Games Inbox: Are zombies out of fashion as video game enemies?

Are zombies finally out of style? (pic: Sega)

The Thursday letters page considers the hidden costs of Xbox Game Pass, as one reader imagines The Elder Scrolls TV show.

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The perfect enemy
That news about Dead Island 2 made me realise two things 1) I don’t care about Dead Island 2 anymore and 2) zombies have finally started to die out as the must-have video game villain. It took long enough, they were massive for well over a decade, but I feel that they’ve finally fallen out of fashion. Sure, there are still some games being made with them but it’s no longer the epidemic it used to be, where every second game had ‘Dead’ in the name.

It’s obvious why zombies were popular for so long. Not only were they riding the wave of general popularity in movies and TV, but the one thing video games always need is a human-like enemy that you can kill by the dozen and not feel bad about. For years it was Nazis and then when people got tired of that it was zombies, and now we’ll need something else. Aliens again, maybe?

You see this need for cannon fodder in a lot of games and it’s why something like Avengers didn’t work, because fighting mindless robots that never talk is no fun. At least zombies are scary or intelligent enemies can talk to you. We want to be shooting real people but just not so real that we feel guilty about it.

Fantasy show
I wonder if the Fallout TV series is a success whether that would then lead to one based on The Elder Scrolls? I know a lot of people would say its fantasy world is too generic but I’ve always thought that was a bit unfair. Maybe cool it on the dragons a bit, because that is in danger of being overdone a bit, but things like the lizard and cat people are not something you see in many fantasy worlds on TV.

The Redguards are also pretty unique and would be interesting to see fleshed out a bit. I think the problem with Elder Scrolls is a lot of people don’t really follow the story and just go off and do their own thing, so they kind of lose track of what’s going on even if they do beat the game. If you focus on the story though, as a show would, I think it’d be good.

Brutal success
Interesting indeed to see what I assume is the minimum amount Microsoft would ever pay for a game on Game Pass and it’s still half a million. They’ve got a 100 or so games on the service and is always rotating new ones in so, yeah, that’s an expensive thing to run. Especially as they now make much less money from first party game sales, because everyone knows they can play them for free on Game Pass.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if it becomes profitable but I think we can bet that if it was then Microsoft would be singing that fact from the rooftops. Maybe it will be in the future. The more people join the closer it gets, so it’s by no means a waste of money for them.

However, it’s another example of Microsoft just using brute strength to get to the top. Don’t have enough games? Just buy everyone that makes them? Not enough people buying your consoles? Use your infinite war chest to run an ultra high value service at a loss for years, until you bankrupt the competition. The Xbox Series X’s success has nothing to do with innovation or cleverness, just Microsoft’s bank balance.

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Everything must go
I understand why a lot of people are unhappy with Microsoft buying up whatever’s not tied down but that Lord of the Rings story makes it clear that they’re been positively picky compared to Embracer Group (whoever they are, I still don’t really understand).

The list of companies they bought this week is so random it’s just crazy. Lord of the Rings, a couple of 2-bit developers, and the company that owns all of Toaplan’s back catalogue?! That’s crazy. People talk about Microsoft not being able to manage all their new acquisitions but who are Embracer going to put in charge of that little lot? There must be an interface between them and the Toaplan guys, but who? And more importantly why?

What worries me is that their purchases are so random what’s going to happen when the money starts to run out and they realise some of these buys weren’t so sensible? More shut down studios and people out of work, that’s what’s going to happen.

One bad decision
I would say that Lucasfilm Games have made some pretty smart decisions since coming back. A new Monkey Island by the original creator, deals for a number of different Star Wars games in different genres, and an Indiana Jones game by the Wolfenstein guys. I don’t know about given Ubisoft the Star Wars licence, that feels a bit like someone just said ‘Who’s famous for open world games’ and they left it at that. Not realising that ‘infamous’ would be more accurate in Ubisoft’s case. But we haven’t seen the game yet so I’ll try and stay optimistic.

What makes no sense whatsoever though, and feels like it was organised by a completely different set of people, is this debacle with Knights Of The Old Republic. I wouldn’t trust BioWare to make that game nowadays and yet their first idea was to give the job to a company that makes Mac ports? And now their second idea is to give it to the guys behind World War Z? I mean, I’d love to know who else they considered and decided not to go with. I just don’t think a remake can be done, not without costing the Earth and using an absolute top tier developer, and what top developer would want to remake someone else’s game?

The only way forward is to just make a reboot or sequel and that should have been obvious before they even announced the remake.

Weekly schedule
Enjoyed the article regarding Jack Link’s research findings, although I’m always cautious of companies commissioning research that confirms what they want to here, rather than what might actually be true (just look at the dubious research that’s been produced on milk’s effects on the body). Anyway, I would say that I average about 11 hours a week playing video games, since I work a full-time job, have an elderly grandmother to take care of, and try to take care of myself by cooking my own meals (I’m a vegetarian, if that has any bearing on things).

I’ll usually have a night with ‘the boys’ playing games on a Friday night. These sessions tend to last 3 to 4 hours, but often start late, around 9/10pm. Bear in mind this is on a Friday after a full week of work, and I’m usually awake at 7am, so by this time I am running on fumes and have found myself falling to sleep on more than one occasion – no wonder my K/D ratio is so low.

I don’t like eating and playing, because I don’t want my controller to be the colour of Cheeto dust , but I will have a high protein meal before playing with the boys (Friday night is chilli sin carne night), and do my best to keep myself hydrated with water, and yet I’m still falling to sleep.

When I get time to play on the weekend, I don’t play for too long, maybe like two to three hours. I spend enough time looking at a screen at work, so don’t want to damage my eyes anymore and tend not to eat anything while doing so. I’ll usually play before my dinner, so I’m having a good hearty meal afterwards. I don’t fall asleep during these sessions mind, probably because I haven’t been up for over 16 hours at that point.

Big and ugly
I walked into my local game store today and picked up a PlayStation 5 Horizon Forbidden West bundle off the shelf. I got home and unpacked it, and my goodness gracious what a hideous thing it is in the flesh!

And what a behemoth the thing is, it’s gargantuan! Who in their right mind would want that monstrosity on display? The controller is pretty decent mind you.

No cat-astrophe
I at last beat Stray! It only took me just over eight hours! Considering it can be beat in a quarter of that time, that’s a pretty leisurely dawdle…

Thanks for warning us about that opening by the way! Seeing the little, ginger murder-machine fall from the pipes towards the beginning was a little upsetting!

It is a very odd game, isn’t it? Having a grab bag of gameplay loop ideas, none of them all that compelling. Except, of course, for the novelty that you’re playing as a kitty. Which goes a very long way. But what was with the bit in the sewers where it looked like I had reunited with Mantorok from Eternal Darkness? A real cat would have gone: ‘Nope! Not going in there! Not for all the Dreamies or tuna in the world!’ Cats do have a very strong sense of self-preservation, after all.

Then there was the bit where moggy fetched a robot some keys so they could escape their prison cell (Al-cat-raz! Ha!) and, um, okay – you have really pushed beyond the limits of credibility there, Annapurna. Even if cats have evolved more social behaviours in the several thousands of years into the future this game is set, that is a very generous assumption, and not one supported anywhere in the game. Unless I missed that.

There are still Trophies for me to hoover up, not that I feel inclined. I don’t think it quite nailed the fantasy of being a cat. There were several times where I thought that the cat could jump higher and further than we saw. I’ve seen real cats do as such. They are nature’s parkour masters.

So why wasn’t it more of a platformer? I’m sorry if I brought back memories of Bubsy, or worse still, Blinx. But hey, The Lion King worked fairly well, way back on the Mega Drive, right? Oh well, it was free for the most part, and adorable.

GC: That’s pretty much what we thought of it. It is a very odd patchwork of ideas.

Inbox also-rans
Just to let people know GAME have 20% off pre-owned games at the moment in-store (not sure about online). Managed to pick up Deathloop for £16 and Horizon Forbidden West for £28 both on PlayStation 5, which I didn’t think was shabby at all.

Doom 64 is currently free on Epic Store for one week. It’s £3.99 normally.
Andrew J.

As regards pilfering things from work, I don’t think I’ve ever taken anything that could be called gaming related, but during the first lockdown I stole some toilet paper from work. It was during the crazy time that people were stockpiling it and it was scarce in the shops. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not even sorry.

GC: As long as you didn’t sell it on eBay.

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Cranston, who asks what’s the most invested you’ve ever been in a console war?

Which generation did you get the most passionate about and which side were you on, between Sega, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, and others? Do you regret any of the things you said or did at the time and do you think you were ultimately right about the side you picked?

Have you ever regretted a choice of console, and did you reverse it that generation or at the start of the next one? Which part of the modern game industry would you have found the most surprising at the time of your console warring?

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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