Pandemic Express is the latest offering from acclaimed indie developer tinyBuild Games. The game is a veritable feast of market trends mashing together several popular gaming models from the past few years.
Pandemic Express is asymmetric horror meets open world survival with a small dash of battle royale. It’s also got zombies, and it could be the closest thing to Left 4 Dead 3 that we’ll ever see.
Left 4 Dead and Valve’s Fear of Three
Amazingly Left 4 Dead is now 11 years old, so the latest generation of gamer will likely have missed this gem. For those who don’t know, Left 4 Dead is the standard in zombie survival games, a pioneer in the now flooded genre.
Offering four-player couch co-op, teams were tasked with moving from one safe house to the next. The end goal being an evacuation point and safety from the constantly encroaching zombie hordes.
The game featured an AI director that controlled zombie placements and routes between safe houses. Left 4 Dead was an instant cult classic and spawned an equally excellent sequel the following year.
But the game’s developer Valve are an enigmatic and sometimes frustrating studio, who don’t do things in threes. They’ve had a number of high profile success over the years including Half-Life, Portal and Team Fortress.
Each of those games had successful sequels but none of them has yet to receive a third instalment. These days the studios busy themselves with Counter-Strike Online 2 and popular MOBA Dota 2.
Copycats and Earthfall
Left 4 Dead has seen a number of copycats and pretenders to the mantle, but none has yet managed to capture the same appeal. Earthfall was the latest release to attempt to replicate the formula.
Holospark adopted the same gameplay model but replaced the zombies with aliens. The studio encouraged comparisons between the two games, but Earthfall was met with mediocre sales and reception.
Pandemic Express will offer a twist on the formula with some more modern gameplay elements thrown in. tinyBuild hasn’t necessarily drawn those same comparisons but this re-invention could be the best option on the market. In lieu of an actual Left 4 Dead 3.
tinyBuild Games have established an impressive reputation in the indie market after just eight years. The American developer had their first major success in 2015 with the release of Party Hard.
The action-stealth game saw players attempt to murder all the inhabitants of various parties without alerting the authorities. Party Hard has been ported to all major platforms including most recently on Nintendo Switch.
tinyBuild followed up the success of Party Hard with several other acclaimed indie classics. Guts and Glory, Hello Neighbor and No Time To Explain are just a few of their most popular games.
Pandemic Express will be the most ambitious project the studio has released to date though and will support 30 players per game.
Those 30 players will be dropped into an open world environment with one random player becoming immediately affected. The infected player must hunt and infect the remaining players across the map.
Once infected, players join the opposing team and attempt to prevent the other survivors from reaching the goal. Infected players can respawn indefinitely, mark survivors locations and build up ultra abilities to increase their lethality.
Uninfected survivors must scavenge for weapons to defend themselves and make their way to a train for evacuation. Survivors can either work together or go solo, making use of whichever route they see fit to escape to safety.
Once survivors board the train all infected players spawn in the immediate area to produce an exciting endgame. Similar to Left 4 Dead, survivors must remain alive for a set amount of time as a final set piece. Fighting off the horde whilst their transport escapes the area to victory.