Trigger Happy
Edge|September 2021
Shoot first, ask questions later
STEVEN POOLE

How fast should a zombie go? The old-school pop-culture conception of zombies as slow-moving was in its way quite scientific. A zombie’s muscles and sinews are in a state of decay, because it is dead. Stands to reason, then, that if a zombie tried to run fast its body would simply fall apart. The shambling gait familiar to us from deathless films such as Dawn Of The Dead is a rational means of self-preservation, to the extent that a zombie has a rational self to preserve. As the zombie godfather himself, George A Romero, once put it: “I don’t think zombies can run. Their ankles would snap.”

Your classical zombie, then, is terrifying precisely because of its slowness: it is also relentless, and a horde of them will overwhelm much more agile prey. In this way, although the first zombie videogame is usually said to be Sandy White’s Zombie Zombie (Spectrum, 1984), a good argument could be made for Robotron 2084 (1982) as the first to really capture the claustrophobic dynamics of fighting zombies, even though the enemies are nominally robots rather than corpses. And so Housemarque’s sublime twin-stick co-op shooter Dead Nation (2010), which is essentially Robotron with zombies, satisfyingly completes the circle.

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