in the campaign, just because I wasn’t doing the same sort of ‘high octane’ racing. But, to be honest, you’ll be more than occupied with the length of the campaign and the great selection of arenas for Slaughter mode to be too fussed by the lack of quality in Blood Race.
I’ve decided to leave both the best, and my one big complaint, for last. So the game looks impressive. The graphics are smooth and there’s a tonne of detail on the zombies and the buildings, as well as your car. The rotting insides of the zombies stick to the road as you drive over the top of the shambling corpses and smear their innards on the floor, creating a pattern of carnage, chaos and blood that’s actually quite beautiful in a twisted sort of way. The game keeps to its retro-arcade look but with a modern twist in the graphics. I loved the night levels, because the headlights beautifully illuminate what’s in front of me, but kept me guessing about the layout of the town. It meant that I often ended up paying too much attention to the shadows of the zombies or the falling leaves in the headlights of the car, and accidentally smashing into walls or dead ends – which quickly ended with my car being surrounded by hordes of zombies, and then pulverised into smithereens. But, whilst the look of the game is one of its greatest assets, it’s also its achilles heel at times. For some reason, the slightly-offset topdown camera gave me a mild sense of vertigo and nausea, on occasion. I found that I couldn’t properly focus on the game at times, and it was a sensation that I can’t quite explain and I certainly didn’t enjoy. This was, however, a very occasional feeling, so it didn’t hinder the fun too much.
Exor Studios has done a fantastic job with Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition. For me, it was one of those games that I would try to play in my few minutes of downtime. But I often found that, rather than it taking ten or fifteen minutes of my time as I had planned, I got into that dangerous cycle of ‘just one more game’ or ‘just one more level’ that ended up taking hours of my evening – which isn’t a bad thing whatsoever. It’s a brilliant arcade-styled game with enough content to keep you more than entertained for hours on end. So, if you’re looking for a neat little time filler on the Xbox One, I really suggest Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition.