Zombie Infection

Firstly it’s worth pointing out that if George Lucas and George Romero were in my local pub, I’d hoof Lucas in the nuts and clamber over him to buy Romero a drink - and I love George Lucas. I just love zombies more.

But don’t worry if undead apocalypses aren’t your bag - Zombie Infection still has more to offer than most any mobile game we’ve seen so far in 2009, and that includes the recent Resident Evil: Degeneration.

There’s a credo in all good zombie-based storytelling that Zombie Infection graciously adheres to: the story is never about the zombies.

The walking dead are one of the finest narrative devices of modern literature, in that they present a plot-perfect opportunity for the storyteller to strip the human world of man-made principles such as morality, civilisation, mercy, prejudice and honour.

They also offer up the ideal gun fodder, as we can blow them to pieces and never have to feel bad about it.

In Zombie Infection we begin in a world where these humanist concepts are already crumbling, and outside contractors have been brought in by the authorities to police a decaying society.

Naturally these contractors are looking for every opportunity to monetise their new positions of power and most have teamed up with TV stations to broadcast their law enforcement duties and really capitalise on the situation.

You’re here to take control of the second best security force there is, called Inside Action. The team comprises a security man (the star of the show), a camera woman, a director and a producer.

Together the Inside Action team has one of the highest ratings, best arrest records and largest fan bases the law enforcement privatisation act has created - second only to the Freedom Fighters corporations (something not dissimilar to the Pinkertons of the Wild West). And all’s going well until perps - gunned down by our heroic TV team - start getting back up and craving live meat.

All this happens during the slick introduction, and as the team quickly begins to suspect the Freedom Fighters have something to do with the zombie outbreak, they’re caught in an explosion and wake up unarmed and unprovisioned, separated from each other in the middle of a hellish holocaust.

It’s a set up that puts Romero’s Land of the Dead to shame, and would sell itself as a guns ’n’ guts horror flick without any further refinement. What’s even more surprising is it works perfectly on a gaming level, too - a boundary that’s not easily crossed as we know all too well.

Working from an isometric perspective, you take control of each of the team members as the story requires, beginning as ex-army tough guy Anderson as he attempts to rally the Inside Action team.

Along the way you encounter civilians who need help in one way or another (rescuing family members and so forth), or who can be joined with your character and taken to safety.

This latter function borrows quite heavily from the awesome Xbox 360 game Dead Rising, and adds some serious tension to an attack when you’ve got terrified meat bags clinging to your shoulder.

There are also strong leanings toward classics such as Resident Evil, with finite inventories that can be offloaded into boxes dotted about the levels, and a selection of weaponry to find, buy and sell as the opportunity comes along.

This weaponry ranges from tasers to handguns, machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers and - my favourite - the katana.

Each character exhibits his own idiosyncrasies, too, that go beyond dialogue and into specific in-game abilities. Mike, the director, is very quick on his feet and prefers handheld weaponry like katanas and shuriken (his first weapon being a delicious homage to Kill Bill), while Anderson takes a mean shot with the big guns.

This overt characterisation reveals itself dynamically as you explore the levels in tense readiness for the flash-hungry attackers around every corner, and the world of Zombie Infection develops a distinct tangibility that most movies fail to realise.

Of course, we all know what it takes to kill a zombie, and a generic shot toward a small sprite really doesn’t get the point across. Zombie Infection manages to cope with the inherent necessity of careful head shots supremely well by using a moving cursor that travels up and down the nearest zombie in range.

Hitting the fire button as it passes over its head takes it out in one shot. Put a bullet in its chest or leg, however, and it keeps coming. Even after you’ve riddled it with enough lead to chop it into raw, fetid meat it continues to crawl after you in wonderful, horrific B-movie style.

You might recall how the low budget British ‘zom rom com’ Shaun of the Dead trickled out into the cinema then quickly and unexpectedly claimed its place in zombie mythology.

Zombie Infection does exactly the same thing - a game that’s appeared without much fanfare but has immediately proven itself to sport the kind of guttural, unstoppable action backbone to go up against the best of them.

All we need now is for this infection to spread to other platforms and sport a host of living dead sequels.

Zombie Infection

A superb rollercoaster of undead action, packed with as many thrills as it has severed heads. This game claims its place alongside the finest zombie yarns – both film and game – that we’ve seen in years