State of Decay
So you’ve rescued your mate Jacob from wandering off towards a romantic tryst in this zombie-filled nightmare and are driving him home, but at the same time no one’s heard from Jack back at the camp, Andy’s pissing everyone off, construction has stopped on the sentry tower and someone let off a gun in the camp, lowering morale. Then your car is almost on fire from slamming into zombies and you have to find a way to hoof it across town without alerting a horde…
This is State of Decay, a surprisingly deep third person zombie game. Wait, wait, don’t run away, I know the zombie concept is tired as hell and mostly awful right now, but trust me when I say you’ll want to check this one out. It’s basically everything The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct promised but a million times better.
You’re back? Okay. This game’s a third person open world XBLA game which feels far more like a full-size game for the amount of content and use you’ll get out of it. There are elements of Minecraft, Dead Rising, Dead Island, Red Dead Redemption and GTA all packaged inside this game.
You play as Marcus, who was camping when the zombies took over. You, your friend and any stragglers you find have to find their way to shelter, loot items, make friends, deal with enemies and simply survive for as long as you can in this world overrun with the dead. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has gone into overdrive. You need a place to live and had better board it up as well as you can lest the monsters get in. Then you need food, fuel, bullets, medicine, and resources to build things. Each of these becomes a stat in your home, along with the morale of the group. Now you’ve got to manage each of these. If you’ve got managed to rescue eight people, do you have the room for them? Do you have enough food to keep them alive and enough ammo to keep them safe?
Your home is able to be upgraded and sometimes they’ll even go out killing stragglers themselves which is a blessing for the busy zombie murderer and a curse when they don’t come back. You can only carry one main resource type in your backpack at a time, so you need to radio in and get people to fetch some for you. Again, great, but then you can see the noise blips on the mini-map as they’re in a fight with a horde and need to get rescued.
This is a game where you have a lot of things to do, both scripted and random events make sure every day and night is filled with more things than you’re able to do. Survivors who radio you for help might have to be left behind for the greater good. It’s okay, you didn’t see who they were or that they were looking after their sole remaining child. You get hurt, you get tired, so you need to switch off with other characters, each with their own special skills, inventories and mortality. If your mates trust you enough, you have more of these people to control and send out on missions while the others recover, but they can die, ripped apart by hordes you were too exhausted to even sneak past.
It’s a finite world and a game of attrition, but when your base camp is your character’s whole world, the rest of the map can seem enormous, way bigger than it first looks. There are small towns, farms, forests and a crashed plane. The world evolves and changes even if you’re not taking part in what would be considered the core ‘story’ at certain points. As you can see, for an XBLA game costing 1600 moon dollars, there’s a ton of content. In this world of £40-50 game releases which can often seem samey and unnecessarily padded, I hope we see more cheaper, smaller but more interesting released.
There is a problem with the graphics which are simpler and occasionally glitchy. Sometimes you’ll get problems like murdered zombies still standing or following the wrong paths to get to you, maybe becoming invulnerable while they’re climbing over a fence. The thing is, in a game of this quality, these all become forgivable offences. There are already patches on the horizon, but even then I don’t mind. Compared to a brash, over-marketed AAA game which could look gorgeous but be actually awful, this is a far more acceptable trade-off. It’s a good game despite its flaws, not a polished turd.
One thing I would have enjoyed, and this is a rare statement from me, is multiplayer. A co-op struggle through this world, especially an offline one, would have been really interesting. Regardless, if you like exploration, stress, permadeath, free-roaming games and don’t care about how the arm hair on your man looks, then this is definitely a game for you.
Reviewed on Xbox; game purchased by D+PAD Magazine
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