Over the past few years, gamers have been graced with a number of fantastic zombie-based games. However, at the same time, we’ve been pained by some right horrors. Games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Game, Valve’s Left 4 Dead series, and Capcom’s Dead Rising have brought us hours of entertainment and scores of memorable moments, whereas games such as Dead Island: Riptide and, you’ve guessed it, The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts have left us with moments we’d rather forget. As of late, the zombie genre has been getting a lot of face time. and it’s becoming ever more difficult to pick out the good from the bad, and the bad from the downright dreadful. State of Decay, the first title from the new kid at school, Undead Labs, is another drop in the quickly filling bucket of zombie games. Undead Labs really had to do something different with this game for it to stand out among the crowd, and something different they did indeed.
In all, this is an incredibly well-made game, considering Undead Labs’ lack of credentials and probable small budget. There is a ton to love about State of Decay, and as an avid zombie fan, it’s basically the perfect game for me. In truth, it’s exactly what Activision’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts should have been. The story itself is pretty simple – it’s the age old ‘humanity’s survival in the face of their own demise’ – their own demise being both figurative and literal in this game. The aim of the game is to survive, and players cando that in any way they so please. It’s fully possible to gallivant around the world, cracking skulls and blowing out brains, but it’s not sensible. You’ll end up with more dead survivors than the first series of Lost. The game is much more entertaining if you take your time to explore the world, searching for supplies, weapons, and other survivors. In essence, the game can go on for a very long time – so long as you decide against completing the final mission, the story will pause and gameplay will continue until there are no supplies remaining. This game has a real ‘play as you will’ ethos; there really are very few boundaries as to what you can do in this world.
In the game you will encounter a number of different survivors, some playable, others not. Each playable survivor can earn XP to level up their attributes, such as cardio, fighting, and shooting, whilst practicing their attributes in the world. Inevitably, you will pick a few favorite survivors who have been maxed out in certain attributes, as well as having unlocked two special abilities. One of the best features of this game is that no survivor is safe. Anyone can become surrounded and mauled or missing whilst scavenging, and if the survivor dies, that’s it; your beloved character will be gone for good. It’s frustrating and, at times, a bit gut-wrenching, but it’s a fantastic idea. It really forces the issue of survival, even for the playable characters – there is no ‘load last checkpoint’ at the end of days.
Survivors can be sent on scavenging missions when you find a building worth checking out or if there are some supplies you can’t quite carry. But, as with everything in this game, use the option with caution, as everything happens in real time. If there’s a horde near the building, or just some tough zombies, expect to get a distress call from one disgruntled survivor. You’ll find yourself growing attached to this rag-tag bunch of survivors – an impressive feat on both Undead Labs’ and their voice actors parts. There are no cut-scenes, and dialogue is frequent, but rolls seamlessly with the gameplay. The world feels both alive and completely dead at the same time – it’s amazing how a simple story combined with fantastic gameplay can capture your imagination so vividly. It really is the world of the living dead.
But, as with any lower budget game, there are a few glitches and bugs which plague gameplay. But, before I start, I just want to stress that these bugs in no way impede the playing experience. You will be more than willing to overlook them once you get your teeth into the game. However, there are a few major frame rate issues, especially when being faced with multiple hordes or large clusters of zombies. The game sometimes feels laggy, as if you were playing online on a poor connection, which is not ideal. Furthermore, it’s incredibly simple to get cars lodged in the graphics, suspended from buildings, or stuck inside fences and walls – which can be incredibly frustrating when trying to escape the undead. Zombies will glitch through walls, doors, and vehicles. Bags will, occasionally, fall through the graphics and out of reach. It’s a shame, but it isn’t the end of the world in any sense of the word … apart from that it is, of course.
There really is a ton to love about this game, and at a mere 1600 MSP, it’s a real steal. The story is perfectly matched to the gameplay, with both running seamlessly, hand in hand. A game like this has been a long time coming, and Undead Labs have really hit the nail on the head with this title. They gathered inspiration from similar titles, such as Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising, and other hits like GTA and Sleeping Dogs. Sure, it has one or two bugs which could easily be fixed with a little TLC, hopefully in the form of DLC, but at the end of the day, if you’re a fan of zombies, RPGs, and sandbox games, then you’ll love State of Decay. Undead Labs have done everything right here, and they know it.
This review is based of a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of State of Decay developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studio.
- Great, Simple Story
- Great Zombie Gameplay
- A few minor glitches