I never get sick of zombie games, which is good, because the gaming community has seen its fair share of zombie titles in the last few years. They all feel the same, don’t they? Walk around with guns, kill hordes of zombies, and try to survive as long as possible before a zed eats your face. But the latest, State of Decay, which comes from newcomers Undead Labs based out of Seattle, takes many elements from its zombie-based predecessors, all while adding their own fresh ideas to the genre that will, hopefully, become a mainstay for future zombie games.
State of Decay for Xbox Live is one of the most enjoyable zombie titles of recent memory, and it doesn’t rely on cutting-edge graphics and cinematics to demand my attention. Instead, it uses simply fun gameplay in an open world which awaits your discovery. The game places more of an emphasis on scavenging to survive, rather than just getting you to kill zombies. There’s plenty for you to scavenge, as the game has quite a large and dense game world that’s filled with different types of buildings for you to rummage through.
There’s a certain amount of realism included in the game’s mechanics. I know, I know; it’s hard to achieve realism with a video game based on zombies. But what realism there is out there to achieve, Undead Labs has done so. Instead of just allowing you to tirelessly run and fight, your character can quickly become exhausted if you’re constantly swinging your axe or 2×4 lumber at a horde of zombies. So, anything more than 3 zombies in a group might be a zed party you’d rather avoid. And, as you go on different missions to ransack different buildings or kill zombie hordes, your original character will become exhausted and need rest, making you choose another character from your community to use for your foraging and killing.
Each character has a different set of traits and skills that make them stand out, but the game never really requires you to utilize any of the special traits, which is unfortunate because it would have been nice to be REQUIRED to utilize a specific character for a mission. I suppose that would be a tough feature to include, as your character could permanently die at any given zombie attack. That’s right; PERMADEATH (to a certain extent). Although a character may die, you are able to switch to one of the other characters in your community to keep living the zombie-killing dream.
There’s a wide array of weapons available in State of Decay, including guns, melee weapons, and explosives. There are the usual handguns, shotguns and rifles, some with scopes or silencers. But, the real enjoyment comes with the wide variety of melee weapons, including baseball bats, machetes, lead pipes, wrenches, hoes (the garden tool), frying pans, axes, edgers, and a commemorative hockey stick to slash at your zombies. (GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL).
The sound design is very well done; there’s nothing quite as enjoyable as hearing the crunch of a skull as you smash it with a large wrench. Each car not only has their own unique feel when driving them, but they each sound different also. Zombies sound, well, like zombies should, and the voice acting for characters is well enough.
State of Decay‘s most enjoyable element doesn’t really come into fruition, or at least become noticeable, until you’re about 5 or 6 hours in and you realize that you can upgrade your community, and everything you’ve been looting for the past 6 hours was all worth-while. You can take your community, and add more buildings, and then you can upgrade those buildings in different ways. For example, you can add a workshop, and then further specialize that workshop by focusing it on munitions. You can even build a garden, which might help to keep you busy when you’re not killing zombies. This aspect of State of Decay creates the NEED to keep playing the game in order to keep building up your community. And, the world is always moving, even when you’re logged out of the game. So there’s that.
The game uses what Undead Labs calls Influence as a type of currency, which you will earn by completing missions and storing weapons and resources. You can then use these influence points to “purchase” other weapons and resources that your community finds. However, guns are heavy so you can’t carry too many of them without becoming encumbered (and their expensive), so you never need to hold onto more than one gun at a time. This leads to you leaving guns you find in the bank instead of using them, and it somehow feels like it adds to the whole community aspect of the game, as it feels like you’re really there to help find guns and resources for the rest of your community to use to survive World War Z.
The story is user driven, as players can make choices that will influence their community. While many of the characters aren’t really memorable, there are a few likeable survivors out there for you to find. And, the great part is, you don’t have to bring them back to your community if you aren’t interested for whatever reason. For the most part, though, I recommend bringing just about everyone you find out there in the zombie-plagued world of State of Decay.
My main gripe with State of Decay is its lack of polish. Unfortunately, the game isn’t the prettiest looking zombie game we’ve seen by a long shot. There’s a severe framerate issue, which hopefully can be resolved with just a patch update. Zombies, at times, glitch through walls and doors without opening them. Characters sometimes won’t get the hell out of your way when you’re trying to walk through a doorway. And, when entering the great indoors, your character will instantly slow down for no apparent reason. I know Mom always said not to run inside the house, but it’s a little frustrating to be forced to move so slowly. It’s not enough to keep me from killing zeds, but it’s enough to make me wish Undead Labs waited another month to fix its few flaws, even though I was one of the community members begging for a release.
Minor hiccups aside, State of Decay is a surprisingly deep title that contains hours upon hours of gameplay, a rare achievement for just a $20 Xbox Live title. The fact that Undead Labs has created a community element for the zombie genre gives players the feeling that they’re Rick from The Walking Dead: just trying to help his group stay alive during the zombie apocalypse. State of Decay has raised the bar for creativity in the zombie genre, and Undead Labs should be proud of their first venture. Here’s to hoping that we get to see the rumored Class4 MMO sequel that will take the State of Decay world online.Story – 8/10Graphics – 7/10Gameplay – 9/10Multiplayer – N/ASound – 9/10Replayability – 9/10