Review by Perfect Light
"One of the best Arcade games since Orcs Must Die!"
I have never been a huge zombie fan. I don't get the craze for these movies/games, because every single piece of zombie media is essentially the same thing. The main characters scrounge for supplies, deal with dead people, someone gets bit and they have to shoot him, someone gets lost and they have to be found, etc. Just about the only zombie game I could get behind was Red Dead Redemption's fantastic Undead Nightmare DLC, but along comes Undead Labs and their first attempt at a game. Let's see how it is.
You are on a fishing trip with your buddy when suddenly dead people attack you. That's pretty much all you need to know. Of course there are a few plot points along the way but it's largely there just to give you something to do. There is some sense of mystery since the Army refuses to help anyone, and the intrigue behind what has caused this outbreak may be enough to see you through to the end. However, for most people, the gameplay is what keeps you coming back.
The voiceover work does its job. It's no Godfather, but you feel for the characters. When one gets killed, they mourn the loss and talk about the death for a few seconds. Some characters will get mad and voice their opinions aloud while you are present.
Guns and the noise they make actually plays a very important role in the game. If you fire your weapons with abandon, you can attract hordes of zeds to your location. However, slap a suppressor on and you'll be much better off. Suppressors can be crafted at your base for barely anything if you have a workshop. I was able to amass a large amount of them easily and quickly. Each one lasts for around 30 shots, so make sure you keep a spare on you when it starts to break.
Unfortunately for gamers that enjoy decent shooting mechanics, know up front that State of Decay's actual shooting is garbage. The guns have absolutely no kick to them and the aiming is wildly inaccurate. That being said, you'll be doing much more melee combat because it's quieter and faster. If you have a weapon with blades it's even more fun as you'll be able to chop limbs off while striking.
One of the most intriguing aspects of State of Decay is the home base. Here, your survivors will come in to rest and eat after making supply runs. The base will continue you operate even when you are not playing, which means your survivors will bring supplies back during your absence. They can also get attacked while out and if you're playing you'll have the chance to rescue them. Each home base has certain advantages as well as disadvantages. Some are remote and far from the cities, meaning a further drive but less chance of attack. Others are in town and surrounded by supplies but constantly under attack. Outposts around your home base can easily counteract this once you have the resources to set them up.
Something to remember while out on patrol is that when one of your characters dies, they are gone for good. You start the game as fisherman Marcus, quickly meet a military girl named Maya and spend the early game switching between the two as they get fatigued. Along your travels, you will come across more people you can play as once they have joined your camp. You have a stamina bar that depletes when you do just about anything other than slow walking so you are forced to be mindful while out on runs. Cars are plentiful and an easy way to get from place to place on long roads.
Some players have complained about problems with the game continuing while they are gone. The simple solution provided by Undead Labs is to ensure you leave the home base in a good state as the base will continue along the path it was heading when you left. For example, if you have multiple missing or injured survivors with no medical area, survivors are being attacked in the field or hordes are on their way to your base, you'll come back to a nasty surprise. However, with careful planning and caution, you can leave your base happy knowing it will be fine upon your return.
The developers have stated that the game has a finite amount of resources. They seem to be randomly generated, but it will be an interesting problem when you eventually run out of places to loot, as supplies do not respawn. Doing so would likely take many hours, and you can make lots of things at your home base, but bullets seem to be in short supply. The devs assure players that an incoming patch will fix many of the various glitches.
For a $20 Arcade game, State of Decay does an okay job. There are multiple framerate issues, stuttering and dips when the action gets heavy. However, the gameplay is so much fun that you'll easily be willing to overlook these trivial problems. In the long run, they have not detracted from my enjoyment in the least.
Despite many of the game's problems, with only 22 staff members it's still one of the finest Arcade games for the Xbox 360. It should not be missed by any zombie or open world fan. If you're a fan of open world zombie games, it's a no-brainer. No pun intended.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/10/13
Game Release: State of Decay (US, 06/05/13)
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