What happens when you mix Carmageddon, pre-2001 Grand Theft Auto and a dash of the underrated Xbox Live Arcade / Playstation Network game Assault Heroes? You get Grand Assault Karma, but as that game doesn’t exist (yet) you’ll have to make do with the next best thing; Exor Studios’ daft, loud and raucous Zombie Driver. It’s a game that is almost entirely bereft of plot – with the exception of a brief animation montage at the start and some radio comms that pop up between missions – and you’ll be extremely glad that a storyline wasn’t senselessly shoehorned into it. This is a game about running zombies over and rescuing survivors, with the added bonus (after you’ve upgraded your loadout) of being able to shoot them too.
There are quite a few smart mechanics in play. You never have to worry too much about being a bad driver, as your vehicle never takes damage from anything other than the undead horde. The game also allows you to use vehicles to tailor the experience to your own needs; you can use a bus so that you can pack more survivors into it (though it moves slowly) or you can use high-end sports cars that only seat a handful of people, but that move like the absolute clappers. The differences between these two ways of playing (as well as all the other shades in between) actually end up giving it a significant amount of replay value, if only because the faster cars are one hell of a lot easier to manoeuvre once you’re gotten fully used to driving the bus.
And mastering the ability to swerve around the place like a happy madman, knocking over as many zombies as possible while you go, is easily the most entertaining thing about the game. There is a decent variety to the onboard weaponry that you can pimp your wagon with – including rocket launchers and nitro boosts – but because you can only utilise one of them at any one time, you are never put in a position where you can rely on them to get you out of trouble. You’re also put under some increasingly strict time constraints (particularly during the game’s latter stages) so getting to grips with the vehicles is never simply an afterthought.
So this is an old school endeavour, for sure; there is no multiplayer, and with the exception of online leaderboards there isn’t any online functionality. Strangely enough though, this stripped down approach only adds to the retrograde charm of it all, and some touches – like the Infamous-inspired opening cinematic or the John Carpenter-esque menu music – pander to fans of zombie movies in ways that are pretty darned difficult to resist. It will probably re-emerge at some point in the next couple of years as an XBL/PSN title, but you’re heartily advised to jump on the bandwagon early, before everybody else follows suit.
Watch the Zombie Driver trailer here: