Trial impressions: Zombie Death Car

Yet another Xbox LIVE Indie Game with zombies in it, but this time things are different. This is not your usual "mind-blowing" twin stick or sniping shooter. No, this time you will have to do without a shotgun or rifle, your only weapon is an old police muscle car, the infamous Zombie Death Car, which - as its name implies - brings death to zombies that are trying to escape, but is hurting the player way more than the undead, who have my sympathy for trying to get out of this 3D driving game. The developer's description: "Stop the zombie hoard from escaping with your car." Well, I would hand them the keys...

The game's premise of running down zombies with a car could have made for a fun experience, but the title is lacking in every aspect. Let's start with level design. Er, well, there is none. The only level of the game consists of a huge, flat square made up of a single floor texture and a smaller yellow and red square in the center making up the escape zone for the zombies. This play field is surrounded by a blocky hedge and blocky houses made up of one and the same texture for all the buildings. The sky is simply colored orange and has no texture at all. If you expect a creepy environment in a zombie game, you will find what you're looking for in ZDC. Except for the nicely modelled car, the only visual feat of this game, graphics are bland, uninspired and outright ugly. The zombies all look the same as there is only one model, and if it wasn't for their body posture, it would be hard to even identify them as zombies. At a certain speed, the repeating pattern of the ground texture even conveys the impression of going backwards, but it doesn't really matter where you're going anyway, because the level is completely empty, lacking anything to fill the gameplay with life.

Ok, this game is about the undead and bringing an end to their undead, er, life, one might reply. And I guess I could forgive its horrible presentation if the game was shining where it counts the most: the gameplay and the driving itself. Of course, I don't expect fully-fledged driving physics in an 80 MSP XBLIG, and maneuvering the car in ZDC actually isn't that bad. Steering is very responsive and rather arcadey, but acceleration is pretty slow and I found myself wishing for a boost button. An odd design decision was disregarding any controller vibration, so you won't feel any collisions whatsoever, not even when hitting a zombie. There are no power-ups either, which would have been a nice feature, no further obstacles, no multiplayer, nothing to spice up the action, so the game quickly becomes boring, way before the trial time limit of 8 minutes runs out.

Your primary goal is to prevent the zombies from escaping. They will usually climb over the hedge surrounding the play field and start running towards the red square in the center, and upon reaching it will simply disappear, having managed to escape. Yup, undead life is that simple, no need to call in for a chopper or reaching a safe house, just step on the red floor and you're safe. (It's also remarkable that the zombies in this game do not display any desire for human flesh at all, their driving force in most interpretations of the undead.) On each wave, only a certain amount of zombies may escape, exceed that number and it's game over. The first "wave" starts with a single zombie, and the first time I started the game I was having difficulties finding the guy. It would have been nice to have a minimap showing the position of zombies, which in later levels could have helped to determine which zombies are getting too close to the escape zone. Every other wave, a zombie is added, and after level three the trial warps directly to level 50, so 50 undead try to get away but you're only allowed to let ten of them escape, which I was not able to accomplish within the trial time limit. There are only a handful of sound effects, with the engine sounds being rather annoying, but the soundtrack features some nice electronic music.

Considering the overall weak presentation and dull gameplay, Zombie Death Car sadly doesn't deliver what I was hoping for and can't be recommended even at the low price of 80 Microsoft Points. Also, the trial is trying to tempt you into purchasing the game by displaying "Press Y to buy the full game" directly on the car during the whole trial, which was rather putting me off. Developers should better try to make the trial experience enjoyable for potential buyers and not force purchasing options on players. But to finish on a positive note, ZDC is just a one-man project and the developer has created a basis he can expand upon, so if he gets two or three more people on the team, Zombie Death Car 2 might actually become a fun game. But for now, there is still no title on XBLIG properly satisfying your sick desire for running down zombies or pedestrians, so you will have to stick to retail games such as Blood Drive or wait for the resurrection of the classic Carmageddon (one of my all-time favorites) on Xbox LIVE Arcade.


  1. Hi the developer here. Definitely a fair review, many of the issues you bring up I would of like to implement but released due to time constraints and the need for revenue. This project was also more of a proof of concept, by having car physics and multiple animated characters on screen at once with a decent frame rate. The press Y to buy game, in hindsight should of been placed in the bottom centre of the screen, between the level counter and the speedometer. I will be expanding on what I have and will try to make a more meaningful and polished experience for a sequel.

  2. Hi, I'm glad you're considering my feedback and look forward to reviewing the sequel.