Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition gets off to a great start. You take control of a taxi, receive a quick run-through of the various available weapons, and are then told to rescue several survivors of the zombie apocalypse around a decently sized map. The graphics are sublime, the controls handle perfectly, and the serene satisfaction of careening into thousands of zombies at high speed is immediately enjoyable.
However, a lack of variety means that the novelty quickly wears off. While the vehicles eventually upgrade to a sports car and a school bus – all the way up to a tank – and weapons increase in size and power, the missions rarely deviate from this opening formula. Save people in their houses, save people locked in a school building, save people trapped in their van in the middle of a park. Sometimes it’s a simple case of mowing a certain number of zombies down, other times you will have to contend with a nest of the undead or a giant boss. In any case, the missions all play out roughly the same – turn up, kill X number of zombies, drive the survivors to safety, repeat. It doesn’t help that when clearing a designated zone, other zombies perpetually wander in impeding your progress. It quickly becomes boring.
There are side-missions and sub-objectives on each level that unlock special upgrades for your vehicle upon completion, but overall the experience is incredibly repetitive and doesn’t offer much in terms of difficulty.
Thankfully, the core gameplay is entertaining enough to carry the quickly tiresome mission structure. Simply driving around racking up your kill count is one of the best experiences you’ll have in Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition. The controls are tight and reliable, even if the geography can sometimes get in the way. Steering around tight turns at high speed is easy to pull off, but too often the vehicle gets stuck on a wayward telephone pole or unseen fence. Nevertheless, ploughing through the hordes of zombies feels weighty and is endlessly satisfying.
Brief, intricately designed comic book cut-scenes tell the straightforward and fairly plain story, as do the fully voiced, terribly-acted characters you encounter. Weapon pickups include machine guns, rockets, and nitro boosts, all of which can be used together to extend the combo meter and increase your score. Various monster types force you to think tactically at times, and the boss fights are decent in spectacle.
It is all held together with a wonderful art style and lavishly striking graphics. Some levels are set at night or during thick fog, which looks fantastic and genuinely affects the gameplay. The way the car’s headlights illuminate the zombie crowds, sending dramatic shadows across the moonlit streets, is gorgeous. During the day as well, when blood-soaked tire marks realistically stain roads and gardens, Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition is a seriously attractive game.
The indicated “Ultimate Edition” upgrade for the Xbox One is fairly substantial. The graphics have been bumped up to a full 1080p and 60 frames-per-second, there are now more than twice as many zombies on screen, and there are a lot more weapon pickups around each level. A bunch of new weather and environment upgrades are also included, as well as more subtle but no less impressive additions like improved particle animations and new animated objects. All downloadable content released on previous platforms is bundled in, too, meaning that you’re not short of content. That said, if you have played through Zombie Driver or Zombie Driver HD before, then perhaps Ultimate Edition doesn’t quite offer enough to make the trip back particularly worthwhile.
For the first hour or so, Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition is a satisfying and highly enjoyable game. After that, the tiresome mission structure turns it into a bit of a chore. The baffling lack of any kind of multiplayer mode either offline or online also doesn’t help sustain its appeal, but those willing to stick it out will enjoy the satisfying core gameplay.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which was provided to us for review purposes.