Developer: Undead Labs
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360, Windows (TBA)
Release Date: June 5th, 2013 (X360)
Price: 1600 MS Points ($20.00)
State Of Decay is an open-world, zombie survival game developed by Undead Labs, and published by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360. It is developed, and runs on CryEngine 3.
When I first got my hands on State Of Decay, I worried it would be like most other zombie games we’ve had grace us in the past couple of years that haven’t been too good. Coming off a horrible experience with War Z being my last venture into the world of the undead, it was safe to say I was skeptical, and worried about this game at the same time.
When I finally booted the game, I was thrown right into the action. Starting off in a National Park/Campground and getting attacked by a cluster of zombies at my campsite. I defeated the zombies with my AI partner Ed, and we ventured around trying to figure out what was happening. Zombies were running amok, and not many people were left. The story then revolves around you, Marcus a man who just wanted to go camping with his buddy Ed, but instead came across a rather nasty zombie outbreak in Trumbull County.
Through0ut the game/story you’ll come across more survivors, and your group will expand from a mere 2, to an entire ‘brain-buffet’ with assortments of survivors with unique skills, abilities, and personalities. It’s really cool, and that pushes us into one of my favorite aspects about the game. Survivor/Base Management.
You’re in charge of managing your survivors, and your home base to ensure you have the best chance of survival against the hordes of undead. I really loved this aspect of the game, mainly because it added something different to the genre, other than killing zombies. You have to gather resources (medicine, food, building supplies, ammo, etc) to make your survival that much easier, and to ensure everyone in your group lives to see tomorrow. I really like that.
Your fellow survivors can have mood swings, and will get angry, tired, sad, etc and it’s up to you to make a difference, and cheer them up. Take them out, and kill some zombies to lighten their spirits, as well as give them a nice, 1-on-1 talking to. Not doing this mini-missions/requests can result in your home-base losing morale, and causing survivors to leave the group. You want large numbers for a certain reason which I’ll explain shortly. So, I found myself making sure everyone was happy, and that the base was stocked well with supplies. But sooner or later some supplies do get harder to find (mainly food, and ammo) and thus your survival gets a little more difficult to achieve.
You’ll also be tasked with upgrading your base by building little areas for specific purposes. Areas like a Garden to maintain a supply of food everyday without having to go gather it, a Medical Area to ensure that everyone stays healthy, and fit if they get injured and also can help them not catch the “Black Fever” which will ultimately kill them, and turn them into a Zombie. If someone does end up contracting Black Fever, it’ll be your job to take them somewhere isolated and kill them before they start to turn. That’s right! Your fellow survivors can turn into zombies, but I never had it happen. I was always quick to end someone who was on the verge of turning (only had to do it once though, whooo!).
Outposts also make a huge difference to your survival in SoD. Clearing out buildings of supplies, and zombies will allow you to capture said building as an Outpost which helps reduce the amount of zombies in your area, as well as cut down Infestations, which are when a building is infested with the undead, and you have to clear said building out before it’s safe to loot, and explore. Not clearing out Infestations can result in your home-base losing morale, which isn’t a good thing. Low morale is bad, bad business.
Death also plays a very interesting part in the game. Remember when I told you to have a good number of survivors in your home-base, and at your disposal? This is why. When the character your playing as dies, you’ll be thrown into the shoes of another survivor (but you can also switch out between characters at will). Switching out survivors is also heavily recommended from my experiences, and from Lilly who will radio you when you should switch out.
You can fatigue, and get worn out doing tasks, and that’s a good time to switch out. Your character won’t be able to sprint that well, and they’ll be much slower and ineffective in combat with the undead. Switch out, or someone may just end up dying. So, that’s a neat little aspect of the game. If you die, you get tossed into the shoes of another survivor and can actually go out and retrieve the inventory of the fallen comrade and bring it back to your base for a morale boost, which is always a good thing.
I lost about five characters through my entire SoD play-through. Marcus (the first survivor you play as) was ripped in half by a zombie, my second death was by committing suicide by dropping a Molotov while downed by zombies and killing them as well (this is an achievement), the third death was being mauled by a zombie (Feral) at a Fairground and being torn into pieces, the fourth death was also from a Feral zombie at the end of the game while holding out against waves of undead, and the fifth death was a survivor I wasn’t controlling also get killed at the end of the game during the hold-out.
Death is handled differently in State Of Decay, and I love it. It adds an entirely new perspective to the zombie genere, and the eulogy given every-time a character dies is nice too.
State Of Decay’s combat may be a little janky, and difficult to get a hold of but when you do it’s pretty damn fun, albeit a bit tedious at times. Melee weapons are your go-to weapons, as fire-arms can attract the undead. That’s right. Noise plays a huge part in the game, and loud noises can attract zombies. Firing guns, looting buildings, smashing windows, driving cars, honking horns, etc all attract the undead. This is why you can get some special items to distract the zombies, and send them off somewhere else while you either get away, or explore without having to worry about your undead enemies.
However, if you are prone to using fire-arms, finding silencers and attaching them to your handguns is a very useful tactic, and can be pretty handy if you want to take out zeds from a distance, and quickly. Just be warned; the silencers will break. Guaranteed.
Don’t worry though. You won’t be dealing with just your standard zombie. There’s a variety you’ll come across in your travels. The Feral (a fast, dangerous zombie who runs around on all fours and pounces. Extremely fast, and hard to kill), The Screamer (emits a loud, piercing shriek that stuns your character and attracts other zombies), The Juggernaut (large, extremely hard to kill, and charge survivors which can throw the survivors back a few feet.), The Bloater (a grotesque, bony, and yellow-ish, these zombies will explode and release a small cloud of toxic gas which damages your health, and stamina while inside it), and finally The SWAT Zombie (A zombie in SWAT gear. Near impossible to kill with bullets, melee weapons should be used). So, luckily there’s a variety of undead foes for you to face!
State Of Decay is a great experience over-all, but like all games it does have a few flaws. Janky/tedious combat may bother some players, and some may come to terms with it. It all depends on the player. The game also suffers from some issues with frame-rate dropping which is more common then you would think, and sometimes has some effects during some really ‘important’ moments in the game. There were some times where the frame-rate would drop drastically while driving (I only noticed it driving) and I would randomly drive into another car that wasn’t there moments before.
The game can get a bit tedious and stale for long hours on end, so I found myself playing the game in short bursts. The gathering, and helping survivors with their ’emotions’ can get extremely tedious after awhile, and can turn into a chore instead of being fun. Especially since the emotion quests are essentially the same thing every time.
The only other complaint I have about State Of Decay is that I feel the game definitely suits a co-op experience, and it’s a bummer that the game isn’t co-operative. However, the developers have mentioned something called “Case4” which is multiplayer State Of Decay. Whether it’s a sequel, or DLC for the game, we’ll have to find out.
Overall, State Of Decay is a fantastic game that is mostly fun, but does suffer from some minor issues here and there. For only 1600 MS Points ($20) you’re getting a pretty large, and meaty game for your money. It’s definitely worth it, and any zombie enthusiast should be in love with this game.
State Of Decay gets a 7.5/10.