Well, the name is misleading. You drive through them, not for them. Nor are you one.
But when the game is about plowing down the undead, I can forgive the little things, like…well, a bad camera angle, odd controls when reversing, and a few clipping issues. Unfortunately, there’s also a few larger issues.
Zombie Driver maintains a simple mission structure. Pick a vehicle that’s unlocked, buy an upgrade, and get cruising through a city full of zombies. Every mission involves two things. The first is a passenger pickup. Survivors are scattered around the city in desperate need of rescue. They’re rarely particularly close together, but their distances from base are usually the easy indicator of what order to tackle them in. Players will zip over, kill nearby zombies by way of weapon or old fashioned vehicularly-induced trauma, Carmageddon style.
Secondary missions are generally about killing as well, though without survivors to worry about. Clearing an area or killing a certain number is standard, though sometimes there’s a speed goal instead. It’s not a highly varied game, by any means, but it does entertain.
It’s very much an arcade game, with an intended quick pace and a rush to survive and accomplish your goals in that limited timeframe provided (at least for the primaries, most secondary have no time limit as long as you’ve gotten primary goals finished and they’re not time based). As a result, the levels tend to feel very much the same, minus a new zombie type sometimes, or new weaponry. It’s mostly just an escalation from the last level, though, like any arcade game. Unfortunately, the ramp-up is mostly in the form of “more zombies”, instead of new types or new things to get around. And that wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the camera, truly the greatest enemy in the game.
The game uses a 3/4 overhead perspective that stays mostly behind the car, with a little delay in turns. It’s just too close too the ground, though, to provide a good look ahead of the player, and there’s no minimap, meaning players see around forty feet in front of them when they’re going straight. Not nearly enough at a decent speed, and it’s enough to make the sports car genuinely useless, too fast and too unarmored to use effectively. It also turns slow enough to make spinning the car around and lining up another attack run very difficult, more than it should be, and tall buildings can obscure the car’s location, leading to a failed mission if there’s an exploding zombie around the turn.
The addition of a minimap would be good, and a camera that was a little higher or pointed more ahead would be make a tremendous difference for the game, allowing players to reach that speed the game wants them to, without slamming into clusters of zombies or walls. And of course, those walls mean zombie clusters catch you and once again, you lose, but not for the right reason, for a technical issue.
The game also has some clipping issues on occasion, or physics bumps. More than once I found myself outside of the map’s intended boundaries. While there’s unbreakable fences lining 98% of that boundary (fortunately, it turns out), I ended up somehow going over it twice in my 4 hours of play. Once I ended up flying over the water and landing, fortunately, on the other side of the bridge I missed. The second I went out entirely, landing in decorative trees and managing to drive my way into blackness outside the map. Fortunately, after some searching, I found an area that wasn’t fenced off at the train tracks, letting me back into the map. I finished my mission, and…the passengers didn’t get out of my car. I don’t know if the incidents were related or not, but it was 15 minutes of time lost on one of the most difficult secondary missions in the game.
There’s also the unfortunate oversight of the game being a straight linear 16 level run, and after that, you start right back at the beginning. No new game plus, no level select. No backtracking. You’re playing straight through, and once you finish, that’s it. It’s something that could add a lot of replay, particularly in an arcade style game. Even a free play mode where players just mow down zombies would be a great, simple addition, but it’s not there.
In the end, it’s all the little things that keep Zombie Driver as a good game, but never let it excel. A few patches and camera tweaks will go a long way, and those additions would go very, very far, pushing the game from “a little above average” to “really, really fun.” It’s a game that wants to be more than it is, and it’s not without charm; most of the character pictures look like they’re pictures of the staff, and the voices are likely in studio. Even the background sirens or zombie noises sound like someone going “WoooOOOOOOooooooo!” into a microphone. The basic idea is fun, and the gameplay, when working right, is fun. But it’s always fighting problems it shouldn’t have, even for the value price tag.
Zombie Driver gets three out of five stars. It’s entertaining and it’ll get you a few hours worth, at least, for the $10 it costs, but it’s held back by myriad nagging issues. It’s repetitive, and players never get to that full speed zombie smashing experience they want thanks to the camera holding them back.