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Dead Nation


21:4205/12/2010Posted by Simeon PaskellNo Comments

It is essential that a game as single minded as Housemarque’s Dead Nation gets the fundamentals absolutely right; it is, after all, built solely around the act of killing zombies (lots, and lots of zombies!) with no puzzles or platforming to distract you and a minimal plot. Therefore the very act of (re)killing the moaning hordes needs to be satisfying enough to make you want to do it again and again and fortunately that is absolutely the case here. By the time you reach the closing stages of the reasonably lengthy campaign, squeezing the trigger and watching dozens of undead explode into a fountain of limbs is every bit as satisfying as the first time you did it. Through sheer craft – and thousands upon thousands of corpses – Dead Nation manages to make the importance of words such as ‘variety’ and ‘originality’ negligible.

The volume of twin stick shooters and zombie games currently available is reaching saturation point, a fact that gives Dead Nation something of an uphill task. If it wasn’t for the reputation that Housemarque managed to forge on the back of the sterling Super Stardust HD (one of the PlayStation Network’s first real gems) Dead Nation might be quite easy to ignore purely on face value. With that being said, this isn’t product made by a developer that is resting on its laurels; Housemarque has taken everything it learnt from SSHD and expanded it into a linear adventure that never forgets that, at heart, it is a twin stick shooter in which the high score is king.

Dead Nation relishes in serving up zombies by the multitude and supplying you with an arsenal of weapons and ambient toys (such as exploding cars with zombie attracting alarms…) with which to concoct ever more efficient – or just plain ludicrous – ways of killing them; and whichever method you plump for, it’s usually hard to keep the grin off your face. Even the most basic of attacks using your default rifle is gloriously, messily enjoyable; you line up your laser sight, squeeze off a power shot and see rows of zombie heads explode with a sound not dissimilar to that of a water-melon being smashed with a sledge hammer It’s a simple pleasure for sure, but one that never seems to grow old.

Underlying the giddy violence is a twin stick shooter that shares much in common with Super Stardust HD. The controls and gameplay mechanics are very similar, with a dash button that provides temporary invulnerability and a range of weapons with specific strengths, weaknesses and quirks. Throughout the game, choosing the right weapon for the job at hand is essential, but you never feel restricted in your choices. In fact, there is often a tension between selecting the weapon that would be most efficient or plumping for the one that would be most fun. It’s all incredibly well balanced with a lot of scope for tactical thinking, something that becomes essential on the higher difficulty settings.

Whether you’re exploring city streets or decaying graveyards, Dead Nation maintains a high visual standard throughout, consistently showcasing an excellent eye for detail. There’s a real sense of the calamitous events that preceded the start of the game, with dilapidated city streets strewn with the scattered remains of humanity, corpses left rotting on stretchers, wrecked vehicles and improvised barricades. The whole game is extremely dark, a fact that can feel a little oppressive at times, but it also helps to convey a palpable sense of dread as you scan your torch-beam around the environments, seeking out foes hiding in the shadows.

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