Housemarque's CEO, Ilari Kuittinen talks to PlayStation.com about surviving the impending zombie apocalypse in Dead Nation on PlayStation 3.
Zombies love videogames, and videogames love zombies. What do you think are the reasons for the undead and their consistent appeal to gamers over the years?
Quite simply the undead are a part of the popular culture and it seems they are becoming more popular than ever. Countless number of zombie movies contain frantic action and fantasy violence, which can be translated into a great gaming experience.
After working on Super Stardust HD, how did you end up at the idea of following that with Dead Nation?
We wanted to make a zombie game years before we started working on Super Stardust HD. Our love for zombie pop culture is one of the reasons because we grew up with all that stuff, but we also wanted to develop a fast action version of a zombie game and bring something new to the genre.
How many characters will players be able to choose from at the start of the game?
We have a female heroine and a male hero for players to choose from.
Can you tell us a little bit about the story and setting for Dead Nation?
The world has been devastated by this horrible virus that turns people into zombies. The game is set over a year after the initial outbreak of the virus. There are some survivors including our hero and heroine that are somehow immune to the virus. The story focuses on the efforts of our hero and heroine to help a company that is trying to find a cure for the virus.
Zombies always attack in hordes; does this mean Dead Nation will feature a vast number of them at any given time?
There are lots of zombies on-screen and you can interact with dozens of them at a time using various weapons. To make this possible, we have rewritten and optimized our game engine a lot.
Can you talk a little bit about the kind of weapons the characters will wield as they battle the zombie army in Dead Nation?
Your basic weaponry includes a rifle, shotgun and sub-machine gun, all of which you can - and you should - upgrade, so they become very, very potent. There are also some special weapons like the flame-thrower and a couple of very special ones we'll talk more about later. You also have secondary weapons like grenades, but also more tactical ones like flares, which can be used to distract zombies.
And what about the zombies themselves, will there be a mixture of various types with differing strengths and abilities?
Normal zombies in Dead Nation can have vague memories of their past lives, resulting in them mimicking their old behavioural patterns. For instance, an ambulance man is hanging around an ambulance, trying to figure out what to do with a helpless patient zombie strapped onto the stretcher, or a soldier zombie carries a weapon and tries to shoot the player, although the chances of hitting the player are almost zero - it hits random targets or other zombies.
They typically move in hordes. If you are able to spot one zombie, it's very likely that some 30 or more will follow. There are many different kinds of zombies and you can figure out how fast or strong they are by their appearance, meaning that zombie athletes are tougher than hospital patient zombies.
We also have special zombies that have distinct characteristics. One of them is called Mouth, which lets out an ear-piercing scream, attracting large crowds of zombies to the area - approximately 20 to 30 zombies per scream. So, it's a really good idea to silence it as soon as possible.
What sort of PlayStation Network features does Dead Nation include?
Dead Nation features an online meta-game portion, which tracks the global zombie infection status on a daily basis. The progression of a global zombie infection is illustrated in a world map showing aggregated results of Dead Nation game played from all around the world! Your efforts are very much in need when trying to stop the spread of the virus and each zombie you kill is counted to the aggregate result of your home country.
In the age-old debate of fast zombies versus slow zombies, what's your stance?
We like them both! You had better keep your eyes open to spot those runners, before they are at your throat.
And lastly, what are your top three tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?
1. Plan ahead! You would need to be able to set up a base station, which has access to pure water, has a storage room for supplies and is easy to defend.
2. Get the best weapons and armour available to you. You can never be too well equipped.
3. Learn some mental techniques or readjust your belief system in order to survive the mental stress you are going to witness. You'll probably see a lot of death and destruction, for instance, and do quite drastic deeds in order to survive. Some say that meditation or starting to believe in reincarnation - eternal soul, the law of karma - help. Maybe life is a game after all and this life is just one of many. Who knows?