The full video wasn't played, or at least I don‘t remember all the craic with auld MJ pretending to be a werewolf, pretending he can act, and generally acting the bollocks. What I do recall, however, is the entire graveyard scene. Fear and curiosity swiftly washed over me in equal measures. I couldn’t move. It was like I was frozen to the spot. Standing in the doorway, escape only a step behind me; all I had to do was break my line of vision with the TV and I’d be free, but I couldn’t. I was memorized, watching as hideous creatures rose from their graves. As they shambled forward, their decaying limbs fell away, and they gurgled blood in their rotted mouths. As if this wasn’t enough, Vincent Price was busy describing the scene in great, gory detail. Even if I closed my eyes, I could still hear everything perfectly. Once they had surrounded Jackson and random girlfriend number 1, the camera spun round the terrified couple, returning back to MJ’s face, but it was all too late. Michael Jackson had joined the ranked of the outstandingly funky and well choreographed undead. I’d taken all I could stand, and ran away screaming. If they could do this to a bad motherfucker like him, imagine what they could do to me! I cursed Ian Dempsey, and swore that he could indeed be the devil himself. I’ve yet to be proven otherwise.
Zombies weren’t exactly a rarity in those days. There were a lot of great zombie themed horror movies kicking it around at the time- Return Of The Living Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Braindead, and ton of other blood soaked classics. I was quite young at the time though, so I wouldn’t have been familiar with these flicks. Thriller was probably my first zombie experience. If not, it was my first good one, because it really left an impact on me. Since then though, it seems like many people may have had one too many brain cells eaten, as everyone seems to love zombies, and the very idea of zombies, even more than they love the family dog. Of course, this doesn’t just go for movies featuring our undead friends. No, instead it’s hard to pick up a video game that doesn’t feature them.
A few years later the proverbial shite got real! Deep within the fictional brush surrounding the equally fictional Raccoon City lay an old fictional mansion, where we were introduced to an entirely different take on zombies. S.T.A.R.S Alpha Team were looking for their Bravo counterparts when they discovered that zombies were, not only real, but also going to eat them alive. The power of Playstation brought these horrors to life in Resident Evil, and scattered them along your path, as you took control of Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. It’s worth noting that Chris did not wear 3D glasses because it was now the mid 90’s, and that shit was no longer considered cool. The slow, shambling zombies may almost seem comical now, with their square bodies and slow patient movements, but at the time they were the pinnacle of video game horror! Your characters were also slow, and turning wasn’t really their strong point, so if you found yourself in a tight corridor with one or more deadies, you best hope you have something other than just that bullshit combat knife equipped. If not, save yourself the hassle of fighting a losing battle, and just use that old knife to butter two slices of bread, slide your head comfortably between them, and simply wait for the zombies to eat you.
When Capcom made Resident Evil, they probably didn’t realise that they’d inadvertently kick-started the interactive zombie apocalypse. Although there were zombie games before this, Res E was the real turning point, and it seems like anything since that has wanted a piece of the gore-filled pie. Said pie is a large fattening pastry, and there has been more than enough of it to go around; all of a sudden everything featured zombies. Different shapes and sizes, but nearly always the same core fundamentals. House Of The Dead made zombies look somewhat competent, giving them the ability to lob axes at your face. Area 51 even gave them guns… and pretended they were aliens. It was not one of Nevada’s most convincing cover-ups. Carmageddon’s PS1 port swapped the pedestrians for zombies, because it’s ok to run people down for fun if they were already dead. Over ten years later Blood Drive thought it would try the same thing, but this wasn’t something you would come clambering out of your grave for. Left 4 Dead exchanged the classic shamblers for 28 Days Later style zombies, unleashing swarms of these high speed flesh bags upon the players. Touch The Dead… well, we don’t talk about Touch The Dead any more. You get the drift though; zombies are everywhere in gaming.
It wasn’t long before the zombie genre was done to death and back. There are simply too many zombie titles out there at the moment, and they don’t show any signs of really slowing down. Even realistic military shooters are getting zombie modes, because it seems almost as essential to tack on a useless zombie mode now as it does to tack on a useless multiplayer mode. Hell, even plants have battled it out with zombies by now.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike zombies. I enjoy blowing the head off a corpse as much as the next man. In fact, I believe that the only people who don’t like zombies are people who died and didn’t return to life. Their prejudice is born out of jealousy. Zombies are fun, but they’ve just become so overdone that it’s hard to take anything featuring zombies seriously any more. It seems like the easy way out. Instead of putting actual character design into enimies, it’s all too common now to just lob an undead army in there instead. Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad, and it’s Wii counterpart Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, are perfect examples of just how lazy and unimaginative this whole zombie fiasco has really fucking gotten. Gamers like zombies, right? Gamers are mostly male, right? Then zombies and chicks in bikinis should be all a gamer needs, right? Wrong! What’s needed is a change of pace. We need imagination. We need something exciting to really move us. Something that doesn’t include yet another apocalypse of smelly, dopey zombies. Something that will make the developers of these games actually think about adding some art into their craft.
What ever happened to crazy character design? Off the wall ideas, like goombas, pig-cops, robo-Hitler, one-eyed vengeful tyrannosaurs, weird-ass mutants, bizarre ghosts, aliens; the motherfucking choices are endless! There are so many things to choose from, and that’s just naming a few of the classics from over the years. Add more imagination to that and the sky’s the limit. Why constantly use the lowest common demoninator, when you could blow the whole industry out of the water instead? I, for one, have had it up to my delicious brains with zombies, and I’d love to see something new. Something that would excite me in a way that very few games do these days. Surely I haven’t seen it all just yet. Surely it’s time to put the zombie genre to death… and hope it doesn’t rise back up and murder us all.