Zombie Driver HD Review

October 25, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Exor Studios
Publisher(s): Exor Studios
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: October 17, 2012

Zombie Driver HD is a game I went into not really knowing what to expect. Part of me was afraid I’d find a hollowed out version of the old Grand Theft Auto games à la zombies. Another part of me was looking very forward to a modern take on a classic genre: the top down car shooter. What I found was a confused and sometimes annoying game whose faults were by no means indicative of the quality of the game itself, but interrupted my experience so often that it became hard to see the game for what it was, or rather what it should be: a fantastically bloody romp through a zombie-infested city.
  • Even with hundreds of zombies on the screen at any given time, the game runs smoothly and looks decent
  • Poorly designed story missions
  • Poorly designed and repetitive gameplay
  • Lack of multiplayer
  • Confusing controller layout
The story is introduced to you via a storyboard-like cutscene at the beginning of the game. It’s very vague, but from what I can gather an explosion happened at a nuclear plant that somehow led to a zombie outbreak? I don’t know. Once you have your story backdrop, you are thrown into a series of missions that make up the campaign of Zombie Driver HD. Unfortunately, this is where the experience really falls flat. Missions center on you driving to various points throughout the map, picking people up and bringing them to safety, protecting them while they fix their vehicle and then beat a hasty retreat, or battling a mini-boss creature of some kind. The missions never change; you’ll always be doing some variant of what I described above.  

Because there is a lack of variety in what the game has you doing at any given moment, the experience gets old far too quickly. This is also true of the gameplay. The formula for success is as follows: charge head-on into a crowd of zombies, pull handbrake and stay on gas, stay in your burnout of doom, press the weapon button, proceed to mow down zombies in record numbers. It is the exact same every… single… time. Yes, you can pick up different weapons, and yes, you gain access to different vehicles and can purchase power-ups. But all that means little if you don’t challenge the player. An upgrade system should playoff of an overarching difficulty. The harder the game gets, the more access you get to special toys, and the idea is that the spike in difficulty forces you to learn a new gameplay mechanic, that something new is introduced so that the player’s formula for success changes. This doesn’t happen in Zombie Driver HD. Because of that, the changes that the game allows you to make to car type and weapon type feel purely cosmetic. 

Now, normally I wouldn’t pick on something like this, but in this particular instance I feel justified in bringing this complaint to the developer’s attention. Just now, I literally sat at my laptop for 10 minutes trying to think of a way to lay down my criticism that isn’t ripe with the smell of douche-baggery; alas, I have failed. So, here it goes. Your script is absolutely atrocious. Here are a few gems that I found particularly disturbing: “The mayor was totally pissed about his city being destroyed,” said the military person in the rad voice of a California surfer-bro. And then there’s this little gem: “…it’ll take us a little bit longer to get this peace of junk moving.” Peace of junk. Peace… of junk. PEACE! The only reason I know that it is peace and not piece is because the game displays subtitles. On the off chance that it is actually supposed to be peace and not piece, I would simply say this: Your attempt at being clever failed. But that’s not at all. For some reason, most of the people you rescue from houses are hippies. I have no idea why, but that’s not my problem. My problem is that they all have something to say about the Social Contract, spouting off something irrelevant about how the government doesn’t care about people. There was one such hippie I picked up from a house. He said that he was surprised that the government cared enough about its people to send someone to help them. 

The game is chalked full of these Rousseau-ian quips, and it’s incredibly annoying. It has no place. It doesn’t belong. I understand the irreverent aesthetic that the developers were going for, I really do. But, these kinds of script choices don’t come across as irreverent. They come across as preachy and entirely foreign in a game that is really only about one thing: killing zombies. If Rousseau-ian inspired script choices are what you really want, why not go balls-out and make a game where Enlightenment social philosophers go zombie hunting?

There are also issues with the controls. Aside from not being player-friendly in the way the game introduces the controls to you—which is to say that the game doesn’t introduce the controls to you—there are issues with button layout. Beside the gas button, the game requires you to make use of a weapon button, a nitrous button, and a handbrake button. All three of these buttons operate best when they are pressed together, as this is how you do the aforementioned burnout of doom. The problem is that all three of these buttons are in the same place; so, you have to find a way to spread your thumb across the X, A, and B buttons all simultaneously. It’s like playing a game of miniature Twister. God help you if you have small hands. Another complaint I have is the size of the text on the car select and upgrade screens. It’s simply too small. I have a 47-inch television screen—which is humungous for a San Francisco Bay Area apartment—and I had to get up from my couch and sit on the floor in front of the television screen to be able to read it. That is inexcusably ridiculous and it should have been addressed before the game was released.

In addition to the single-player story mode there are the Slaughter and Blood Race modes. Slaughter is your standard survival mode and Blood Race functions as the game’s racing mode. These modes, in and of themselves, are fine. As concepts they make indisputably perfect sense. But, there’s one thing you would expect these modes to have: a multiplayer component. Yes, there is a leaderboard where you can keep track of your friends’ progress and records, but it does little to enhance the experience of modes that are practically begging to be shared with a friend. I don’t know if it was a budget or a time issue that kept these two modes from containing a fully functioning multiplayer component; but, that doesn’t change the fact that the game suffers because of it.

Zombie Driver HD is a game that I desperately wanted to like, which surprises even me when I consider the number of zombie-themed games on the market right now. But, I think that’s the very reason why I wanted to like it so much. At a time when the majority of zombie games that are released are FPSs, a game like Zombie Driver HD has—or had, rather—the opportunity to be a fresh, even if laughably retro, take on zombies in games today. It was never going to be game of the year, but it could have been so much more than what it is: just another mediocre and frustratingly repetitive zombie game.

Final Score “Repetitive, Repetitive, Repetitive” 5.5
They’re not going to blow you away, but some of the lighting effects are actually quite impressive. More than adequate for an XBLA title of this caliber.
Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive, repetitive… you get my point?
At $10, it’s not a bad value at all. But, the lack of a multiplayer component of any kind really hurts Zombie Driver HD in this category.
There’s nothing good or bad I can say… the sound is just kind of there.

Review by Jon Hamlin

Jon Hamlin is a freelance game journalist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He plays too much Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and enjoys a good glass of wine. Occasionally, he can be found commanding his legion of doom on Xbox Live as GeniusPantsPhD. Follow him on Twitter @WordsmithJon, or email him at All Articles byJon.       

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  1. Wow! You found a typo in a game! Seriously?

  2. I just love the graphics of this game!! Will surely play this game :)

  3. One of the worst XBLA games I ever played. I want my money back!


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