Undead Labs ventured into a saturated gaming world to take a leap of faith into the pool of overpopulated titles with their recently-released XBLA title, State of Decay
. Does the game add anything noteworthy to an overencumbered genre, or is it just another generic title swimming with water wings in the shallow end?
After I took a little time out to deliver the first impressions
of this zombie-survival-shooter-simulation, it was time to delve back into the zombie apocalypse of Trumbull County, get my bearings straight, and prepare for all of the frantic chaos that lie ahead.
Imagine returning from a trip with your best friend only to find the beautiful landscape of your home, Trumbull County, riddled with "psychopaths" taking fleshy chunks out of every breathing civilian in sight. Armed with a trusty stick, the need to survive through dread and despair is the critical and main focus of the game. State of Decay
is a game that is geared around you as a gamer on a personal level and not so much on being a visually stunning masterpiece, or having an incredibly captivating story.
Character interaction, choices, scavenging, and dejection are just some of the things that State of Decay
entails as features. As an XBLA game, it generates a juicy amount of diversity. It takes a dash of GTA
mixed with a splash of Saints Row
and a dose of The Sims
; a little of everything, really. State of Decay
delivers an experience of zombie madness with an element of social interaction with survivors and a strong strategy focus.
Characters will become angry with one another, morale of the survivors will suffer due to food shortages, and hordes of zombies are the neighbourhood watch. This combines to create a very ambitious, yet well-constructed aspect of stress and despair. At times, the game bombards you with so many missions, requests, and tasks that choosing which one to do first will be strenuous. The level that Undead Labs conveys this strain to the gamer is near true horror and fear. Add in the music and the distant gargling hymns of the zombies and your heart will palpitate in excitement.
Another outstanding element is the ability to gather resources to build and upgrade your home base. Trudging through this crumbling wasteland is tense enough on its own, but when you have to venture into a section of houses to look for building materials, the choice of looting slowly and quietly or quickly and loudly was a small yet nifty addition. This sound choice applies to nearly everything from weapons to breaking into homes, the more noise you make the more attention you attract, which puts you and possibly another survivor in grave danger. However, nabbing that rucksack of materials or supplies is as good as gold, because it will help improve on your home base in various ways like creating a new medical or fitness area, which will help heal the wounded or create more stamina for your survivors. These treasure troves of resources come at a price as there are only a few of them and they don't respawn; just like vehicles and characters. Throughout my game, I did find myself spending an ample amount of time deciding what projects and additions that should be added to the home base. This mechanic was great because it provided a time away from the cantankerous carnivores that flooded the streets.
I spent a lot of time just roaming this open-world, wrecking vehicles, and wreaking havoc all in an attempt to save Trumbull County. That was until I perished in a battle with a feral zombie, and in that brief turn of events, Marcus, my powerhouse death dealer was gone for good. All of that hard work and leveling was decimated with one swift chomp, forcing me to start a brand new character. State of Decay
does not feature any character customisation (leveling and experience are pre-determined based on how you fight or travel), which usually would be a problem for some, but the way the story is built makes the decision for a lack of customisation justifiable.State of Decay
shines amongst other zombie-infused games, but this does not come without a price. There is a glaring issue in the graphics department that presents itself in an array of visual hiccups. There were certain points in which the environment and zombies would appear at random due to horrible framerate issues. Mind you, the environment is incredibly large in comparison to many XBLA and retail titles, but there were points where the visual lag was almost nauseating. Luckily, the beautifully-crafted, morbid and maniacal gameplay was enough to not have the visual issues plague my experience.
For some, the lack of co-op may be a deterrent, but State of Decay
is so engrossing on a personal level that a disruption to that would probably cause cracks in the gaming experience. Although, after my first playthrough, it would be great to have a second go with a comrade in arms. Hopefully, a future co-op add-on will be made available.
As previously mentioned, the sound design is top-tier even amongst retail titles or big budget releases. The way State of Decay
dispatches its myriad of sounds plays on your senses. During epic fights, the speed of the music will be amped ten-fold incorporating a heavier bass which help gets the blood pumping to lay waste to some zeds. When you are kickin' up some dust heading out for a scavenge run, you may hear music that ranges from a "Shaft" style beat, all the way to a bluegrass style rhythm that helps to bring a sense of peace to the death that plasters the walls of the town.
Achievement wise, State of Decay
is relatively straightforward. On a first playthrough you may miss a couple of achievements, but at the end of the day, it is not a grueling process to get those remaining two or more. There are story-related achievements, combat achievements, and relatively-easy gameplay achievements. Once again, nothing in State of Decay
is a grind, and if you need to go back for a second playthrough, it won't be something looked upon as a waste of time, but rather another excuse to get back to Trumbull County.
When put to the test, State of Decay
holds a bright, burning candle to the already packed world of zombie games. The survival elements, open-world, and emotional strain the game creates put it amongst the staples of the genre. Regardless of visual hiccups, lack of story depth, and absence of coop, State of Decay
shines as an immersive and beautifully-conceived first child for Undead Labs on XBLA.
The reviewer spent well over ten hours getting side-tracked, gathering an abundance of resources to build his apocalyptic dream home, and took over multiple Bovine and Swine franchises for strategically placed outposts. This copy was provided by the developer and the reviewer unlocked 26 of the 30 achievements.