In recent years the influence of mods on games has been one has that seen a number of incredible standalone games arise. From the popular DayZ to the fantastic Zombie Army Trilogy and numerous others in between, it seems that there are few games that haven’t benefited from the creative minds of players at some point. Pandemic Express is another game that looks to capture and run with the idea of a popular community-based creation, by bringing a game focused on the many popular Zombie Escape-style mods that we’ve seen over the years – and it’s an idea that could just be something special.
Of course, Pandemic Express is currently only in the early stages of development and it isn’t yet a perfected experience, but after jumping in with the madness for a number of hours in recent playtests, it’s fair to say that what we are looking at here is something that you’ll want to keep an eye on in the coming months. But, what is it about?
Well the idea is simple. You spawn in a closed off train station area of the post-Soviet open-world environment as one of up to 30 players – a number that could change as development continues, but is enough at present that the game feels well populated. From here one player is randomly chosen to be an infected zombie, hoping to spread the infection throughout the remaining 29 survivors until everyone has been turned.
For the survivors, the goal is to survive by any means necessary, avoid the zombies, and escape on a train that is leaving the ghost town, and the infected, behind. Fail to do that and you’ll join the team of zombies in hunting down the remaining survivors.
Ultimately, it’s a great idea. It brings cooperation, tension, fear and engagement from the first moment to the last, with a first-person viewpoint only enhancing the thrill.
At present there are a couple of different zombie types for players to get involved with, and these come into play randomly when players respawn after being killed by the gun-toting survivors. These include an invisible type that can sneak up on the survivors before attacking at the last second, and the bomber who can run at the survivors before exploding and causing damage.
As for the survivors, after initially running from the train station gates you’re free to explore the world to search for weapons and other items that aid in survival, whilst airdrops also appear from time to time to bring much needed supplies. There are vehicles available to help traverse the open-world too – or indeed run down the infected. But the real fun comes from plugging away at an incoming zombie with a rifle.
Whilst the gameplay follows the typical and popular Zombie Escape mod style, the art-style is certainly rather unique. The world design brings a sense of realism within the dark and gritty apocalypse look and feel of things, but the character designs are a step away from your typical ‘realistic’ zombies and survivors, with zombies sporting a flashlight upon their face for visual aid and an entirely black coverage over their bodies. The survivors meanwhile don striped clothing and the additional pointed masquerade mask to set them apart. It’s not revolutionary, but it is different, and different is good in a day and age in which gaming experiences are becoming too similar.
As for the gameplay and Pandemic Express brings an interesting experience. At present the role of the survivors is one that proves exceptionally challenging and I’ve not yet seen anyone manage to survive and escape on the train without being overrun early on by zombies. The concept however is certainly one that proves exciting, and with a few changes made, and some polish and additional features thrown in, Pandemic Express could well become the ultimate Zombie Escape game.
Pandemic Express is currently in Alpha Build form on Steam. Massive thanks to the team at tinyBuild for providing access.