Can Zombies Ever Be Scary Again?
There’s no easy way to say this, at some point zombies stopped being scary. Sure there will be some badasses amongst us who insist that the shambling undead were never really scary to begin with. Gross and dangerous in large numbers, but not so much terror inducing.
Part of the problem, especially in games, is oversaturation. When developers need a mass of easily recognizable enemies to throw at a player, zombies are an easy go-to baddie. There is no ambiguity about zombies. They don’t have the refinement of vampires or the dual nature of werewolves. They are just undead monsters out for human flesh. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.
But, what if, zombies in games weren’t just machine gun fodder? What if there was a way to bring back the tension that comes from being slowly, inevitably hunted? Let’s take a look at how a few games have tried to bring scary zombies back to gaming.
7 Days to Die
While still an alpha release, this survival horde crafting mash-up from The Fun Pimps, has some definite teeth to it. Players are dropped into the apocalypse with the primary goal of surviving. This means things like food, water, and shelter take priority over cool outfits and massive weapon loadouts.
During the day zombies stumble slowly across the gameworld looking for victims. They are instinctively drawn to areas where players are active and will occasionally group up or scout out encampments. Once it becomes nighttime, the zombies speed up and get a boost to their health and attacking power. Every 7th night a blood moon rises and a massive horde will spawn and attempt to hunt the player down, destroying anything that stands in their way.
The game does have some obvious glitches still, some which lead to ridiculous zombie animations. It would be tempting to overlook it based on these flaws, but the unpredictability of the zombie AI makes up for most of this. It’s the first game to make me somewhat sympathetic towards all the idiots in zombie movies and shows who are constantly letting zombies sneak up and bite them.
“You can hear them moaning all the time, look behind you more you fool!”
Ah how naive I was. When you’re preoccupied with bandaging a wound before you bleed out or drinking questionable water before you dehydrate, sometimes your attention gets divided. When that happens you can bet 7 Days to Die will notice, and put a zombie right next to you.