GTA devs nearly used Vice City code for a zombie survival game

GTA devs nearly used Vice City code for a zombie survival game
Rockstar Games | Naughty Dog

Written by 

Tom Chapman


22nd Nov 2023 15:30

While there are accusations that Rockstar Games has lost its way by putting profit in front of people, let's not pretend the next Grand Theft Auto won't be the biggest game of all time. As the overseer of the automotive adventure, Rockstar has been making bank on the GTA universe for decades. 

Rockstar might be the house that GTA built, but that doesn't mean we should simply discard the rest of its IPs. Over the years, we've seen Rockstar try different things with Manhunt, Bully, Max Payne, and more, with us still lamenting the loss of Agent.

Rockstar nearly had a zombie survival game

GTA Vice City Tommy and Promo girl
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Although Agent had plenty of potential as a stealthy spy game, it's far from the only Rockstar project resigned to the scrap heap of gaming ideas. It turns out the acclaimed studio was once working on a zombie island survival game that could've given Resident Evil a run for its money. 

Writing on his blog, former Rockstar North Technical Director Obbe Vermeij spoke about the games that could've been, highlighting the aforementioned Agent and another title known simply as "Z." As its cryptic name suggests, Z would've been a zombie shooter to cash in on our love of horror games. 

After the success of GTA: Vice City in 2002, Vermeij said, "The was a sense within North that it would be nice to do something else. Something that wasn't gta." He went on to explain, "Some of the artists wanted to do a zombie survival game. Programmers like fantasy. Artists like zombies. Not sure why that is."

The idea of Z (pronounced Zed, not Zee) was born, with Vermeij saying it was going to use the Vice City code but take us somewhere very different to those sunny shores of a fictionalised Miami. With Rockstar North being founded in Dundee, Z was going to take place on a "windswept foggy Scottish island."

Players would be under constant attack from the undead, using vehicles to get around this barren landscape. As your vehicles needed fuel, keeping them topped up was apparently a big part of the game's mechanics.

What happened to Rockstar's Z?

Red Dead Undead Nightmare pistol shooting
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Z at least sounds like it has some good bones, but by Vermeij's own admission, it "seemed depressing and quickly ran out of steam." He estimates that the Rockstar North team worked on Z for around "a month or so," before things reverted back to what they do best.

According to Vermeij, Rockstar couldn't help returning the world it knows best, with things quickly moving forward on what would become GTA: San Andreas. The zombie genre of the early noughties wasn't what it is today, with the likes of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us helping breathe new life into the shambling genre.

Rockstar has dabbled with zombies since, and it's no secret that gamers have a soft spot for Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare. With the developer stuck in a neverending cycle of GTA, it remains to be seen whether it'll branch out into a new genre anytime soon. Still, we'd love to see Rockstar's modern take on survival horror.

Tom is Trending News Editor at GGRecon, with an NCTJ qualification in Broadcast Journalism and over seven years of experience writing about film, gaming, and television. With bylines at IGN, Digital Spy, Den of Geek, and more, Tom’s love of horror means he's well-versed in all things Resident Evil, with aspirations to be the next Chris Redfield.

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