The modding community provides a great set of training wheels for indie developers, and even full-fledged studios nowadays. It’s a shame this wonderful pool of talent still does not receive the recognition it deserves by the industry-at-large (save for studios like Valve, of course). After demonstrating its skills with the Half Life 2 mod DIP RIP (a pretty good take on the Twisted Metal formula done within the source engine) developer EXOR Studio continues to work with crazy cars while adding the magic ingredient that seemingly makes every modern game work – zombies.
Zombie Driver puts the gamer behind the wheel of different vehicles in a ravaged city infested with mutated zombies. The goal is to drive through (literally) the horde and rescue survivors. To do so, you need to clear the area around the house where the survivors are barricaded within the generous time limit and then transport the survivors back to the safe house. Every zombie killed will give you some cash; the more you kill at once, the bigger the combo and the more money you get. The money earned during the missions can then be spent to upgrade your ride, and buy new (and deadlier) weapons.
Going away from the more classic “behind the car” view used in DIP RIP, Zombie Drivers uses a retro top-down camera reminiscent of the first two GTAs. I understand that doing so makes the game a lot lighter on the processor, but it’s hard to deny that having an option to jump into the cockpit view would make the game a real blast. As it is, the retro lover that I am still finds the top-down view charming and the game remains very playable, even at high speed – which was a problem for the original GTA. Still, after playing DIP RIP, it seems that Exor Studio knows how to provide a good arcade driving sensation and it’s a little disappointing that the studio did not use it for Zombie Driver.
The idea behind Zombie Driver is simple but the execution is pretty good. Graphically the game looks nice and players get a large view of their surroundings at all times. The hordes of zombies can get ridiculous at some points, which is exactly what you want when you start firing the nitro on your bus. The carnage is bloody and the models look good even if the camera is too far to see how detailed an individual zombie might be. The city also looks quite good; it is detailed and ravaged, and it’s obvious that the team spent time adding details everywhere with destructible environments adding to the general chaos.
Crushing the zombies is aurally satisfying and the rising tones of the combos players can build work well. Musically, it’s fine, but I’m not going to listen to the theme outside of the game.
Zombie Driver offers no multiplayer mode, which could have been great. But the single player offers a story mode (I did not really follow what happened – I just killed zombies and saved survivors, receiving bigger and better cars in the process, but the survivors’ commentary is pretty funny) and a survival mode with seemingly neverending hordes that you have to kill in order to get more points and score a medal. It’s all pretty standard stuff, but still enjoyable.
After working on a great mod, EXOR Studio showed that it could create its own product with style. Zombie Driver is a pretty good first game and the price point of $9.95 US makes it a solid value. The main game can be finished in around 5 hours but the slaughter mode offers good replayability with different arenas to unlock.