Developer: Undead Labs
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Distributor: Microsoft SA
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
For fans of: Zombie killing. We don’t applaud you however.
If we had to give it a numerical score: 8.0 out of 10
What I loved:
- Feels like a (decaying) breath of open world fresh air.
- The connection one develops with playable characters.
- The world is pretty darn massive.
- Zombies. We love zombies…
Not So Much:
- Graphics, voice acting, and even the story.
- Taking people for motivational talks. Man up you wimps. It’s the end of the world.
- The “responses” available to other characters seem completely pointless.
State of Decay doesn’t make a great first impression. It looks a little unpolished, and the character’s feel a little poorly acted. However, give it the time it deserves and you will be richly rewarded with a game that feels like a cross between Dead Rising, Mercenaries 2 and the always promised zombie apocalypse.
Except, when you run like a screaming girl from a zombie horde, the real world is unlikely to skip frames and look so unpolished. It certainly doesn’t help with the immersion value. Neither does the fact that you feel like you have to nursemaid other survivors at the beginning. “I’m homesick”. “I miss my teddy bear”. “Bob’s feet smell”. “Oops, the gun went off accidentally”. Keeping the morale up at ‘Home’ near the beginning mainly involves taking the whiner off to kill a number of zombies and you threatening to kick them out on their own unless they shape up.
However, there’s an undeniable charm with the game. Something that’s almost impossible to quantify in words. The desolation conveyed by the abandoned buildings and cars. The frantic search for supplies and their associated supply runs. Racing to rescue an ally while returning with much needed medical or food supplies, and realising that not surviving the rescue will mean another surviving community member will need to run the gauntlet to retrieve their fallen comrade’s backpack and goods.
Connecting with characters that you can swop to almost on the fly happens without you realising it. They have names. They have (slight) characteristics, but they could still be anyone really. As you level up their skills you will find yourself almost mothering them, because losing a character you have spent time with is truly gut wrenching.
Your ‘Home’ – or base of operations – can also be added to and upgraded. The size of your community can be grown (no, not like that…) by rescuing other survivors and enclaves and convincing them to join you. You can even up sticks and set up a new ‘Home’ which may be bigger and better but in a terrible position for getting to the other side of the county. New survivors can bring skills or special assistance with them which will make the ragtag bunch of survivors stronger than any army.
Growing the size of your community and keeping them safe and sufficiently supplied is the game’s real story. Not the one forced upon you. That’s frankly generic and involves an outbreak, survivors and the army being up to no good. Spoiler alert… you must survive and escape.
There is plenty to do outside of the main story – most of it focuses on killing zombies (whether with hand-to-hand combat or bullets) and keeping the community morale up. I never let the morale drop, but one can only assume that should the morale hit rock bottom, there would be a mutiny of some sort. And with the amount of weapons I had scavenged, it would have been one hell of a gun fight and humans would’ve typically forgotten who the real enemy is…
The game is an utter bargain for around
R120 to R140 R160 to R180 (the exchange rate is killing us now). I can heartily recommend it to anyone looking for some open world zombie killing. Just give it some time to get going.