The update to Zombie Panic: Source yesterday got me thinking about all the zombie mods I've ever played. Of them, there's only a few I've dedicated extensive chunks of time to and I thought I'd share my thoughts specifically on those ones.
Many such mods start with high hopes and ambitions, only to die from a lack of interest or experience. It's sad, but true. The reasons are totally understandable - a lot of the guys that work on these projects are studying or working full time, and finding even a couple of hours to code, map or model can be difficult. Having programmed freelance for a few years, I know how much time even just decent debugging can strip from your life.
That doesn't mean nothing makes it our alive. Or should I say un-alive. Don't worry, I'm expecting my comedy license to be revoked shortly.
As a bonus, I've included an honourable and dishonourable mention for two mods (well, a game and a mod) that are yet to be released.
Hit the jump for the full list, if you think you can handle it (of course you can).
Zombie Master (Half-Life 2) Web: www.zombiemaster.org Combine real-time strategy with a first person shooter. No, it's not EA's failed C&C: Renegade. For one, it doesn't have zombies. Zombie Master on the other hand has zombies in spades, which you might have gathered from the name of the mod.
Like most mods for Half-Life 2, all you need to do to play is download the mod and join a server. Instead of selecting a team however, one person is chosen at random to be the zombie master, while the rest pose as survivors.
The zombie master has to stop the players from completing the map, be it surviving for a specific period of time, retrieving parts for a van or simply escaping. To slow down and prevent the players from succeeding, the zombie master can spawn creatures at fixed points, trigger deadly environmental effects or place traps.
Usually players only start with a pistol, but shotguns, rifles and machineguns can be acquired by exploring the map. Of course, if you're looking for weapons you're not escaping, and gives the zombie master time to get his act together.
The zombie master accumulates resources based on the number of active players in the game. The master also receives bonus resources for killing players. There's a large cost associated with activating environment effects, such as dropping a shipping container or causing a floor grill to fall, so they usually can't be used at the start of a match.
The zombie master can summon run-of-the-mill zombies cheaply, as long as he's prepared to watch them die quickly. The stronger, faster creatures demand a large investment, with "Banshees" being a popular favourite, thanks to their ability to negotiate most obstacles by jumping.
The zombies have respectable AI, considering Zombie Master is a mod being made by a bunch of guys in their spare time, and you're free to order them around or let them do whatever they want. Obviously, the best results come from putting together intricate encounters, but there's nothing wrong with dumping zombies directly on an unsuspecting survivor and watching them get overwhelmed.
Early versions of the mod had hardcore lag issues, but the latest builds have come a long way to rectifying the problem. If you can get seven people to join you, ZM is great for a LAN, but it really shines with 16 or more players.
Killing Floor (Unreal Tournament 2004) Web: www.killingfloor.freedomsnet.net I discovered Killing Floor about a year and a half ago. At the time I was desperately looking for a zombie mod to fill the hole in my soul left by Resident Evil 4. Originally I'd been searching for Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 mods, so my trawling of sites such as moddb.com and Planet Half-Life had, naturally, failed to pick up Killing Floor.
It was only when I expanded my search parameters to included pretty much everything that this sparkling gem popped up. Killing Floor is actually the second version of another mod. Not being satisfied entirely by the original mod, the creator decided to start from scratch.
The objective of Killing Floor is to outlast wave after wave of mutated creatures, with each wave stronger than the last. Some are zombie-like in appearance and easy to take down, while others resemble walking meat shields that require everything in your arsenal to obliterate.
Weapons are spread around at random locations on each map, however, you can purchase items from a shop that opens between waves. Here you can stock up on armour, ammunition and the more powerful munitions, including grenades and rocket launchers. A weight system prevents players from lugging around their own personal war machine.
Doors can be welded shut and players can heal each other. It is possible to heal yourself, but at a reduced rate, so it's always beneficial for players to work together.
If you own UT2004, Killing Floor is my pick if you're looking to put together a LAN of 2-4 players and don't mind the dated graphics. It works best with this number, and I played the game for months until I was completely zombied-out.
Honourable mention: Left 4 Dead Web: www.l4d.com I know, it's still in development and technically not a mod, but from what we've seen so far, Turtle Rock Studios' Source-based co-op FPS has me shivering in both giddiness and fear... at the same time. I can't think of anything more exciting than running around an urban setting with three mates, trying to out-distance a bunch of crazy, fast-as-hell zombies. Throw in end-of-level bosses and player-controllable bad guys, and I think we'll be in for more than a treat. It'll be a scrumptious banquet of survival horror delight.
Dishonourable mention: No More Room in Hell Web: www.nomoreroominhell.com I think the guys behind this mod have been developing/planning it since before the release of Half-Life 2. In that time we've had a couple of episodes for Valve's FPS come out, not to mention Team Fortress 2 and Portal.
Hey, I understand developing a mod on a part time basis isn't easy, especially when you want to exude polish like sweat. But what are you going to do when you release it, after all these years, only to find that we think it's crap? The Zombie Master guys are not only less in number, but smarter - an early public release with the core gameplay gave them crucial feedback. Now it's more popular than ever. Sure, you guys might think you're making the best mod ever - but no one else does.
I could be wrong - it might be unbelievably awesome when it does get released, but I doubt it considering the closed, secretive nature of the mod's development team.
To put it simply, NMRiH has become the Duke Nukem Forever of the zombie mod scene. Not the greatest reputation to have if you ask me.
If you know of any good zombie mods, let us know. I'm eager to check out anything you're willing to recommend, because these things are like crack rocks for me.
Update New mention: Zafehouse Web: http://www.kotaku.com.au/games/2008/06/kotaku_aus_game_a_week_2_zafehouse_the_zombie_survival_simulator.html Okay, so this isn't a zombie survival horror mod, but it does have zombies and survival horror. Plus, it was developed by me as part of Kotaku AU's Game A Week feature. It simulates an undead attack on a remote town, where it's up to you to keep everyone safe.