Whether you're a PC gamer or a console freak, it can't have escaped your attention that the dead have been rising from the grave in some serious numbers of late. Zombies have been springing up in shopping malls, tower blocks, in the future and even in space. Sometimes they're turned by disease or controlled by parasites but all will try to take that pink mushy stuff from between your ears if you let them get close enough.
So in celebration of the launch of Left 4 Dead 2 and the entire groaning, decrepit, slow-walking inspired shoot 'em up genre, here are our ultimate zombie awards for those most memorable moments and the pleasure they've brought.
Best Single Player Zombie game : Resident Evil 2
Face it, 2 was far better than 1. What about Resident Evil 4 though? Technically, they weren’t actually zombies were they? Merely parasitically controlled Spaniards. Resident Evil 2's superior graphics to the first version meant they could cram more zombies onto the screen and as the age old zombie mathematics state - the number of zombies is directly proportional to the amount of fear induced. As we all know, fear = fun in some kind of sick way and thus we have proof that this game was better than the original. It also added a couple of excellent features such as the A and B scenario systems meaning that you could guide both main characters, Claire and Leon, through the same level from different perspectives as well as the odd touch like the fact they would limp when they were nearly dead. The game sold 4.96 million copies world wide and has only been surpassed in the series by the release of Resident Evil 5 this year. Great puzzles, great sound, great suspense, great game.
Best Multiplayer Zombie game : Left 4 Dead
A zombie game stripped down to its core with its essence so fresh that it gleams. You, three of your mates, some hardcore firearms and a seemingly endless flow of the undead. There's no plot to get in the way. Just get from A to B and have a lot of fun while you do it. It's another truly professional title from Valve, selling 3 million copies to date. Even Hideo Kojima has admitted being hopelessly addicted to it.
Best Zombie Killing Spree : Dead Rising
While guiding photo-journalist Frank West on his three day survival quest in Parkview Mall, Colorado, it's been reported that you can get up to 800 zombies on the screen at once. Combine that with the existence of over 250 usable weapons and you've got yourself one hell of an inventive killing spree. In fact, the entire focus of the game is really just to keep killing as much as you can to stop yourself being killed. Time in the game goes 12 times faster than normal meaning that 6 hours of solid gameplay will see you from start to finish, but you can always unlock Infinite Mode where the fun lasts as long as you do.
Most Frightening Zombie: the Many, System Shock 2
When the crew of the Von Braun are infected by alien eggs and are taken over they become the many - truly horrifying, bloody-curdling nasties determined to tear you limb from limb as you fight from one deck to another. That'd be all very well and good but this bunch, as well as the usual brand of screams and gore, also have a go at you telepathically while they're not even in the same room. Their constant mind whispers try to persuade you to join their numbers. It either perpetuates a state of permanent terror or lulls you into such a false sense of security that when you actually encounter one of them, it nearly gives you a heart attack.
Best Zombie Noises : The Witch, L4D
The sound is generally top notch in all horror games. It has to be. We're used to hearing overlaid whispers, the odd shriek and heavy breathing following our every step but nothing quite prepares you for the weeping of a witch. It's something about the pathos of her cries combined with the absolute power to cause chaos. It's just wrong and that just makes it all the creepier.
Best Zombie Attack : The Hunter, L4D
The ninja of the zombie world, nothing puts the willies up a pack of survivors like the Hunter's scream when he pounces. The subsequent terror while he straddles one of your helpless party, tears at their abdomen and starts flinging their warm guts out in front of their screaming faces is perhaps the worst kind of death one could ever imagine.
Best Anti - Zombie Weapon : Shotgun
It probably started at the cinema and it's certainly in just about every single zombie video game in existence. In fact, there's a general rule of thumb that if there isn't a shotgun, then it ain't worth playing. Zombies are notoriously hard to put down with their general lack of vital organs, so the one sure fire way to make sure they don't get up again is to blow their heads of their shoulders with a 12-gauge from close range. It also happens to be the most efficient and most satisfying means of multiple zombie death. Pump action ideally but when the chips are down and you're out-numbered, we'll take anything we can get.
