State of Decay Review : Putting Your Zombie Skills to the Test

Remember the movie Zombie land?

Remember the rules that the movie put together that you must follow in order to survive a zombie apocalypse?

You know, rule #1 cardio, #7 travel light, or #2 the double tap?

Let’s hope you do. Because you’re going to be needing a good game plan if you want to survive the RPG zombie survival horror game State of Decay.

State of Decay is the newest RPG horror game for the Xbox 360 by Undead Labs

State of Decay is the newest RPG horror game for the Xbox 360 by Undead Labs

I’m going to say right now that this is the kind of game that I’ve been waiting for a very long time. In my last review, I made mention on how much I love survival horror games and this is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I can honestly say that Undead Labs has got a winner on their hands. Let me start with the basic premise (which like in most zombie horrors is pretty simple to explain). You begin with your handful survivors who are out enjoying their annual camping trip when suddenly the dead begin to rise and start attacking anything that moves. The zombies are swift and ravenous, and you must act quickly with whatever you have on hand to protect yourself. From the very beginning you are literally dropped just as the apocalypse is underway given no explanation on how it started, which is typical for most zombie games as well as films so this fairly familiar territory. From there it’s your job is to find survivors, form a team, establish a base of operations and start working on gathering supplies.

I would describe the world of State of Decay as something straight out of The Walking Dead. A vast wilderness of pine trees, crowded forests and wide open spaces of corn fields and orchids. As you travel you’ll come upon empty farm houses and neighbors, sometimes occupied by either struggling survivors or infestations of the undead. The game is open world, a sandbox in which the player can live out their end of the world fantasy. The only restriction on where you can not go are the mountains you see in the distance or the convenient road blocks of piled up cars cutting you off from the rest of the world. Don’t think that this is Skyrim but with zombies in terms of openness. The map is relatively medium in size but still give you plenty of room to run around in.

Just one of the towns that you can call home in State of Decay

Just one of the towns that you can call home in State of Decay

However just as you would expect in a zombie apocalypse, this is not going to be a walk in a park. Danger is everywhere and it can strike at anytime. Zombies are hyper vigilant and highly-sensitive to anything louder than your own footsteps, so learning to be stealthy plays a big part in this game. A noise meter on your map registers just how much noise you’re making and how widely it can be heard. Zombies have poor eyesight and won’t attack you from a distance, leaving room for a sneak attack. But, you feel cocky enough to fire off a random shot, the meter will show the noise, how far the sound echoes and just how many zombies are nearby to hear it.

You can be overwhelmed very quickly. So always head out prepared and be aware of your surroundings.

You can be overwhelmed very quickly. So always head out prepared and be aware of your surroundings.

In addition to being swift, zombies are also extremely aggressive and will relentlessly attack their target until they are torn to pieces (literally). Lord help you if you come upon a horde. A group of five or more can quickly end it all for you. There are special infected roaming around as well such as The Feral, a fast beast with sharp claws and The Big Un, a huge tank that can you tear you in two (and trust me, he can and will if he catches you).

It seems that the people at Undead Labs were very much aware that in order to make the apocalypse feel real, there had to be a consequences mixed in to keep the players on their toes. You will have to carefully plan and strategize how you manage your time, whether it’s gathering supplies or picking up survivors because time is a factor. Your environment works on real time and some missions are time based. Your supplies will run out or go bad which will force you to venture further and further from home base. Vehicles are available and yes, you can mow down hordes of zombies at your leisure. Unfortunately, doing so will leave real-life damage to your car that will eventually render it useless unless you have to proper supplies and people to repair it. Take some advice when I say try to reframe zombie plowing the first couple of times. There is a long street of busted cars in my play-through that stands as a testimony to a night of fun.

Every choice you make could mean the difference on who lives and who dies, so manage wisely.

The unique thing of State of Decay is that you’re not restricted to just one character. The people you rescue and the amount of times you spend with them increases your team moral. The more you play with a certain character, the faster you build up their strength and speed faster than they’ve would’ve gained on their own. Building a community with the survivors and establishing outpost to increase safety is key as problems will arise among your people. Moods will shift and it will be up to you whether or not you wish to talk the trouble makers down or kick them out of your group. It’s good thing to have people watching your back, especially if you happen to die while out on a mission. If the unfortunate should happen and you die in the field, there is no coming back. That character won’t re-spawn and you simply move onto the next character. A more realistic take than I’ve seen in past games, as well as harsh. Imagine spending so much time with a character that you’ve had since the beginning, gradually building up his strength and leadership to make him the powerhouse of your team, only to watch helplessly as a Big Un suddenly appears and tears in him in two. Afterwards, you’re left with very little options other than to loot your fallen team mate, hop into your smoking Honda and drive away.

And yes, I am speaking from experience.

Are there problems with the game? Yes there are. The driving mechanic is my biggest compliant. Too many times have I been driving on an empty field and I hit a small rock that sends me soaring through the air and out my windshield like a stunt driver. Maybe this is to encourage me to drive slower, but if so, shouldn’t I have the luxury of seatbelts? Also having to constantly board up the windows every single time I return to home base is one thing, but having it count against the materials I just fought like hell to collect and have to go out a get more to complete a story mission is more than just a little maddening. I would also appreciate some time in between missions. Freedom to explore would be greatly appreciated if I wasn’t constantly reminded on the stuff I should be doing at that given moment as well as being penalize for not being fast enough to get to a certain mission.

Luckily Undead Labs is aware of the bugs and are issuing updates and patches on a regular basis, so yay! Overall, State of Decay is a very good arcade game. Hell, it’s perhaps the best game I’ve played for just $20! It’s fun, addicting and plays to everyone’s end of the world fantasy. Definitely a must have!

Overall rating: 9/10

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