Has there been a drastic change in the portrayal of zombies since George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead"? As the fascination with zombies grows, so does the market. And as the market grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to change the idea of the zombie- basically, it needed change. Zombies can run now, they used to not be able to. And there are different forms, all with different arsenals. But besides the general media representation, we can see where zombies in video games have changed specifically.
1. Faster paced, more expansive gameplay
Whereas in Resident Evil, or house of the dead, zombie games have become less linear in gameplay and more expansive environmentally. With Resident Evil 4 and 5 we can see where drastic changes were made. Wider environments with more room to move around in, and also less of the small, stifled hallways stuffed with zombies. Left for Dead is also an example of taking the zombie genre and combining different core gameplay elements. This game is also made great because of the mass hordes and varying types of zombies. Also, the increase in movement speed in general for zombies has contributed to the situations becoming easily dire. In the new PSN title, "Dead Nation", the environments are highly detailed, and the gameplay is what shines through. Running to the streets in search for the checkpoint, sticking together and having a plan is what goes a long way in newer zombie games.
No longer is it the intricate story of a mansion or a corrupt organization. It is about a couple soldiers in a shack hold up against swarms. It is of four lost people banding together to fight on and continue to live. Less focus has been on the story and more focus is on the zombie survival directly. This can keep players from getting too emotionally attached to their characters and focus more on the frenzied battles and strategy involved. Keeping those elements as the leading point in most shoot em up zombie games removes the risk of trite ideas that can sully the game experience. Yet, also there is innovation. With Siren: Blood Curse, you must defend yourself at all cost and do the opposite of mow down hordes of the undead. You must hide, and while simultaneously controlling your character keep your eye on the other half of the screen in which you are given a first person perspective of the creature chasing you. The fact that you can hear and be taken through the monsters damaged and quite unsettling thoughts as they look for you is terrifying. Having them hear you run past the hallway to your hiding spot is even worse. And even then, seeing the monster chasing you down and hiding in plain sight while they neglect to check the cupboard right next to them is jaw clenching goodness. Come on, change!
3. The "Traditional" Zombie
...Is extinct. There are so many forms of the zombie. I would say that in the Resident Evil Remake, the Crimson zombies really stood out for me as a change in how i viewed zombies. Here all along in the series I had been used to one type of zombie- slow, angry, and only a real danger when in packs or in a corner. Crimsons were fast, aggressive, and had a hell of a creepy way to stand up right after walking past them. They also had claws, and red skin (hence, crimson). In Resident Evil 4 and 5 we see change in the portrayal of zombies drastically. No more are they slow, but fast, aware, and ready for battle. Heads explode, tentacles protrude out of the neck, some huge guy wielding a huge axe is running towards you, and all the while you thought you had an idea of what zombies were supposed to be. Tsk, tsk. This example of change in the traditional zombie in video games reveals that the age old argument that zombies move slow is a subjective one. Then again, zombies itself are subjective. in "Siren: Blood Curse", the zombie type is one of vague and misplaced intelligence. What used to be love, turns to hate and rage. These rage filled creatures are but another example of the ever changing views of zombies and how to interpret them.
For better or for worse, we can see a shift in the gameplay and how zombies are portrayed by the industry. No more are zombie games slow and trudging, but more intense and rewarding. Subtracting certain over used elements and refreshing the genre in the appeal to the story, as well as the appeal to environmentally satiating worlds, and we have a new formula for a new age of zombies.