Let me start off by saying that I loved the Telltale Walking Dead games. I played each episode multiple times and absolutely loved them. The way they weaved storytelling and zombie-horror together was amazing. State Of Decay is not that game. There are no tear jerking scenes with Clementine. There are no split second decisions that result in which friend is saved and which is gruesomely devoured before your eyes. Now, don’t get me wrong, you will become attached to some of your State Of Decay characters as they level up and improve their skills. And some of your friends will most certainly be eaten alive. But this is a whole new zombie survival experience and it is amazing in it’s own right.
This game will not be winning any shiny awards for its graphics. The surrounding environment is pretty low texture. The mountains, grass and buildings exteriors are all rather plain. There are no breathtaking displays of scenery, a la Skyrim. Then again, you wont have much time to stand around and admire the scenery in this game as hordes of flesh eating undead monsters will be nipping at your heels. The best way to sum up the look of this game is to equate it to GTA IV. The character models, buildings and atmosphere all feel very GTA-esque. Nothing fancy but they get the job done. Fortunately Undead Labs did included tons of blood and gore which I always appreciate in a game. A lot of games these days go way to light on blood IMHO. Some even allow you to turn it off completely. Lets just say in State Of Decay it’s a “heavy flow week”. Wow I’m sorry that was a terribly hacky menstrual joke. Hey, do zombie chicks still get their periods? Moving on…
GAME PLAY 8/10
Like I said, this game has a lot of GTA IV qualities. The game play in State Of Decay very closely resembles the most recent GTA game. Except now instead of swinging wildly at police officers and hookers you’ll be taking aim at zombies. There are almost 100 different guns that can be used throughout the game and the aiming and shooting is pretty straight forward. Left trigger aims, right trigger shoots. It feels as smooth as any third person shooter can and the absence of any target assistance adds extra tension and excitement when you get caught in a tight spot. The driving is a little wonky. Cars don’t handle quite as well as you would hope and the braking is really strange. When you apply the brake your vehicle comes to an IMMEDIATE stop regardless of how fast you’re driving.
Much like the graphics, the driving is nothing fancy but it will certainly get the job done. Cars do wear and tear over time. If they take enough damage they will catch fire and explode. If you can manage to upgrade your base with an advanced workshop you can actually build and maintain vehicles which can come in handy. While you’re out on supply runs or rescuing other survivors various missions will become available. A radio transmission will come through explaining the mission and then a small icon will pop up on your map. This keeps the game flowing at a nice pace and (for me at least) makes it even harder to stop playing. I often find myself saying “I’ll just do this nearby mission THEN go back to base”.
Your character can get fatigued though so be wary if you start stringing too many missions together. I found this out the hard way. I have only lost one character and it came about on a routine supply run to the pharmacy for some robotussin. What better time to robotrip than the zombie apocalypse? As I left the pharmacy a horde of zombies surrounded me and my character was too tired and fatigued to out run them. It was an intense moment. As they started jumping on my back and pulling me to the ground I realized my axe and pistol weren’t getting me out of this situation. I stood up from my couch and began jumping up and down, screaming random obscenities at my TV. Normally I would just reload from my last save or let my character respawn. No big deal. But in State Of Decay when a character dies you’re transported back to your home base and resume playing as one of your other party members. There are a few short words said in memory of your recently deceased friend and you can go pick up their belongings from their corpse. Beyond that they are never mentioned again.
Death in State Of Decay is permanent. Recruiting survivors and increasing your population is important. Each character starts with different backgrounds and base skills. For example, one person from your party may have been a chef. While their fighting and shooting may be lower than the former police officer, their wits and problem solving skills may be higher. Plus when you have a base with a kitchen it can be beneficial to have someone who knows how to prepare and preserve food. Bases can only be setup in certain buildings. They will be marked as “potential homes” on your map.Outposts however can be setup in any building, provided you have cleared them of zombies first. What’s the difference? An outpost is essentially a watch tower.
It’s guaranteed to be zombie free as long as you control it and you can pop in, drop off and pick up supplies and head back out. Your home base is where all your characters live. You can customize it and develop it as you like. The craziest part about this game to me is the game keeps going while you’re gone. Your party members will leave your base and go out on supply runs. Some people may get sick. Someone might even accidentally shoot someone else while you’re away. Your supplies will always be consumed while you’re away. This usually results in you making immediate supply runs once you log back in. While all this could prove to be frustrating, you do have some control over it. For instance, if you go back to your home base and then exit the game with low supplies coming back might be rough. Your group’s morale may have dropped and people could be starving. As long as you leave with plenty of supplies and high morale though you should be fine.
Now I have not exited the game anywhere other then from my home base. I’m not sure what would happen if you logged out in the middle of a field surrounded by zombies, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be anything good. Personally the only issue I have with State Of Decay in terms of game play is the massive and frequent frame rate drops. It almost always happens while driving. It may not sound like a big deal but when you’re speeding down a clustered city street in some old station wagon you found and things start getting choppy, it becomes a lot harder to dodge other cars, telephone poles and hordes of zombies. My game also froze up twice during frame rate drops. Fortunately the game auto saves quite often so I was able to reload without losing any progress or items.
STORY – ?/10
I really don’t have to much to give you in terms of the game’s storyline. I have logged about 20 hours of game play and all I can tell you is there seem to be some divided factions forming. There is my group, there is a female judge and her small militia who have control of a court house and are attempting to create their own society, and then there is the US Army. Honestly I couldn’t tell you how the zombie outbreak started or how to fix it. I kind of like that way though. I mean realistically if the country was hit with a zombie infestation and began spiraling out of control all you would care about is survival. You wouldn’t get all “I Am Legend” and start whipping up different serums in your basement. You would stack up as many bullets and bags of cheetos as you could muster and establish the safest form of shelter you could for you and your loved ones. I’m sure the State Of Decay plot will begin to reveal itself gradually over time as there are quests that progress the story forward.
I’ve just been keeping myself busy with you know, not getting killed by zombies.
OVERALL – 9/10
This is a fantastic game. The fact that it’s a $20 XBL Arcade release makes it all the more impressive. There is a patch being released the third week in June that is supposed to resolve most of the bugs. If that is the case, this game will be almost flawless. Now remember, this is not a beautifully told story of tragedy and sorrow that just happens to take place during the zombie apocalypse. This is not an enormous open world RPG. This is a nitty gritty, open world, action adventure game that is all about surviving the end of humanity as we know it.