Over the last few years zombies have invaded almost every aspect of entertainment. Many movies are being filmed with zombies at the center; books have long been using zombies to their benefit and one of the most popular television shows features zombies. In video games zombies have also been running rampant where a zombie game of some sort is being released every couple of months. However while zombies may be running rampant, not every zombie is the same and Undead Labs’ State of Decay is here to prove that fact. Will the game be successful in this endeavor?
In the beginning of State of Decay, two men named Marcus and Ed have returned from a long fishing trip to suddenly find a group of cannibals trying to kill and eat them. After dispatching these zombie like creatures they make their way to the local Ranger’s Station where they come across a handful of survivors who explain that the dead have started to rise again and the world has gone to hell because of the zombie plague.
After scouting out the area for supplies, the player is then directed to head to the church inside of one of Trumball Valley’s small towns. However from here our story of State of Decay becomes something entirely different. You see, rather than trying to track down the cause of the zombie apocalypse, attempting to take down some corporation or find a cure of some sort, State of Decay is all about survival.
In fact, Marcus and Ed, the two survivors players start with, can die at any time leaving players either at a game over screen or stuck with a group of ragtag survivors playing as one of the few friends they made since starting the game. The reason for this is that players do not take control of any one single survivor nor is the story centered on the survival of one person. Instead it is about the survival of the community as a whole.
Along these lines there are a few side-stories that progress throughout the game, mostly focusing on other survivors, but these are far from the focus and are also easy to miss and vague at best. Where the true enjoyment of the story lies is how the game can progress differently for anyone. A few hours into State of Decay, your group of survivors, playable characters, home base and more may be far different from that of your friends and while there is a final goal that can be completed to end the game, State of Decay proves that the best part of a game is the journey, not the destination.
As I mentioned earlier, State of Decay isn’t a game seeking to find the origin of the zombies or a cure of any kind; it is about trying to survive as a community. This means that not only must you battle against the zombies, or Zeds as they are called, to survive, you must also manage supplies to keep your home base well stocked.
The interesting part is, while you are free to scavenge medical supplies, ammo, materials, food, gasoline for the home base alongside weaponry, food/pills for health and guns for yourself, once you have searched an area and cleaned it out, there will never be anything in that house again. This means that if you clear out all of the areas close to your home base, you will have to venture further and further away each time to acquire more necessary resources.
The same goes for vehicles. The game tracks every vehicle in the game and leaves them where you left them, meaning that it is possible to have an area completely devoid of vehicles due to poor planning or poor driving. You see, when a car is wrecked and explodes, it is gone forever and along those lines, when a character is dead, they are also dead forever. This means that Marcus who can be one of your best survivors can be ripped in half by zombies and you will need to make do with the rest of the cast.
The way that the survivors are handled in this game is unique as well. They will grow tired from scavenging for supplies to long, fall sick due to lack of medicine or improper home facilities, become injured from missions and more. The reason for this is that you are simply a part of a community and the world itself is still revolving around you. This means that other survivors can become trapped or may require your assistance in dispatching zombies and if you ignore their cries for assistance, they can either survive and be angry with you, or die and be gone forever.
Zombies in State of Decay are rather interesting as well. There are your basic zombies that can be dispatched easily on their own but they can quickly become dangerous in close quarters, especially when they begin o swarm you. You see, the zombies in State of Decay can hear quite well, to the point where searching a place too quickly can draw every Zed in the area to your vulnerable survivor. This doesn’t even touch upon the fact that there are numerous special zombies that can make things difficult, including vicious Ferals, exploding zombies and more.
Thankfully players have a number of weapons at their disposal to put away the undead horde including a number of special skills that players learn once their survivor becomes a veteran zombie slayer. Every weapon in the game features a durability level and can be broken and lost forever, but through proper inventory management players will be able to use everything from a table leg, a fireman’s axe, a kendo stick and more to stave off the undead. As for the aforementioned abilities, players can easily push and shove zombies out of the way with the press of the Y button and pressing LB + Y together can initiate devastating finishing moves to fallen or crouching zombies and occasionally you will even get an amazing looking slow motion execution.
As mentioned earlier, State of Decay is a world that is living and dying around you and this continues when you aren’t playing the game as well. If you choose to step away from the game for a few days in the middle of a mission, with survivors missing or low on supplies, you may return to a community where either everyone has died or abandoned you or at best, a very unhappy group of people. This makes the resource management all the more important and helps convey the sense that this game is about survival more than anything else.
Unfortunately this journey isn’t the most beautiful one in the world and it is also plagued with a number of issues. Everything in State of Decay looks very dated but despite this, there are a number of areas in the game, including an area with debris from a crashed 747 plane that are gorgeous looking. There is also a rather nicely handled day and night system with nice lighting effects from flashlights/headlights.
However as mentioned before, the game has a number of issues with it’s graphics. There are numerous areas that you will scavenge through and there will be many times you will explore the same exact home for the tenth time in a different area. These repeated areas are only a small problem however compared to the game’s terrible pop-in rate. Usually when the game begins, players have to wait around a minute before venturing out as textures and environmental objects load properly. This also occurs often when driving through towns and along roads as various objects in the road including debris and road signs will often pop-in right when you about to hit them or you will crash into invisible objects only to see them appear a few seconds later.
As far as the game’s voice work goes, State of Decay has a nice set of voice actors taking care of characters and all of them are decently voiced. Unfortunately many of their lines are repeated ad nauseam, including a joke about a pony, so these repetitive lines become very grinding after a short time frame.
Thankfully the game has great atmosphere which makes up for the problematic voice work. This atmosphere is created through the subtle use of background music, zombie moans and the noises of the world around you.
State of Decay may seem like a basic zombie title at first glance, what with two random people being stuck in a horrible situation trying to survive the best they can. However it quickly blossoms into what may be the most unique and enjoyable game involving zombies in many years. State of Decay is a game that tasks players with bringing a community through the zombie apocalypse while managing their morale, resources and lives while also battling against hordes of undead creates something that, despite its technical problems, should not be missed.
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