Posted: November 25, 2013
In ZDHD, you are Joe Citizen who, for reasons unknown and never really explained, has been recruited by the military to conduct a series of combat, scouting, and search-and-rescue missions. The first ten or so story missions of Zombie Driver HD were fun and the last twenty-one generally vacillated somewhere between tedium and entertainment, with a couple of teeth-grinding exceptions. Most of the components of a good game are here, but none of them stand out in any way, which makes the whole more-or-less precisely the sum of its parts: a mediocre story, weak voice-acting, decent but not remarkable gameplay, nice car models and (mostly) destructible terrain, and some value-added game modes.
Your missions start with briefings, like the one shown above, after which you select a vehicle and buy any upgrades that you can afford based on what you’ve unlocked so far and how much cash you’ve earned from completing objectives or finding money stashes. ZDHD is one of those top-down games where you never get out of your car. The variety of vehicles, ranging from your starter car, a taxicab, to a giant armored vehicle with a 10-passenger capacity, is fairly impressive, but when you dig into the game you’ll find that you’re really only using one or two of the vehicles in your garage, generally a compromise between carrying capacity (most of your missions involve rescuing scientists, first responders, or civilians with special skills such as pilots) and durability.
The upgrades available for your vehicles fall into two categories: weapons and modifications. Modifications affect a specific vehicle only and are these: armor, speed, and ramming (the last of these represents a vehicle’s ease of turning intact infected into smears of roadkill). Weapons include such items as machine guns, rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and a rail gun, each of which has three power level upgrades. Weapons are provided in the form of “pickups,” meaning that you drive over a weapon to equip it and only one may be equipped at a time.
What story there is in the campaign unfolds largely through the mission briefings and monologues by survivors that you pick up and bring back to base. No explanation for what caused this breakout of zombie-ism is forthcoming although it’s evidently some kind of bio-toxin, and the military has you picking up various groups of folks to assist in containment and control efforts. Many of these groups will question (as you, the player, no doubt will) why the military is sending a lone, untrained civilian to perform these dangerous tasks and some will hint that the military is somehow behind the zombie plague, but whether these are the ravings of a paranoid few or glimpses of the truth is never made clear.
Once you’ve completed (for me after about 10-12 hours) or gotten tired of the story mode, there are two other single-player modes to explore: Blood Race and Slaughter. The Slaughter mode is basically a horde mode–you have one vehicle and you pick up powerups and kill as many waves of zombies as you can before your car is destroyed. Blood Race felt a bit like a less-fun version of Death Rally: you compete in a marathon of eight events composed of “eliminator” (destroy a target number of enemy AI vehicles before time runs out), “endurance” (survive as long as you can with a bomb on your vehicle by passing checkpoints to add time to the countdown), and “race” (what it sounds like). The race sections aren’t really up to DR because destroying an opponent only takes him out of the race for as long as it takes for him to respawn and most of the tracks are very curvy. Even using a gamepad, the steering for most vehicles is very slippery, so sliding around corners isn’t really an option for novice racers.
If you like top-down driving games and hate zombies, you may enjoy Zombie Driver HD. It’s not a great game but it’s not a terrible game and that’s about the best faint praise I can give it.