by Andrew Hallam
previewed on PC
The Zed Word
Project Zomboid is definitely not the game you initially expect it to be. When I first saw some screenshots I recognised it as a game in which you run around jubilantly amidst the cutesy isometric graphics, accompanied of course by the occasional bout of flesh eating. Turns out, I was wrong. You see, Project Zomboid’s protagonist known by name as Bob Smith, has a slight problem. His darling wife Kate broke her leg a few hours prior to the start of the game causing Bob, the loving husband that he is, to carry her through the undead hordes to find a safe house. The alpha stage demo, (Project Zomboid's current build), starts out with Bob tending to Kate's wounds amidst a raging zombie apocalypse on a rainy evening in March. Just from the game's first few minutes of dialogue between it's two main characters, you can already tell that this is going to be a far different experience from the cutesy arcade game that the bright and colourful graphics suggest in the screenshots.
Isometric Zombie Hordes
It is easy to say that this was the most enjoyable and yet emotion filled tutorial section of any game I have played. After bandaging Kate's leg, Bob goes out in search of food. He stops off on the way to raid the garden shed for a hammer and then promptly proceeds to the neighbour’s house where he finds a recently turned zombie lying in wait. Bob, knowing his wife is in danger of dying, proceeds to cave the undead bastard's head in with his recently liberated hammer. After raiding the kitchen for food, Bob rushes back to the safe house to cook up the nourishing soup he found for Kate. Luckily, she is still alive and after Bob puts the soup on the flame he goes to keep check on his darling wife. “You did remember to turn off the oven didn't you?” asks Kate as he enters the room. At first Bob seems confused, but this soon passes when the smoke alarms kick in and a sudden flush of realisation spreads across his face. Bob rushes downstairs to find the kitchen ablaze and to add further panic a group of zombies knock at the door in search of some freshly barbecued human flesh.
Bob races back upstairs to save Kate, but the situation is looking just a bit grim and it is set to get even worse. As he lifts her up and manages to fumble down the staircase, there is a massive crash from the front door and the zombie hordes pour in to the building in their hundreds. Bob and Kate inevitably accept their unfortunate situation, as they lie trapped between the raging fire from the kitchen and the shambling undead from the front door. You know you are on to a winner with an open world zombie apocalypse RPG, when your first death comes from cooking soup for your injured wife. Project Zomboid is one of those rare gems in gaming that only indie developers could have the ingenuity to create. Of course this is just one of a number of possible ways to go about the tutorial, but it shows how dark and engaging the story can get for such an early alpha build.