Zombie Driver was originally released exclusively for the PC at the end of 2009. Back then, Xbox Live Arcade was starting to blow up in a really big way, so it always mystified me how a game like Zombie Driver – which seemed to have been custom built for the XBLA marketplace – ended up being a PC-only release. Three long years later, Zombie Driver finally makes its debut as an Xbox Live Arcade title, and if the PC original had anything good going to it – and it did – then rest assured that all of that good stuff is here too. This is still a modest, stripped-down arcade game, but it’s very entertaining if you're in the right mood.
The story is pretty threadbare to say the least: there has been a zombie apocalypse. You are some guy (you are never given a name or any kind of back-story) who randomly finds an abandoned taxi cab in the street. As soon as you enter that taxi, a radio operator lets you know that he's fighting against the government by trying to save as many civilians as possible, and he'd really like your help with that. The people who save you are all daft stereotypes: stoned hippies, bookish nerds and most bizarrely of all, New York construction workers. It's sill without being funny, but it's also rather charming and hard not to warm to. That's pretty much all you need to know.
Zombie Driver is a top-down driving game, and it couldn't be simpler. The game is comprised mainly of fetch quests, in which you have to make your way through burnt-out suburbia to find stray civilians. Some of them are just hiding and can be picked up readily, but some of them can't go anywhere until you've taken down the bosses for them. You can take zombies down by driving (or drifting) into them, but there's a multi-functional mounted weapon on your cab's roof too, which allows you to fire machine guns, flam throwers and rocket launchers. These weapons run out of ammo quite quickly at first, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you'll learn where the ammunition spawns in no time.
There's an upgrade system which allows you to upgrade both your vehicles and your weapons, and if you want a piece of friendly advice, upgrade your car's bodywork first. Slamming into zombies only does minimal damage to your vehicle, but if you stop for longer than a few second they set upon your can from all directions, and some of them even hurl powerful puke projectiles from a distance. Muscle up.
It may be called Zombie Driver HD rather than plain old zombie driver, but when you compare it to the PC original, there really isn't a whole lot in it: it still looks like a three-year-old PC game. Having said that, this is no bad thing (especially for a mindless arcade game like this) and the only real issue is that the frame-rate is occasionally a little bit choppy. Other than that, it's a bright and breezy looking game that always looks inviting without ever offering up and big surprises.
Zombie Driver is no masterpiece, but it's an enjoyable romp to be sure. It looks like several other XBLA games - Renegade Ops and Assault Heroes spring to mind - but it's a very goofy and very welcoming proposition, and for a game that costs 800 MS points, it's got a commendable amount of content going for it too. The Micro Machines-style Blood Race mode is terrific fun, but best of all is Slaughter, which is basically a version of Gears of War's Horde mode. In short there's plenty of fun to be had, and even though the online side of things is basically non-existent, you'll have a small blast with this if you're into single-player action games. If that sounds like you, Zombie Driver HD is definitely worth the asking price.