One of the most engaging aspects of the zombie apocalypse in books and movies is the breakdown of society and the destruction of civilization. Unfortunately, we rarely get to see that slide into havoc in zombie-themed video games. The digital version of the undead end of the world usually starts in media res so players can get to “the good stuff” of crafting weapons and shooting zeds right away. You wake up from a coma, or you just spawn in on a desolate shore… Even Undead Labs’ State of Decay skipped the beginning of the story. Players started in a campground and experience the zombie invasion after it’s already gotten hot. The upcoming Lifeline DLC offers a different beginning to the story we saw in the regular game. Polygon got to play a preview build of Lifeline at PAX East and they’ve brought back some exciting details.
Lifeline casts the player as a member of Greyhound One, a small platoon that’s attempting to maintain order in the overrun city of Danforth. Unlike in State of Decay, you start out with plenty of rations and support from the larger military. But all of it dwindles over time in the face of the zombie outbreak: Your supplies gradually deteriorate, and resupplies from your group’s commanders become more rare. That forces you and your comrades to head out of your base into town, in an attempt to rescue civilians and gather resources to fortify your defenses.
The shift from a secure, plentifully stocked military base, to a desperate group of scavengers flips the script of most zombie apocalypse video games. The normal progression is to build up to the point that zombies are an annoyance instead of a credible threat. If Undead Labs can pull Lifeline off correctly, it will be a nice change of pace from video games that skip the start of the zombie story.