Review by flowaz

Reviewed: 06/20/13

"The attackers can be stopped by removing the head or destroying the brain."

State of Decay is an open world zombie survival game. While it shares many similarities with pretty much every zombie game ever made, it focuses mainly on survival; looking after your fellow survivors, scavenging houses for food and ammo, upgrading and moving your home base to best enhance your chance of survival and, of course, destroying the brains of the undead.

Aside from the survival aspect of this game there is a story. It's not particularly compelling and the characters, in my opinion, aren't the type of characters you're likely to get attached to (although you are likely to get traumatized if a character you've completely leveled up dies).

This game is unique in the sense that it has the 'perma-death' feature and enables the player to play as multiple characters, depending on how many survivors are in your group. Perma-death, I hear you ask? That's right - if you're best character dies, he/she's gone forever.

I was unsure whether or not perma-death was a good idea, whether or not it was necessary, whether or not it could be justified - I mean, it is just a game, right? I imagined myself getting rather incensed if I were to lose a character that would never return, especially if I had invested a lot of time into them. But, fortunately, that wasn't the case. This feature instills a sense of trepidation whenever you head out on a mission or a scavenger hunt and makes some already tense situations that much more unbearable. And, although that may seem like a bad thing, I assure you it isn't. Remember, this is a zombie apocalypse. It adds a real sense of realism and gets you emotionally involved in every thing you do in the game.

On many occasions whilst playing I'd be out sneaking around, zombies all around me, trying to figure out how to get back to my car. I was leaning forward on my chair, trying to keep my breathing to a minimum, sweat dripping down my brow, then my dog would bark from another room and cause me a mild heart attack. But that's just part of the brilliance of this game!

I'll break things down for the next part of my review...

The Map - 9/10
The map, for what it is, is pretty much spot on. It's a rural area (not big enough to be called a state) called Trumbull Valley, and within Trumbull Valley are three towns. The biggest is town is called Marshall and is a hot spot for scavenging supplies. Other than these three towns it is a densely populated countryside with a few farms and remote houses. It gives it an awesome, classic, real zombie apocalypse feel, similar to the TV show The Walking Dead.

The map isn't massive, but I don't think anyone was expecting a GTA sized map, were we? Still though, I think the size of the map is perfect. Driving from one side of the map to the other still takes time but not too long that you dread the drive.

Graphics - 7/10
Graphics are pretty solid, nothing special. This game is pretty glitchy, though. For example, when driving at speed you're likely to get some texture pop up. Sometimes my car just completely turned into a large grey block, I had to slow down to let the game load the texture of my car. This tends to only happen when driving at speed through towns, with a lot of houses and zombies popping up all around. When you're out on the open road it tends not to be a problem.

It's also not unheard of to have zombies come at you through walls. In fact, this happened to me on more than one occasion. It can be frustrating, but it's certainly not game breaking.

Sound Effects/Music - 7/10
Sounds on this game are pretty good, no complaints here. The sound of a zombie going splat on the hood of your car or when you destroy their heads with a pipe wrench are very satisfying. Guns, on the whole, sound decent. Especially revolvers and shotguns. The only exception would be the automatic weapons - sub machine guns, assault rifles etc. They just sound kinda bland, like the sound effects you'd expect from a PS1 game to make.

Music is also quite well chosen but it doesn't play in appropriate situations. There is some really tense music and some happy, upbeat acoustic guitar stuff that plays randomly. If they played at appropriate times then it would add an extra strength to the game. (I love when games throw in good, well timed music [Red Dead Redemption, for example])

Missions - 7/10
The main aim of the game is survival, but, like I said earlier, there is a story. I won't spoil it for you but the story isn't particularly inspiring. It does, however, have a few fun missions, and without the story I think the game would have been lacking a dimension.

There are plenty of side mission that do on occasion become annoying. For example, a couple times I'd be setting out to do a story mission or a scavenger hunt at a distant warehouse when one of my survivors would call me for help. On the whole, though, they add a great aspect to the game and are a fantastic feature.

The Story - 5/10
As mentioned, if you're buying this game for the story - don't bother.

Driving - 4/10
If you're buying this game for the driving - don't bother. The driving isn't an issue but if you're looking forward to getting in a car and thrashing it about expecting excellent driving mechanics you'll be somewhat disappointed. Cars in this game are just a means of getting from A to B. Oh, and they're a weapon. They're probably the best weapon in the game, actually.

Fire Power - 9/10
There are a ton of guns in this game (99, to be specific). All of which have their pro's and con's. From pistols to rifles to LMG's, there hiding somewhere in Trumbull Valley, waiting for you to scavenge them. There are also about 40 melee weapons, ranging from your classic crowbar to a 'commemorative hockey stick'.

Guns are useful if you're getting swarmed but they're loud (you can attach suppressors) and will attract more zombies. Melee weapons, for the most part, are the way to go and will, more than often, get you home safe and sound.

The combat in this game is very fun and more in depth than I first realised. There are different moves each character can learn; they all have their own way of killing zeds (yeah, they call zombies 'zeds' in this game. Utterly the worst zombie nickname ever).

Replay Value - 10/10
Lots. There are so many houses, offices, supermarkets, gun stores, fire departments and more for you to search, who knows what you might find to aid your survival of the zombie apocalypse. Once the story is over keep surviving! Keep doing the side missions and see how many survivors you can find and take under your wing. Basically, find out how long you'd survive in a zombie apocalypse.

Final Verdict
Whilst writing this review I had to keep reminding myself that it was indeed a 1600 MS point arcade game I was writing about, not a full price game you buy in stores. That's how good I found this game to be. Every now and then a little something would crop up and annoy me or some glitch would stitch me up, but none of that detracts from what an achievement this game really is.

For all zombie fans this game is simply a must have. If you're a fan of sandbox games, again, I'd strongly recommend it. This game was a real joy to play and I look forward to playing it more in the coming weeks. Undead Labs have created something great and I believe they deserve our support. They're passionate about the zombie genre, as am I and many others out there. They're on the precipice of becoming a well established and successful game development studio, so lets give them a hand in making more fantastically fun games like State of Decay.

Final score? A solid 9/10

~ flowaz

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: State of Decay (EU, 06/05/13)

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