[Metanarrative] Population: 1
Posted by Azuriel
What does Atom Zombie Smasher, Far Cry 2, and Xenogears have in common?
I don’t actually know what to call it. But maybe I can describe it.
Just recently I completed Atom Zombie Smasher, a pseudo-puzzle indie game with some rockin’ Hawaiian surf guitar music. You basically try and save as many civilians as possible before the zombies eat them, with only a handful of various mercenary units. The game looks like this:
At some point while playing it, I suddenly realized that this is the first zombie apocalypse game I have played that evokes the full horror of the scenario. The traditional vantage point is being the survivor hero struggling against insurmountable odds on your desperate run towards the helicopter.
In Atom Zombie Smasher you are the helicopter.
Specifically, you control where the helicopter lands, along with the deployment of snipers and artillery strikes and so on. Your life is not at stake here. All you have is your dispassionate duty to save 60 civilians out of the 125 in this section of the city. Other sections have higher populations, but the requirement is always a fairly low percentage of the total.
And that is when the horror comes in. When you see that lone purple dot making its way towards the desperate, waiting crowd of yellow dots. All it takes is one zombie; I’ve seen it happen. The panicked movements as the civilians catch on. They’re packed in so tight, so tight. The helicopter was just here – most of them are exhausted, having ran after hearing the fog horn from three blocks away. A single sniper shot would save their day. Their day, not the day – the 874th Rising Lightning sniper squad are the only thing keeping 5th and Main intersection clear of zombies, and the eventual airlift of the 50 civilians on the other side of town.
I make the call.
As the helicopter flies overhead and beyond the sight of the crowd, I like to imagine that all their faces stay turned skyward, despite the feeding frenzy beginning at their periphery. That the last thing most of them feel is not being eaten alive, but the fading sun on their face, followed by the merciful and cleansing fire of an artillery blast. I cannot save everyone, but I can save them from that fate. And… and… they are easier targets to hit than zombies.
May God have mercy on my soul.