Game Review: State Of Decay [Xbox Live Arcade]
When State Of Decay was announced there were two main reactions. ‘Yay! It’s an open world zombie game!!’ or ‘Man..not another zombie game’. Zombie games have become the common enemy for games over the last few years and for some people that’s become a drag while others love it. My point being, even if you hate the zombie genre or you are growing tired of it. Give State Of Decay a chance because it really does bring zombie survival to another level.
You start off as Marcus with his friend Ed who have just come back from a vacation away back to their town that has been destroyed by zombies. However, we are assuming that in the State Of Decay universe, no-one knows what a zombie is or how they react when they aren’t shot in the head. So it’s all rather strange for Marcus and Ed. After a bit of exploring you hook up with another bunch of survivors and help them out with resources. You can treat this section as the tutorial level. But just remember, it will not go easy on you because it’s the early stages, you can still get rip apart very easily against these zombies if you get too cocky. Later on in the game you get the option of being different members of your survival group to train. Each character has attributes that you can level up, fighting, shooting, powerhouse, cardio, wits, leadership among other things. But those listed are the common ones found in most survivors.
Character swapping is a nice feature included in State Of Decay and isn’t too annoying. After you have spent so long exploring with one character, they start to get tired which depletes their stamina gauge. The stamina gauge however is your key to survival. You will be using it for everything. Need to hit a zombie, need stamina, want to jump the fence? Need stamina. So the longer you stay out exploring, the more risk you are putting yourself in. You can use items you find (like energy drinks) to push the stamina back up. But I find trying to save them for important missions instead of exploring to be the better idea. So get yourself back to the safe house and swap character. It’s very easy to do, in fact there are two methods. You can find the person would like to chance to in the house and speak to them via the Y button, or you can hold up on the D-pad and press X on that character. That only works while you are in the safe house though. So you aren’t able to be the other side of the map and change character to someone back at home.
It’s the same for your health bar, as you can imagine spending some time exploring you’re bound to get hurt. Again you do have items that you can use to heal yourself, but sometimes it’s best to save that for a mission where you know you will be taking some damage. Swapping characters and letting the others rest also heals them as well. So character swapping becomes a must for this title. I know everyone soon latches on to one character in the game but you must rest that character because if you try and be too much of a hero, you may end up dead. And in State Of Decay dead means dead. Perma-death for all characters in this title, which I think is an amazing feature because it really does push the survival setting up to high.
Among all the resources gathering, you do have the story related missions, these range from saving neighbours that you have discovered to finding an army base to ask for help or to find out what the hell is going on. Side missions become rather frequent as well, sometimes one of your group gets really upset or scared and you will have to take them out for some zombie killing ‘the old fashioned way’ to cheer them up or make them feel better. One of the nastier side missions is when one of your members get to ill and you need to put him out of his misery. Yes..you will have to kill your own team at some points in the game. There is always something to do in State Of Decay you will never really have time to stop and just relax. If you aren’t doing a story mission, it will be a side quest, if there’s none of those you will be hunting for resources or other survivors to help you survive!
Your home base isn’t just a static home where you walk in and walk out. You can change it to help your changes of survival. There are several resources (Food, Medication, Fuel, Construction and Ammo), depending on how many survivors you have at your safe home a certain amount is used everyday. This causes you to leave the safety of your home to find more resources to constantly refill them. But if you are able to find some construction resources you are able to build several additions that will help in different areas. These could help with security of the home, the medication and health of your group or even make a garden that will supply you with food every day. These things are essential otherwise you will be leaving every day to find resources, which will put you and your team at risk. Sure it won’t be too bad at first, but you will eventually use all the resources that are closer to home which then means you will have to go further and further out to get them. Which will increase the chance of you loosing more stamina and possibly taking more damage. It’s that element of survival that State Of Decay does really well.
State Of Decay however, is not perfect. There are some horrible glitches and problems within the game at the moment (I know the developer is working on patch to fix these) but they are still annoying. You might be in a house on your own with a zombie on the outside, you can see said zombie, trying to work out how to take him out making as little noise as possible when suddenly he walks through the wall!! Yes that’s right, some zombies have an ability to walk through walls! This causes you to panic, maybe because it happened so fast you got hurt from the encounter or just panicked and used your gun that doesn’t have a silencer on now you have more zombies on the way. It’s the small things like that which makes the game harder. The more annoying glitch is the ‘infestation’ glitch. And infestation is a house which is infested with zombies and a couple of special zombies, which as you could imagine, needs to be cleared out. The game is supposed to tell you when there are too many infestations within a certain radius of your home base. But instead it currently counts the amount of infestations in the entire map. Which is a problem because there’s no way you can take them all on, but every time they mention that there are too many (every 10 – 15 minutes) you morale level of your safe house goes down.
Sometimes the controls of the game can feel slightly clunky, the main issue I’ve always had is when I walk into a house and try to take on a zombie just as I get there. The camera seems to have a little fit and I’m unable to turn the camera in the right way because it seems to fight about which way the camera should be in the house. The main controls aren’t too bad, you use X to attack, A for a jumping attack and B is your dodge move (a small duck a run) which can save your health with a few of the zombies moves.
You have bog standard zombies (or zeds as they call them) in the game, which of course will be your most common enemy. But you will also experience ‘freak’ zombies. In other words the special infected which every zombie title seems to have. They are named accordingly as well, you have the feral zombie which attacks with great speed, the Juggernaut who is rather large and a tough cookie to crack, the bloater who when killed will release this poisonous gas which seems to stick with you for a while sapping your health, the swat zombie who is just a normal zombie but in swat clothing. The screamer who doesn’t really have a form of attack just screams which alerts other zombies to your location. So all zombies have their strengths and their weakness, but you will find yourself running from a horde of them because you know you won’t be able to take them all out without suffering major damage. which again, I go back to the perma-death mentioned above, because of this you do make choices of fight or run constantly within the game.
All sorts of things might attract a zombies attention to you, as you would expect line of sight is the main culprit in giving you away. That’s not all they rely on though, they now react to noise. While searching for resources, you might make a small noise or if you speed search (which is quicker but noisier) there’s a chance you may drop something which will cause an almighty crash attracting zombies. Cars and car horns will also attract them, which is handy when you are trying to clear out an infestation. Instead of jumping into the house to take them all on, you can lure them bit by bit and take them on with your car! Which of course adds (possibly) the best addition to the game. The ability to open a door while driving into a zombies face, it’s rather satisfying.
While State Of Decay is an incredible and satisfying experience (once you look past the glitches) multiplayer is a highly missed addition. I can’t help but imagine how fun it would be exploring and surviving with a group of friends over the internet. I can just see having a couple of friends go resource gathering while another 2 will go and secure a place for the safe house. Screaming at each other for help, you go and help 3 of you fighting off this huge horde of zombies while the fourth member then turns up with a car he found, everyone climbs in and then they zoom off with resources and just about saving their lives. How fun would that be?! Although Undead Labs have stated that they might work on adding multiplayer later on, I think it should’ve come as standard when State Of Decay was released.
If you love your zombie titles then State Of Decay is a needed addition to your Xbox Live Arcade gaming library. If you’re unsure on this game, I still recommend giving it a go as you might just love it. It is one of those games where you can play for hours and not even realise it. Once Undead Labs have added the multiplayer, this could be the best zombie game ever made.