Best Dressed Zombie : Dancing Zombie, Plants vs Zombies
The classic red PVC Jackson lookalike who raises dancers from the dead before coming for your brains is basically a stroke of genius and wonderful homage to Thriller. It's also a guaranteed giggle the first time you see it. Of course, as the game says "any resemblance between Dancing Zombie and any persons living or dead is purely coincidental".
Most Educational Zombies : The Typing of the Dead
We're not sure whether it's the genius mind or the idiot's that creates a frantic zombie style shooter where one must ensure survival while improving vocabulary and touch typing skills at the same time. The fact remains though that The Typing of the Dead is a truly original one in concept. In implementation it's identical to House of the Dead 2 with the same gameplay and graphics with guns replaced by the keyboard and the need to type words that appear on the screen before the undead army overruns you. Silly and comedic, but then it's supposed to be. A truly bizarre game.
Best Zombies from the Future! : The Flood, Halo
Whilst the levels where the Flood appear in the Halo games might suck, the concept of the Flood is quite terrifying and silly in equal measures. As parasitic alien life forms that take over humanoid hosts, the behaviour of the the Flood was based around viruses and bacteria and their look was supposed to be as disgusting and nasty as possible. They must have been pretty serious for the Forerunners to have killed themselves and all other sentient life in an effort to starve them to death.
Best Unsung Zombie: Stubbs the Zombie, Rebel Without a Pulse.
The game was never as popular as it should have been but the plot and playable character in this title were highly original and immensely enjoyable. Rebel Without a Pulse, released in 2006, turned the idea of zombie games on its head by allowing the player to control the zombie on a brain eating killing spree. Stubbs was well dressed, funny, had an excellent backstory of revenge and used butt gas to kill his victims amongst a string of other weapons. Perhaps most amusing of all was the controversy he caused when US Senator Joe Lieberman accused him of cannibalism and said the game was harmful to under age children. He said:
"It's just the worst kind of message to kids, and furthermore it can harm the entirety of America's youth".
Better still was game developer Wideload's response:
"The current kerfuffle in the US media about Stubbs the Zombie can be summed up in one word: semantics. Stubbs, they say, is a cannibal. This is nonsense, as anyone with a working knowledge of cannibals can tell you. Stubbs fails all the classic litmus tests for cannibalism. He does not wear a bone through his nose. He does not help FBI agents track down serial killers. He has not written a cookbook. He is not named Jeffrey Dahmer. The list goes on and on. Stubbs is a zombie. Thus the title "Stubbs the Zombie." Zombies eat brains. That's what they do. Stubbs cannot just saunter into the cafeteria and order a plate of Freedom Fries. He has to fight for his meals. In fact, actual cannibals only make it harder for Stubbs to eat, which is why this "cannibalism" story is insulting as well as injurious. It's no surprise that the all-human media cartel resorts to distortions and name-calling; their anti-zombie bias has been evident for decades, and Stubbs is just the newest target. If you're a thinking adult, you're probably ready to hear the other side of the story. You'll find it in Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, in stores now for Xbox, PC and Macintosh. Don't let the humanity-centric media tell you what to think about zombies. A free mind is a tasty mind".
Best Portable Zombie: Plants vs Zombies, iPhone
Currently available on the DS and soon on the iPhone, Plants vs Zombies is an excellent way to get your fix of undead bashing on the move. In fairness, there's not a lot of competition in the field but that doesn't stop this tower defence-style game from being both an excellent concept and hugely popular. Very good comic take on the world of zombie attacks and completely random of its use of killer plants as the weapons. Once you strip it all away, you'll find it's based on the Magic: The Gathering card game but that hasn't stopped it from being developer PopCap's fastest selling title to date.