Time is running out for the people in State of Decay. Infection is rampant and survival is paramount, this is how open world zombie related games should be done. Whilst it has a few missteps and some bugs - this is one of the best zombie titles we've played in a long while. With very few training wheels and systems to hold you back, State of Decay accomplishes the kind of freedom we hope for from some of the bigger AAA titles and looks good as well.
There's an infection, people are eating each other and the game kicks off with your two survivors caught in a life or death struggle. A few tool tips give you an idea but that's it, you're left to work the rest out for yourself and plunge right in. Sinking your teeth into this devilishly addictive zombie survival game and losing hours just exploring and improving your characters.
Following the clues, following the occasional mission marker and listening to the dialogue of the other survivors you can piece together, Left for Dead style - the story surrounding the game and begin to understand what truly happened.
It is an ambitious way of doing things and provides complete freedom to tell your own bite-sized chunks of zombie survival as you want.
Third person zombie survival action and stealth, layered with a dozen or more invisible fairly complex emergent gameplay systems. State of Decay provides you with the tools to explore and survive in this increasingly harsh, and at sometimes fiendishly hard survival sandbox. Each gameplay control is simple and easy enough to understand, from the combat to sneaking around to the management of your rapidly dwindling resources - State of Decay isn't just about playing a game, it's about playing in a simulated zombie survival apocalypse world and making sure your actions are always weighed.
It isn't just about you, or your friend - it's about a community of survivors, your base camp HQ and their safety. In short, it's about relying on other people as much as they rely on you. Whilst you have a whole slew of abilities and stats to improve as the various characters in the game, once you earn the right to switch to them - you also have a whole community of people, with needs. Some are simple, medicine, food and ammo - others are more complex and dynamic - providing the catalyst for this systemic emergent gameplay.
In State of Decay, truly - your actions define not only who you are, but the world around you too.
It's ambitious as hell for a download game and when it works, it works beautifully.
Your main characters have various attributes and skills, and by playing the game you'll improve these key areas and level them up. You'll get stronger, smarter, quicker and so on. You'll improve your shooting, your fighting and the range of options which allow you to defeat zombies faster.
Of course, you can die in the game and death isn't a respawn happy place - if you die, that's it...the game carries on ala Heavy Rain but without that survivor and you can bet home is going to feel the pain of their loss. Same deal if any survivor dies that you're not controlling, see they go off and do their own things out in the open world too.
You fight, shoot, drive and explore in third person. There are simple controls and nice additions to the gameplay. Later on you'll earn the right to run a HQ, so you'll be looking to expand - scavenging for materials by searching (loud or quiet) houses and other areas of interest in the huge map. You can send for scavengers to come and pick things up, as long as you have enough of your primary resource - since money is no longer important - State of Decay revolves around actions speaking louder than words or paper.
Influence gets you good things...get a lot of it and you can use it to build up a formidable base HQ somewhere - make it highly secure and care for a large sized community of fellow survivors by providing them with the right mix of buildings to cater to their needs.
Keep their Morale up and things will be relatively easy.
Of course the world isn't going to let you off scot free, oh no - zombie hordes will attack, infestations will appear and more which we won't spoil. There are a lot of dynamic events which kick off and the rate can get a bit overwhelming - something for Undead Labs to look at for the early parts of the game perhaps.
Once you get a good source of materials, you can start to expand your HQ. You can add medical facilities and so on; you can make part of the base act as a garden and grow your own food. In short, you build a little HQ community with a view to catering for the future of everyone in there.
You switch out the characters, they'll get hurt, they'll get tired and they'll get cranky - you play as numerous survivors and recruit even more as long as you can cope. Of course you can always let your fellow outsiders die, right...
Yes you can. There are consequences, but the game doesn't stop.
You can establish minor outposts in the town, making a building safe for rearming and restocking - allowing traps to damage any nosy zombies.
You can board up the windows of a house to make it harder for zombies to get in.
Car doors can be opened and slammed into zombies - in short, there's a lot of little touches which add to the options available to you.
We could outline even more but the game does best when it's not holding your hand and it lets you go and learn the hard way.
The game auto-saves and there's no manual save, this is probably to account for character death and to make such consequences actually matter.
There are a lot of side missions, some of them are time sensitive too - so you won't just be able to wait around forever. Some will do nothing except make the world a lot harder when an infestation takes hold, others will negatively impact your people's morale and cause ructions in the HQ.
For a downloadable game, State of Decay is a nice looking title - it has a few issues with screen tearing and pop-up now and then. It has a few texture glitches and it has some load time issues on said textures as well. Yet for all the faults it's pretty enough, has a good level of detail and boasts a really neat day/night cycle. It excels in delivering a post apoc zombie atmosphere and does it really well.
The animations are good enough, there are a few problems now and then with some juddering and overall twitchiness from the characters themselves - but these are few and far between. Stealth kills feel nice and satisfying. We have had a few issues where the zombie spawned has appeared to be in the floor.
It makes the odd mistake now and then when survivors are with you on their special missions, or you encounter other people in the world. Most of the time it does a good job of keeping itself safe and navigating the environment. Enemy AI varies and the zombies have distinct character archetypes and ways they react to the stimulus around them.
There have been a few issues with car handling and some odd physics behaviours when reacting to climbable objects, like fences etc. Again, few and far between and for the most part it all comes together how it should. We like the fact that all cars handle differently and have their own driving styles/feel.
Overall the sound is pretty good, we can't say there's anything wrong with it and we've not had a crash or sound related bug yet.
State of Decay has a pretty pleasing soundtrack, with a good layer of atmosphere to complement the graphics.
The voice work is very good for a download title and we really like what we've heard in the game so far.
The writing is pretty intelligent and the characterisation in the script is actually quite neat.
None, but Undead Labs have said they do want to add it - so we'll revisit the review when it gets co-op.
Yeah, we really like State of Decay - we like the way it does things and once the issues are fixed and there's a bit more polish via a patch or two it'll be a really amazing game. For now though, it's a great game and deserves your support - at 1600msp though, it might be a little too much cash for sceptics.