Zombie outbreaks and apocalypses have become extraordinarily popular among game developers in recent years, with the result that we’ve seen about as many zombie-related titles as we can count. From major franchises like Dead Rising and Resident Evil to more independent games, there’s just a lot going on in this action sub-genre. But perhaps the most interesting thing isn’t just how many games there are, but how many types of games there are.
The standard zombie gaming experience has generally been presented as a survival shooter (or in some cases, survival slasher). This is the sort of experience that was brought back to the forefront of gaming through the Call of Duty franchise and its various zombie modes, most of which simply pit you against unrelenting waves of zombies and challenge you to survive as long as possible. It’s simple, but also exhilarating and addictive: pick up whatever guns or weapons are available and hope for the best.
In recent years we’ve also seen growing popularity for strategy-based zombie games that focus more on civilization than moment-to-moment survival. Exemplified by a few modern games such as DayZ andState Of Decay, these games place you in open sandbox worlds and invite you to carry on managing all aspects of life in the aftermath of zombie takeovers. Commonly involving activities like hunting, crafting, managing relationships, or even building settlements, these games offer what some consider to be a more realistic take on the zombie survival concept.
And then of course we’ve seen some smaller, more playful takes on zombie gaming. The clearest examples would be any number of zombie-related apps that put cartoonish spins on the idea of an attack by the undead, but the one that fully illustrates the breadth of the zombie gaming spectrum is probably the Zombieville scratch game online. Featured among Gala Casino’s games, this is a digital scratchcard in which it’s “scratch or be scratched” as raging zombies take over. Basically it twists a survival concept into a real money scratchcard, with a touch of amusement – a far cry from the likes of DayZ or Call Of Dutyzombie modes, but a zombie experience nonetheless.
Put simply, we’ve seen zombies used in pretty much any kind of game you could think up. But what we haven’t really seen until this year is the idea of a single title splitting into multiple games in order to provide, essentially, two types of zombie gaming in one. Yet according to a report by PC Gamer, that’s just what the popular early access title H1Z1 will be doing at some point this year.
Developed as a survival sandbox MMO and the latest offering from Daybreak Games’ selection, H1Z1 was well received by early access players in 2015. The game’s concept was a play on the H1N1 virus, in which a different strain turned people into zombies and resulted in the breakdown of civilization. Set in rural areas of the U.S., it challenged players to “just survive” in an expansive world populated by other players, wild beasts, and of course zombies. The early release was on Steam, and the game was free-to-play.
But when H1Z1 is re-released in 2016, it will be divided into two distinct games (neither of which is expected to be free-to-play). H1Z1: Just Survive is meant to be very similar to the initial experience, though perhaps a little bit bigger and more polished. It will emphasize cooperation and strategy without sacrificing action elements, as players will need to team up with one another and manage a multitude of survival challenges in addition to simply fending off zombies. Meanwhile, H1Z1: King Of The Hill will take an approach more akin to the Call Of Duty zombie modes, providing a straightforward, battle royale survival experience.
It’s a pretty interesting concept from Daybreak, and while neither game appears poised to tap into the more lighthearted versions of zombie gaming, together they may still comprise one of the most comprehensive zombie gaming options out there. We’ll know at some point this year just how much things have progressed since the early access release.