The Best Undead Slaying Video Games of All Time: Chapter IV
3. Thief: The Dark Project
This title was quite the hotbed for undead activity. It had not only corporeal, but incorporeal enemies. What does that mean, you ask? You have to face not only physical foes, but also the more spirit-like ones – like ghosts.
Things in Thief get pretty dark and deep quickly - literally. By the 2nd mission you’re in the abandoned mines underneath Cragscleft prison, all of which is built in to a mountainside. It’s here you have your first dice with the undead, as zombies inhabit the mines and lower levels. Your only real weapon against these vile creatures is to use holy water equipped with your water arrows to take them down. They explode, actually when this comes into contact with them – if I remember correctly. Haven’t played it for a few years now, admittedly.
The other thing you can do is use fire arrows- but firstly I don’t know if you have them this early on, and even if you do I wouldn’t want to use high explosives inside a mountain which might cause a cave-in; secondly, there are a whole bunch of hammer-wielding religious fanatics above you in the prison and the factory. So I wouldn’t want them to come down and cave in my skull.
Later on you encounter other sorts of undead, like apparitions. These are the incorporeal fiends I was talking about earlier. They are almost transparent and often walk around on routes much like the living – muttering things in reverse. When they see you, they almost always will attack, by launching items at you which they conjure up from god knows where. The best thing to do is avoid them, I find.
You do get some non-violent apparitions though.
But by far the most terrifying of all these undead creatures is the Haunt. Haunts aren’t zombies, and they aren’t spirits. But they are classified as undead. Years ago in the game’s story, a cataclysm was brought about involving the Trickster and the fabled Eye. The Eye was used to resurrect the dead Hammerite brethren from their graves in the old Hammerite Cathedral's cemetery, so that they would walk the earth once more.
They are often recognized by their Hammerite garb, and faceless skulls. Also when they see you they let out a horrendous cackle as they run towards you, often hissing “Join us! Join us now!” before engaging you in full on combat. It’s also best to avoid these characters if you can – especially when there are lots of them. Conventional tactics you use on the living in the game won’t usually work on these undead.
Some of these undead do crop up in the sequels to The Dark Project. You see a few Haunts in Thief II: The Metal Age, such as in the Eastport Mechanist Seminary, as well as some apparitions. But it’s mainly in Deadly Shadows that a lot of these supernatural forces make a comeback. You’ll come across Haunts in Fort Ironwood – one of the main Hammerite locales in the game - as well as zombies. And not to mention the infamous Shalebridge Cradle has its share of walking dead, as well as apparitions of sorts.
One wonders what Thief 4, or Thi4f, has in store.
2. Half-Life 2
We’ll always remember the Half-Life’s iconic headcrab zombies. Likely one of the more repulsive types of zombie out there. How they became infected is obvious and yet still quite uncomforting. Headcrabs – those little things that crawl on the ground – jumped on a person’s head and that’s where the mutation started. They basically controlled the host body and turned it into a zombie. They then started to develop long claw or rake-like appendages; the chest seemed open, and the ribs inside were split open too.
These headcrab zombies made a comeback in the sequel, Half-Life 2, and like most sequels, there were more variations to be grossed out by. The regular headcrab zombie was now able to be unheadcrabbed, unlike in the first game. If you shot the headcrab off, they might still survive and go on to “hump” someone else’s head – as Barney so eloquently put it. The person underneath will not survive if the headcrab is removed.
The person underneath clearly is conscious that they are being controlled and it actually made me a bit queasy having to listen to the muffled screams of discomfort coming from the victim.
But there were two other main types of zombies which you would meet later on, in the memorable Ravenholm chapter – nearly halfway through the game. You had the fast zombie, who was skeletal in appearance, only having bones and muscles. There was no flesh or organs at all from the look of it. These fast zombies also didn’t look entirely human, and for a while I suspected that they might in fact be mutated Vortigaunts. The different shape of the skull made me think this initially. But the fact that they can’t shoot lightning bolts out of their hands sort of made me think otherwise.
Probably the worst zombie you’ll encounter in HL 2 is the poison zombie. You’ll often hear him long before you see him. Not only is he rather ugly, but is quite a mission to take down. This big bugger also carries around a back full of poison headcrabs, which he takes great joy in flinging at you over long distances.
Episode 1 introduced one more type of zombie, and that was the zombine. Basically it’s a headcrab who jumped on top of a combine soldier – probably quite similar to the scene from 2004’s Aliens versus Predator, when the Predator took his helmet off and the facehugger got him. These zombines are kind of comical, and some don’t even possess any weapons, but they will run right up to you with a grenade and blow themselves, and you, up.
A lot of people are probably fascinated with the whole idea of Red Dead Redemption, and how the DLC, Undead Nightmare, features zombies. But it wasn’t the first game to combine a western theme with the undead. As far back as 1997, another game accomplished this.
Blood’s zombies are a lot of fun to play with, because there are so many things you can do to them.
When you come across them, they’re either just standing around, or they tend to rise up and out from the ground. There are many ways you can dispatch them for good, but you have to make sure they stay down, otherwise they pop back up again, and again, and again. They also tend to carry around axes, so they might be a little tougher and scarier than the average zombie you’ve seen before this game. They’re quite typical in the way that they utter “Brains!” and "More brains!" (they ask for seconds, the cheeky devils!). So if you had any doubt that they were zombies – you can lay those worries to rest now.
In fact, what makes this game perhaps a little better than some others is that the protagonist, Caleb, is actuallyundead himself. After waking and arising from his grave, he goes on a bloody rampage; a quest for revenge. Some might say he’s vampiric, as he tends to collect the hearts, or life essence, from his opponents.
You can stab zombies with a pitchfork and hack their heads off, or you can shoot them with the flare gun, which sets them alight. It’s kind of fun to watch them run around on fire shouting, before they fall down. Other things you can do are use the homemade flamethrower (lighter and an aerosol can), or explosives which will just blow them to bits. Often you’ll see zombies’ heads scattered around on the floor. You can go up to these and kick them around like a soccer ball. Fun!
You also get the bloated butcher variety of zombie. They throw sharp knives at you, which you can dodge. But be careful, because they can also utilize projectile vomit to spew at you. And this was long before Left 4 Dead’s Boomer came along.
Not only are there corporeal undead in Blood, but there’s at least one incorporeal foe, and that would be the Phantasm - a ghost reaper with a scythe, similar to the Angel of Death. They first appear in the second episode in the creepy mansion as well as later stages of the game, and will try to surprise you by hiding in secret passageways, or ambush you after you set off a trap. They’re not that easy to vaporize as they are invincible until the point when they become more visible when about to strike. Then you’d better act quick, because a few swipes from that thing and you are dead. Well, as dead as an undead guy can get anyway. Their screams will have you on your toes and ready for them, or else make you run.
It’s funny how Blood was number 18 on my list of scariest games ever, although it could have been higher in retrospect, and yet it’s at the top of this list. It has all the ingredients for a great zombie shooter. It’s fun, and its unconventional weapons were around long before people started swooning over the likes of Dead Rising.
© 2010 ANDR01D