One recurring trend last year was the popularity of zombies. They were everywhere, on every platform, scaring everyone. Here is a review of zombified games in 2012.
I vividly remember the hysteria caused by unexpected heavyweights last year: Telltale’s The Walking Dead, an episodic game from a studio lacking any real notable titles, won universal GOTY; and DayZ, a free mod for ArmA II, hit one million players within four months of release. Telltale is working on a season two, and Bohemia hired Dean “Rocket” Hall, DayZ‘s creator, to make a standalone title.
Zombies were extremely popular in 2012, and always have been in the minds of gamers. The frantic nature and resourcefulness needed for success are instant attractors, and since games are gradually getting easier, a resurgence in popularity is refreshing. Not to say it should be overdone, which might happen into 2013.
The good, other than satisfying zombie kills
Immediately, recognition was given where it was due. The Walking Dead is an emotional thrill ride relying on personal relationships, monumental decision-making, and the structural collapse of society to provide some incredibly intense moments. All of this through point-and-click, showcasing true potential for the genre, instead of focusing on the action side of a zombie apocalypse a la Left 4 Dead.
The Walking Dead deservedly won top honour from Destructoid, Yahoo, Wired, OXM, GamesRadar, and the Spike Video Game Awards. It, alongside Double Fine Adventure, has reinvigorated interest in the point-and-click adventure genre, considered foregone since the late 1990s.
Another strong addition to the zombified craze was DayZ, a free mod that jumped sales of ArmA II up 500%. Bohemia Interactive took notice and supported the mod, later hiring its creator to work on a standalone version. So in 2013, presumably, a retail DayZ, perhaps paired with ArmA III, could make a splash in PC markets.
The last huge release featuring zombies is ZombiU, part of the Wii U’s launch lineup and “spiritual successor” to Ubisoft’s first ever game. Emblematic of the Wii U’s innovative system, it received mixed scores at release, though that quickly turned into praise.
The bad, other than getting bitten
Zombies are great for business in the gaming world, except when things go disastrously wrong. One game that carried much hype upon its announcement was The War Z, the second offering from a small studio named Hammerpoint Interactive.
The game expanded on the formula of DayZ: surviving in an open world against zombies and other players to find the best supplies and weaponry. It all sounds too promising, and evidently it was: after uproar from Steam buyers and TotalBiscuit’s video criticizing the game (linked below) went viral, Valve removed the game and reimbursed everyone.
Hammerpoint advertised a league of things which were not present in the final release. False promises of skills, many large maps, 100 player cap, and including a microtransaction system (when the items disappear after you die) blatantly misled consumers into buying what Hammerpoint called the ”foundation release”. Which I think is developer speak for “not ready for release”.
Other problems arose too: it was later proven Hammerpoint copied some of AMC’s The Walking Dead show art, and they had the gull to outright steal verbatim the Terms & Conditions of League of Legends.
Yet early hype spiked the game to number two on Steam’s overall sales list for that week, even though The War Z was clearly not release ready. Valve did not check the game’s status before release, trusting the developer, thus deceiving its loyal fanbase. (This is a topic I’ll be discussing in the near future.)
The unsure, other than actually finding yourself in a zombie apocalypse and not having fun
The two absolutes we know of in 2013 are a season two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead and DayZ as a separate franchise. One relatively unknown project is Activision’s take on the AMC show called Survival Instinct, starring beloved characters Daryl and Merle. Here some footage:
Compared to Telltale, Survival Instinct is one to watch to see if it can possibly perform as well. Two distinct genres, two forms of gameplay, however they share the same sense of decision-making. Activision will obviously prioritize the “shooter” aspect of its version, though it is fair to assume any choices are to kept at a minimum.
Image courtesy of Ludolik on DeviantArt.
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