So I am probably terminally late to Xbox 360. The whole reason we got one was because Heidi had a nice paycheck and she wanted to do something nice for Anna and me for putting up with her marathon writing sessions. It wasn’t necessary, but I have to admit, it sure is nice. I worried a little bit because there’s a brand new Xbox coming out (or out? I don’t really keep up with such things) and I wondered if the 360 would be obsolete in 2 and a half minutes. I’m not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination – most of the time my attention span is extremely limited for a complicated video game that requires a lot of special maneuvers with the controllers. You gotta remember that I grew up with Atari – joystick, paddle or possibly track ball. The newer controllers really confuse me.
But anyway, what finally tripped me over into getting behind this whole Xbox 360 idea is the shitload of zombie games that you can get for that console. There are pitifully few for the Wii – probably because that system is generally more aimed at kids and there’s not much that’s kiddish about zombies. I remembered a game that got in trouble with the people who own the copyright to Dawn of the Dead because the game took place in a shopping mall. Turns out that game is Dead Rising, and my memory did serve me correctly – the action takes place in Willamette Shopping Mall in Willamette, Colorado. It had fair to middling reviews on a lot of the review sites I looked at, so I decided to rent it first. While it won’t set the world on fire or anything (especially since it’s a 7 year-old game now), it’s more than passable and actually quite a bit of fun to play. Once I got the hang of the controls, zombie killing commenced. The zombies in this game are of the slow variety so it’s pretty easy to dart around them in the mall unless there’s just a horde of them, but zipping past them really kind of defeats the point, right? The best thing about Dead Rising is that just about anything can be a weapon. Actually, the use of firearms is kind of plebian when things like potted plants, mall benches, chairs, steel shelves, baseball bats, stuffed horse heads, purses, and pretty much anything you can find in a shopping mall. The sucky part of the game is that it only allows you one save slot and you can only save the game by going to the mall’s public restrooms or back to the security office and let me tell you, sometimes you’re hell and gone from one of those.
Serving as a counterpoint to this game is the other zombie game that really caught my attention – so much so that I purchased it without trying it. That game is Left 4 Dead. To be fair, I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the game as I had seen the PC version of it when we visited some friends in California about 4 years ago. Left 4 Dead is an infected game (which is a distinction that many diehard zombie people insist upon – I’m not so anal) so these are fast zombies. There’s special types of zombies – the Boomer that vomits all over you, the Smoker that has a tongue Gene Simmons would be proud of that can wrap up players and dangle them from buildings. There’s also the Tank which reminds me of the Abomination from The Incredible Hulk not to mention hordes and hordes or regular infecteds that will charge you on site. Car alarms and gunfire get their attention. The landscape is appropriately post-apocalyptic – dark, rainy, gray and super creepy.You have all sorts of firearms at your disposal – pistols that never run out of ammo, machine guns, and rifles as well as pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails. As you can imagine, THIS IS SERIOUS. This is not the cartoonish violence of Dead Rising.
The ultimate question is “which game is better?” I guess it all depends on what you want. If you want to kill zombies with handbags, golf clubs and baby strollers, go with Dead Rising. If you want to use something that sprays bullets all over the place, go for Left 4 Dead. For me, either one works in a pinch.