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State of Decay Review

Posted by Matthew Hewson On Monday 5 August 20133 COMMENTS

Available on XBLA l Published by Microsoft l Developed by Undead Labs l Classified R18+ l Supports 1 player

REVIEW IN BRIEF > Glitchy graphics, a predictable story, average combat and some below par voice acting all threaten to derail State of Decay, but in the end they barely even matter. This is almost the perfect example of a zombie survival game and it outshines major productions like Dead Rising and Dead Island with ease. The satisfaction of building up your community of survivors is more than worth the price of admission. Don’t let the superficial problems put you off, State of Decay is a winner.

REVIEW IN FULL > So my friends, who is sick of zombies yet? I know I am. They have become more clichéd than the moody heartthrob vampire and seemingly more popular. The movie and game industries have flogged this undead horse to within an inch of its life. I find it almost impossible to get excited about anything to do with these shambling corpses anymore. That’s why, despite hearing good things, I just wasn’t planning on buying State of Decay. At this point I must thank my fearless leader Erin for offering me the review, because if I hadn’t played this gem of a game, I would have missed out on one of this generation’s truly unique experiences.

…it puts many AAA titles to shame in terms of depth, originality and scope.

State of Decay is an XBLA release, but don’t let that fool you like it did me, because it puts many AAA titles to shame in terms of depth, originality and scope. I started by taking control of a fellow who had been camping and fishing in the wilderness for two weeks with his best friend. As I guided them back to town, it became pretty clear that zombies had taken over and that I would have to help these two survive the end of days. This was all pretty familiar territory for the zombie genre, but things took a different path before long and something truly special opened up.

I went into town to join up with a group of survivors. Once there, I had to earn ‘influence’, the game’s currency, to keep my place in the safe house. Influence was earned by doing things that benefited everyone, like scavenging for food or upgrading the infirmary. It created this wonderful feeling of being a part of a group that needed each person to chip in to survive. I could also swap between any of the people and take them out into the field to complete missions or find key supplies. In fact, this was something I needed to do on a regular basis, because each character had limited stamina that needed to be replenished daily by sleeping. This was another well thought out mechanic that made State of Decay feel like almost a zombie apocalypse simulation rather than just another action game.

I found the whole game to be a wonderful balance between completing story missions and ensuring the survival of my community. There were tough calls to be made. For example, when a survivor started to show symptoms of the zombie virus, I had the choice to let him stay in the compound and hope the doctor could cure him, exile him or shoot him and not take the chance. These choices could have significant ramifications and in my playthrough I had an exiled member return and loot my compound in retaliation for being given the boot.  The story however was a little on the weak side of things. It played out in a fairly predictable manner and I felt like I had seen it all before in many other zombie games and flicks.

It wasn’t without a few technical problems either. The graphics were very rough around the edges and I had plenty of pop-in and frame rate issues to deal with. It was clear that State of Decay was made on a tight budget, because it lacked the polish that could have pushed it into GOTY consideration. There were even some instances of cars moving faster than the graphics could load, causing me to hit obstacles that would only become visible after I had crashed into them. The map itself was well designed and it had a nice mix of small towns, farms and mountain country to traverse. There were plenty of locations for me to visit and loot, with some spots even allowing me to move in and set up a new base of operations. With the constant threat of a zombie horde hanging over my shoulder, even a mundane task such as exploring the scenery never got boring.

It was clear that State of Decay was made on a tight budget, because it lacked the polish that could have pushed it into GOTY consideration.

The sound design also left a little to be desired. Sound effects didn’t quite have the punch they should have. Guns came across as weak and hollow, cars and trucks didn’t seem to sound right and the general ambiance felt a little lacking. Voice acting also ranged from average to dreadful and on more than one occasion I found myself cringing at what some of the survivors were saying. It was as if the developers had their buddies in to do the voice work. While I’m sure that is all they had the money for, it was an unwelcome distraction..

In the end, though, these window dressing issues did little to stunt my enjoyment of what is a unique and exciting entry in a somewhat overused genre. The open world survival gameplay just hit the mark for me and I found myself losing hours by ignoring the story and simply living in this world. Sure it didn’t look great and the sound grated on my ears, but I have rarely experienced a game with so much ambition and love. I really hope this talented group of developers get rewarded with a AAA size budget for their next game, because the thought of what they could bring to the table is truly exciting. State of Decay is an adventure that no zombie fan should miss and even those burnt out on the undead should give this a second look.

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3 Comments

  1. Alstaco says:

    Technical hiccups are easily overlooked if the gameplay is enjoyable.It seems like the type of game I would enjoy but I’m not convinced enough to dust off the Xbox and give it a crack. is it coming to pc?

  2. Hewso says:

    Alstaco

    Trust me if it sounds good to you, get the xbox out and buy it. My words barely do the game justice. Certainly one of the surprises of the year for me.

  3. Brant says:

    PC is coming soon, controller only eraly release first on Steam, then an update later to full mouse and keyboard support

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