With a name like Zombie Driver, little is left to the imagination. It immediately lets any prospective buyers know two things: both driving and zombies will make an appearance. Seeing as there's likely a small audience for a Forza clone with all of the racers replaced with the undead, it's should be fairly obvious that the game is about flattening zombies in a car, something that hasn't really been done all that much despite the zombie market booming as of the past few years. The idea of slaying the living dead has become something of a hot topic for game developers, leading to over-saturation of the flesh-eating scourge. In fact, just as the World War II shooter became overdone thanks to dozens of releases over the course of a few short years, there are many who are ready to dismiss zombie games because to this problem.
Regardless, it's a poor reason to ignore a game, and EXOR Studios' Zombie Driver shouldn't be ignored because of a few missteps from other developers. The premise is simple: after a mysterious outbreak allows the dead to walk the earth as bloodthirsty zombies, the government has quarantined a city in order to stop the undead from spreading to the rest of the world. Players control an unnamed protagonist, asked by the army to help evacuate the remaining populous from the city while they frantically search for a way to stop the zombies. While they look for a biological fix, the player has a few techniques of his own. As the name suggests, Zombie Driver takes place exclusively behind the wheel, with the player plowing through zombies while speeding through the streets.
In order to rescue stranded survivors, all of the zombies in the area need to be wiped out, and the player has a number of ways to take care of them. Using either the bumper of his vehicle or an unlocked weapon, destroying the undead plague is, as expected, very entertaining. This is in no small part thanks to the game's visuals. Smashing into a group of zombies will leave bloody streaks on the ground and send chunks of flesh, arms, and legs flying into the air. Shooting them with different weapons, too, leads to entertaining results, and is also a major part of the game. While every vehicle can be smashed into walls without taking damage, being trapped in a mass of zombies will quickly degrade the vehicle's health. Different enemies, too, will actually damage the car if hit, so players need to zigzag through the roads instead of just putting the pedal to the metal.
In the beginning, this is a huge amount of fun, and I spent the first half-hour wondering what interesting elements would be added to the game to help spice it up. Sadly, there was really little different, and besides some minor changes in scenery and interesting, unlockable cars, there's very little different between the first and last level of the game. Every mission has a primary objective, which has the player going to different points on the map to pick up survivors, and a secondary objective, which changes from mission to mission, such as giving the player a certain number of zombies to kill or a time limit. Completing objectives earns the player money, which can be spent on upgrading vehicles and attaching weapons. After the mission is over, there's a short paragraph of text, giving an excuse to get back into the car and hit the road again. This goes on for about three hours, and then the game is over.
Beyond being needlessly repetitive, there are some issues with the presentation that make Zombie Driver feel a bit unfinished or, at least, untested. Employing a camera similar to the one found in the old Grand Theft Auto games is a great way to feel different than the twenty other zombie games released this week, but there's something about it that's literally headache inducing. There are a number of reasons this issue might exist, such as the objective markers being placed on the edge of the screen with text too small to read. In order to accurately know how far away the next objective is you need to either slow down, which is hardly ever an option, or squint, trying to read the numbers while it quickly moves back and fourth. It could also be the fact that the car will often become lost behind objects and trees, losing a focal point. I honestly don't know what causes it, but I do know that after playing for more than a half-hour I began to feel nauseous, and I'm usually good for a good ten-hour gaming session before anything like it starts. Hell, I beat Mirror's Edge in two sittings, and that game nearly shipped with a barf bag.
Zombie Driver can often leave the feeling of being unsatisfied. There are no bosses and no particularly hard missions, just roads filled with a few different types of undead and scattered objectives. Additional objective types, more enemy variety, and a better story could have all helped Zombie Driver from feeling monotonous, but without it there's really no other word to describe it. If it ever gets some enhancements and makes its way to Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network it will be likely be worth grabbing, but for most it might be better to give it a try before picking it up, to see if the concept is strong enough on its own to justify the money. It is, in fact, only $10, so there's a chance it might be a great buy for anyone tired of the big, blockbuster releases of 2009.