We can almost (but, thankfully, not quite) smell this game. Getting some more hands-on time before the impending release, we rarely go more than a minute or so without walking past a pile of rotting bodies… or wishing we could scavenge some deodorant (or at least a flannel).
The undead here are referred to as the Ridden (and not, as we insist on calling them for our own amusement, the Riddled). As you’d expect, most of the Ridden that we come across in our time with the game are the bog-standard brain chasers. As such, it’s incredibly important that the standard flavour of zombie is done well, and here they are done excellently.
The golden rule with zombies, in general, is that one on its own is little trouble, but a horde of the things is deadly. That’s very much the case here, and something that we learn very quickly. Despite the fact that they sprint towards you when they get a whiff of brain, one or two can be despatched in seconds. Call that a monster? Pah! When you have dozens of them hurtling towards you, however, it might not only be blood staining your clothes.
Hordes appear at scripted and signposted moments in the story… or when an environmental hazard is triggered. We feel a horrendous mix of embarrassment and frustration when we wander too close to a flock of birds on the ground, startling them and causing a huge number of Ridden to descend upon our team almost immediately. Whenever something like this happens, the game insists on gleefully throwing up an on-screen message shaming the culprit. Look, it was an accident, okay!?
A single zombie may be no danger, but the speed and numbers of a horde demand precision and teamwork, even before the more powerful special types make an appearance. When we play on higher difficulties, where enemies are tougher and friendly fire deals major damage, we find that creeping around is often the best way forward. Disturbing a horde can cost dozens of bullets that none of us can afford to lose.
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