Review: ‘Zombies, Run!’ Brings Dead Fun to Your Runs

ZR-logoMany of us lack the motivation to get out of our desk chair and go for a run. Six to Start just released season four of Zombies, Run!, a game for iOS and Android that combines the excitement of a serial zombie show, a mobile game, and running.

ZR-storyThe basics of the game are pretty simple. You select an episode, adjust a few settings, and go for a run. The story–think zombie radio program–is played out in clips, interspersed with your own music. You are one of the main characters in the story. The other characters interact with you, you go out on missions, collect supplies, and, most importantly, avoid zombies!

ZR-missionZombies, Run! is now on season four, and with the latest update came a whole lot of great new features to the game. I’ll call them out as they come up. Step one for starting a game is choosing your mission. If you’re a new player, you’ll want to start with season one, mission one. Many characters carry through all the seasons, and getting to know them and the history of the world is one of the joys of Zombies, Run! Before starting your mission, there are a couple of settings you’ll want to take care of.

Select your music. The game lets you choose one of your playlists, shuffling is optional. One of the new features with this update is the ability to use an external music player instead. Feel free to use Pandora, Spotify, or even a podcast, though I recommend not using a podcast that is not music driven. Because the story is such a critical component to the game, going back and forth between two totally different narratives doesn’t really work.

Pick your tracking. You can choose how the game will track you. If you don’t pick a tracking method, you can’t enable zombie chases. GPS will be the most accurate and will also give you maps of where you went on your run. Obviously that will only work if you’re running outside. You can also choose constant pace. This allows you to still play with zombie chases but requires the least amount of work and functionality by your phone. The last option is step counting. This is ideal if you’re on a treadmill.

Enable zombie chases. Decide if you want the zombies to chase you or not. While I highly recommend enabling zombie chases as often as possible to enhance the experience, there are times when you won’t want to. Because the zombie chases happen randomly and force you to speed up, if you are doing a very specific training routine you may want to skip the zombie chases now and again. New in this version is the ability to change the difficulty and frequency of the chases. These are very welcome additions. In the past it could sometimes be difficult to know exactly how much faster you needed to run to get away from the horde. But don’t worry, even if the horde catches up to you you won’t die–you’ll lose supplies, though, as you will dump some to distract the zombies.

ZR-RunTypesIf you get bored with the main storyline (unlikely) or run out of missions while waiting for the next mission to be released (highly likely), there are five other ways to play Zombies, Run!

Airdrop missions are great when you want to run to a specific location. You pick a point on the map and the game uses it to determine how long the mission should be.

Supply runs are short stories that play just like normal missions but do not further the main story line. Interval Training allows you to program interval workouts that function similar to the supply runs in that they don’t further the main storyline.

The race option lets you choose from 5K, 10K, and 20K missions that detail a hidden story that took place between season one and season two.

Lastly, Radio Abel allows you to listen to radio mode. Radio mode is the radio station that is happening in parallel with the story line. If you finish a mission but keep running, radio mode automatically kicks in; however, if you only ever run the exact length of the missions you won’t get any radio mode so you can come here and binge listen to it at the end of the season.

ZR-RunLogsOnce you’re finished running your mission, you can go into the extensive run log to get all the details of your run. Every mission, the distance you ran and the time it took are all logged. For each run, you can see the map (if you used GPS), along with which songs played between which episode clips, which supplies you collected along the way, and how many zombie mobs you evaded.

ZR-ItemsSo what are all of these supplies for? There are two kinds of items you’ll pick up during your runs–artifacts and supplies. Artifacts are items related to the story. You can always come into the codex and view them and details about them. Supplies are the typical things you’d expect to collect after a zombie apocalypse–weapons, ammo, medicine, clothing, and USB sticks. Lots and lots of USB sticks. Those supplies, in turn, are used to build up your base.

Your base begins with one building at level one. You can see that after three seasons, I’ve built up quite a base. There are both an isometric and a top-down views of your base. Buildings in your base serve to increase happiness, increase population, and increase defense. Your base doesn’t impact the storyline, but it’s fun to try to build up the largest, happiest, densest settlement you can.

ZR-StatsIf the run logs and the codex weren’t enough extra information for you, there are also plenty of additional statistics available. Zombies, Run! gives you a sum of all your running statistics–700+ miles for me so far– along with your game statistics–0 mobs for me, which isn’t right–and statistics about the music that played during your runs. Because I always play my playlist on shuffle it’s funny to me that it lists “Favourite Artist” since I didn’t choose the songs that played.

ZR-ProUpgradePerhaps the biggest change in this new version, is that Zombies, Run! is now free to play. For brand new players, you will get part of season one with installation and a new mission will be available each week. Airdrop mode, interval training, chase difficulty, and statistics are all locked on the free version. You will also be limited to 10 supplies per run. For any legacy users, like myself, you get everything pre-season four, including all the new upgraded features. To unlock everything at once, you will need to upgrade to a Pro membership. Membership is an annual fee, and while Six to Start has a great deal for legacy players of only $7.99 a year, even the $19.99 a year full-price is well worth it in my opinion. You’ll get four whole seasons, plus all the added features for much cheaper than a single season of a TV show, and you’ll be getting healthier while you enjoy it.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the new season, and getting to hear the familiar names and voices of the characters after the break between seasons really does feel exactly like the season premiere of a favorite TV show. I’m a little envious of anyone who gets to start at the beginning for the first time and can binge three seasons.

Zombies, Run! is the one thing that motivated me to get out and run when I was not feeling it many, many times. If you want to run but just can’t find the motivation, there is nothing else out there quite like this. The first time you hear the zombie horde moaning in your ear, you will run like you’ve never run before.

Will is a geek, athlete, husband to a geek mom, and father of 4-year-old and 1-year-old geeks-in-the-making living in Seattle, Washington. He loves reading, comics, cosplay, games (tabletop and video sorts), and robots - especially Transformers. He's also the co-host of the Sunday Evening with Captain Owen podcast (available on iTunes) and custom prop builder at Billythebrick Cosplay.