There are some who say video games are a waste of time. They tell us gaming is a child's hobby that leads to excessive violence and morbid obesity. If these accusations were true, though, with the popularity of video games growing over the last decade, I'm pretty sure humanity would've died out by now after being wiped out by an army of angry fatties. This most likely won't happen anytime soon, but there's a different, very real threat looming over us. I am, of course, talking about zombies.
When humanity clashes against this foe, we gamers are most likely going to be the first line of defense. Why? Because as gamers, many of us have spent a startling amount of our lives racking up an impressive undead kill tally. Unfortunately, all this practice goes right out the window if we can't learn anything from the games we've played. I mean, do you really want to get eaten alive, slowly, in one of the most excruciatingly painful ways imaginable? I didn't think so. To help you out, we've gathered some lessons learned from a handful of the best zombie franchises out there. Soak them up; they could save your life one day.
1. Work as a Team or Die Terribly (Left 4 Dead, RE: Operation Raccoon City)
Anyone who's played Valve's excellent Left 4 Dead series is undoubtedly aware of just how critical having a good team is for your survival. If even one person slacks off, isn't paying attention, or roams off, it can spell the end of the entire team. Being a good team member means you cover your friends' backs, help them out when they're injured, and, if you're really dedicated, you might even sacrifice yourself for the good of the team (R.I.P., Bill).
This March, fans of the Resident Evil Outbreak series will finally get their chance to see what an Outbreak-esque game would look like on this generation of consoles. Since it features squads of highly trained military types, you can learn how to work as a team while playing as soldiers with very specialized skill sets. Left 4 Dead's cast was mostly untrained, so you should be able to learn even more from Operation Raccoon City. You'll be playing as the pros, after all.
2. Expect the Unexpected (Resident Evil)
If Resident Evil has taught us anything, it's that even during a zombie apocalypse, zombies aren't the only thing you'll be fighting. In Capcom's longstanding horror franchise, we're constantly getting introduced to hellish new offspring of the T/G Viruses and Las Plagas. One second you could find yourself surrounded by a swarm of undead, only to go head to head against a lumbering Tyrant the next, then fighting terrifying Regenerators after that. (Side note: if Resident Evil 4's Regenerators do find their way into the real apocalypse, I am totally screwed.)
3. Everything Is a Weapon (Dead Rising, Dead Island)
A fairly recent trend in the zombie subgenre has been to give players the freedom to choose from a vast arsenal of weapons, which can range from guns to coat racks and everything in between. Attaching a chainsaw to each end of an oar might not be practical—gamers aren't typically known for our upper body strength, after all—but these games at least teach us to be resourceful. A handgun might not always be close at hand, and it's during these times that you'll be grateful you studied up beforehand.
On a related note: While food and water are essential, duct tape is also a must-have for any survivor.
4. This Isn't for Those with a Weak Stomach (Rise of Nightmares)
I suppose you could say this about a majority of the zombie games out there—or zombie anything out there, really—but if Rise of Nightmares taught us anything, it's how to hold our own in a fight with the undead (and a myriad other unnerving enemies). Every other zombie game out there puts a controller between you and the things that would make even the bravest of warriors fear-pee himself and run crying home to mommy. In Rise of Nightmares, it's just you, them, and your helplessly flailing limbs.
5. Kick Zombie Butt in Style (Lollipop Chainsaw, Shadows of the Damned)
Grasshopper Manufacture's Suda51 has taught me a lot of things. He's taught me the importance of a good soundtrack to play during your zombie kickassery. He also taught me how critical it is not to just survive a zombie apocalypse, but to do it in style. Shadows of the Damned's Garcia Hotspur is brimming with flamboyant style, humor, and some of the best one-liners in a video game.
Suda51's next game—one that deserves at least an honorable mention in the awards for Best Title Ever—is the upcoming Lollipop Chainsaw. It features a chainsaw-wielding cheerleader who cuts down hordes of the undead with the help of her ally, a floating severed jock head. (Side note: you have no idea how fulfilling that sentence was to write. This, folks, is why I'm a game journalist.) I bring these games up because their message is an important one: Anyone can survive the zombie apocalypse, but can you do it in style?
These are just a few of the lessons video games can teach us about surviving in a hostile world filled with zombies and mutated monsters. Since 2012 has that whole "doomsday" vibe surrounding it, this might very well end up being the year our skills are finally put to the test.
Date: February 6, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*