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The evolution of Zombies in games

Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on June 14, 2009


The Examiner

   For some time now, modern literature and film, have been constantly redefining exactly what a zombie is.  Its not even necessary for a zombie to be the living dead anymore.  Several incarnations, as of late, revolve around  rabies-like infections that cause extreme rage.  Other zombie tales follow a completely living person who is simply devoid of personal choice (after all, one of the definitions for zombie reads: a person whose behavior or responses are wooden, listless, or seemingly rote; automaton.)  Notice the first definition (which is what we generally think of when we hear the word zombie) describes a zombie a being as mute being, which is hardly what we picture when we think of undead hordes.  Whats the last movie you saw  where the zombies didn’t yell, moan, or outright scream for brains?  Indeed, current media is changing the idea of what a zombie is.  Even video games are making their mark and rewriting our thoughts on what, exactly, can be perceived as a zombie.

   Gone are the days that a zombie must simply rise out of the grave or have been slain only to rise again such as the ones found in Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, and classic Resident Evil titles.  Below I will discuss a few modern games that have a new twist on what should be considered zombies.

   Rather than a simple reanimation of human corpses, many zombies are a result of a parasite, or a completely second life-form, that attaches itself to a living human host and controls his actions.  The subject usually becomes stronger and may eventually die during the process, but they usually show signs of still being alive initially, even after becoming zombified.  Often times the controlling parasite is cognitive and has a goal.  Bear in mind that this makes the host body no less of a zombie than a corpse being controlled via black magic, as in necromancy.   The Flood in the Halo series fits this genre as do Head-Crabs in Half-life.  Another example of a Parasitic Zombie are the Las Plagas/Ganados/Majini from Resident Evil 4 and 5. Mass Effect had a similar concept with the Thorian, which was an ancient…plant (yes, a plant) that was able to control people’s thoughts through its spores.  Eventually the hosts would deteriorate into mindless, and aggressive, “Thorian Creepers”.  Mass Effect also featured a second form of zombies that were creations of the Geth called “Husks”.  The Geth, who were advanced robots themselves would take humans and “upgrade” them with physical and neural cybernetics that controlled the host.  Think of a Husk as a robotic version of a parasitic zombie.  The last pseudo-zombie i want to talk about are ghouls from the Fallout franchise.  Standard ghouls may look like zombies but the fact is that they are just so disfigured from radiation that their bodies are literally rotting.  Most ghouls behave just like you and me.  However, eventually a ghoul’s brain will begin to deteriorate just like the rest of them.  When this happens the lose their memories and reason and become animalistic.  While they might not be dead and are, in effect,  just crazed people; a feral ghoul will behave exactly like a zombie and must be treated as one; you’d better shoot ’em in the head



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