Zombie Driver: Immortal Edition (Switch eShop) Review
Zombie Driver: Immortal Edition is one of the latest in a long line of Switch ports. Originally Zombie Driver, released for Android phones in 2009, and then Zombie Driver HD on nearly every console from the last ten years, we now get the experience of seeing it shamble back to its portable-esque roots on the Switch. Sadly, this is one title that would have been fine staying in its decade-old grave.
I’ll get positive for a moment to start though: what Zombie Driver does, it does well enough. The story mode sees you taking on bite-sized missions of about 5 – 10 minutes each, having you heading out from a central base to fight a horde of zombies in your car, using one of four weapons picked up on the road. The hordes are surprisingly big and surprisingly dense – you’ll often have over a hundred enemies on screen at once, and as you ram and shoot and burn them you’ll be rewarded with some satisfying particle and gore effects. If hunting zombies is your thing there are some huge body counts in these missions. All that with no performance issues to speak of, which is nice. Controls and tutorials are clear, and it’s definitely of the ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ school of games – handbrake turns and nitro boosting take a while to get used to but are essential for maximising the number of zombies crushed under your wheels in the smallest time possible. It’s a satisfying feeling, driving through the streets and side-swiping a big crowd of zombies to death. The core idea here is solid. Drive and also shoot. It’s a formula for success.
It’s just that it’s fun for about two missions at a time. That’s largely to blame on the fact that all the missions are almost exactly the same. Drive here, clear this area, drive back, repeat. Some missions frame it as saving some people, which means you’ll stop on a circle when an area is clear. Some missions will throw a boss your way, which means you’ll fire more at one enemy (although all the bosses in the game are effectively the same), and very infrequently you’ll get to drive a tank which is… the same gameplay, but cooler feeling. It’s not that surprising on reflection, given that it’s the core gameplay, but it left me feeling weary after I saved six engineers, completed the mission, and then immediately had to go save six naval officers. The story tries to throw some unearned twists into its fairly rote zombie-conspiracy story but it’s only ever delivered by very subpar voice acting at the beginning and end of a mission, so it’s a task to be engaged by it. There are other modes apart from the story available, like a survival mode fighting against an endless horde and a race mode against other vehicles, and when I first saw these I thought ‘oh, finally, some multiplayer, that’ll get me out of this repetition’. Alas, no – nothing of the sort.
This version of Zombie Driver, as with all others before it, is completely sans a multiplayer option. The biggest reward for playing the other modes is more vehicles to use in the story mode. They’re not bad as a side distraction from the main story though, and they’re certainly more replayable.
On the unlockables note – there are different vehicles you’ll unlock as you play, like a school bus or a muscle car. These have different stats for ramming and damage protection, but you’ll find yourself generally sticking to the bigger vehicles as it’s a chore to have to make multiple trips to save people in the rescue missions. Stats and weapons can also be upgraded per vehicle using money from completing objectives. To be honest, I barely saw a difference in the stats between cars, so there’s not a lot to extract here. It is however very difficult to read – and that’s one of the biggest technical flaws here. All the menus are in a smaller, old-mobile-phone aspect ratio, and all the text is absolutely tiny. It’s appalling.
I’ve been noticing this with Switch games a lot recently – text sizing is maybe great for either docked or undocked but there are few games outside Nintendo first-party titles that nail it for both. Even some of those games are struggling, as we saw in Fire Emblem: Three Houses recently.
So once you strip the framing and construction of the game away, what are we left with? It’s a serviceable drive and shoot game. There’s not much done to make it particularly interesting or unique, and as much as long stretches of it get exhausting it’s fine to play for 10 minutes at a time. It just feels like a middle-of-the-road mobile game, and that’s not an experience that I’m sold on. It’s forgettable, and a little bit ugly to look at, but maybe I’ll admit there’s a little bit of warmth somewhere underneath the rest of the rotting flesh. If you really go looking for it.
Lots of zombies
Some good gore and explosion effects
No real technical issues
Tiny, tiny text