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PLATFORM: Xbox 360
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: Undead Labs
PUBLISHER: Microsoft Studios
Let’s talk about zombies. The overdone enemy. Replacing aliens and other creatures of the night, zombies have become the standard in every genre title released this generation and beyond. Do we blame Resident Evil? The Walking Dead? Who do we blame?
Well, it doesn’t matter. We can all go home. Zombies are done. Undead Labs has rewritten the book on videogame zombie horror. State of Decay is what every zombie enthusiast could want: part-sim, part-action, part-RPG, part-stealth.
You’re lying to yourself if this doesn’t sound like the greatest combination of horror gaming you’ve ever played.
A while back, I interviewed Undead Labs about State of Decay. I had heard about the game ages ago and heard rumblings that it was some kind of test-run for an open-world MMO-type title. This was confirmed. State of Decay could easily be an MMORPG, however; as it exists currently, the game is a brilliant examination on the old adage: could you survive a zombie apocalypse?
The answer depends on the player. For me, the key is to switch up your playable character, allowing others to rest up while exploring the mountainous, Pennsylvania-inspired countryside of State of Decay. That countryside, of course, is littered with the undead and some boss-level zombies who are not unlike the ones found in Dead Island.
The game plays remarkably like Red Dead Redemption, which isn’t a bad thing. At times, the controls are sticky and the camera wonky, but lets not forget: this is an open-world title from a very young developer.
Undead Labs nailed it. We’re so late in the game this generation, however; if you’re on the fence about a system to buy: picking up an Xbox 360 in order to play State of Decay would be the smartest move you could possibly make.
I know. I’m gushing here. But let’s be honest: This is everything a true zombie/horror fan could want.
Switching between characters is simple, adds layers to the narrative that, if the player was forced to simply play as one character, would not exist. Starting the game as Marcus (a Romero-inspired hero interpreted through a Kirkman lens), you advance through the opening moments quickly, saving survivors and meeting the zombie threat head-on.
Melee weapons are key. Guns, while effective, make noise, thus bringing on the “zeds” in full force. Scavenging for items, food and other materials is simple, as is driving a vehicle.
Once resources are scavenged and vehicles are destroyed, that’s all she wrote. Like real life, resources are finite. Calling in a character to help loot a building or establish an outpost to draw resources from is key to survival. Combat is visceral and brutal. Every scrape with a zombie feels intense, however; sneaking past or stealth-killing a zombie is far more interesting.
Managing personalities and resources is stressful. One guy’s a jerk, he’s gonna rub folks the wrong way. At the same time, that jerk is vicious with a rifle in his hands, so, he might be worth keeping around. Bringing on new survivors is a gamble, there’s only so much room in your safe house, though, of course, the game is smart enough to consider relocation.
I can’t celebrate State of Decay any more than I already have. It is, quite literally, everything I could personally want in a zombie adventure title. Resource and personality management, relocation options, planning your group’s next move, dealing with pockets of survivors, building a life after the end of the world. These are the concepts at play in State of Decay.
4.5 out of 5