I have been looking forward to State of Decay since last summer when Undead Labs announced the project for the Xbox Live Arcade. An open-world zombie survival game that lets me live out my dreams of a zombie apocalypse without all the…you know…death, destruction and general end of the world stuff? You could not sign me up quicker. But still, some hesitation remained. This was a twenty dollar XBLA title after all. There was a good chance that expectations could be run head first into a brick wall, but I am happy to say that State of Decay is easily one of the best deals you will ever find and one of the most fun times you can ever have with zombies…you know, if you’re looking for that kind of stuff.
The best way to describe State of Decay is “open-world zombie survival”. You will begin the game as a man called Marcus, but this is not a singular story. You will quickly learn that this is not a game with one protagonist. You will meet new characters throughout and have the ability to swap to them anytime during the game. As you and your rag tag band of survivors make shelter in a church you will learn that killing zombies is only a (fun as hell) portion. State of Decay is about as close as you will get to dealing with the minutia of day to day life in the zombie apocalypse. You need food, medicine, gas, weapons and so much more to survive and these items do not magically appear like manna from heaven. You must go out into the world and search.
You must go out and search through houses, gas stations, fast food restaurants, backwoods hillbilly homes and too much more to name to keep your group going. Each of your characters only have a finite amount of inventory space depending on what you left on your run with. Did you take two melee weapons in case one breaks while fighting off zombies? Did you remember some aspirin or morphine for a health boost? There will be times where you simply can not carry back what you need so you will have to make multiple trips or leave supplies behind. That is the beautiful thing about State of Decay. Like The Walking Dead (the comic or the show), there is a risk reward whenever you go outside the confines of your home base. You have to get supplies back to your group to keep the morale level up and help with your influence (of which both have actual value in the game) and all without trying to get eaten because if that happens….
That’s right. The dreaded word only uttered in certain games. Now do not think that this means the end of the game. No, this simply means you will swap to another survivor in your group to continue on and fight, but I will tell you that nothing hurts worse than having a character that you have played with for hours on end and leveled up through multiple missions and close calls fall while trying to secure some meds for the group. Then you swap to another character that is still lingering around at level one that you don’t particularly like, but oh well, you gotta keep on going or the zombies win.
When you begin to get deep into State of Decay it can almost seem overwhelming and that is what the people at Undead Labs wanted you to feel. Not only do you have whatever character you are controlling at the time to worry about, but everyone in the group will have their own set of problems that you need to help out on. Members will go missing (to an annoying extent) and you will have to go and search for them. Leaving them out there means certain death and even though they were a dumbass for leaving you can not afford to lose anyone. You also have the ability to go out into the world and forge relationships with other groups of survivors and trade goods and services with them. At random times you will receive news that someone needs your assistance, but you may be already in the middle of a mission and must decide on the greater good. State of Decay will make you make choices. Get used to it.
Now sometimes it can’t all be doom and gloom. You need to let off some steam every now and then and I will tell you how I accomplish this. I take someone from my group that is a level one and don’t have any particular attachment to. Backpack them up with multiple melee weapons (lead pipe, machete, etc.) a host of molotovs and some health. Get in the truck and drive out for some “me” time. Just let loose and keep hacking at zombies until your weapons are depleted and no more health is left then get back to base mowing down every zombie I can find in my F-150 lookalike.
Side note: you can open your driver side door while driving and whack zombies at full speed. This can not be more satisfying and may end up being my top guilty pleasure moment this year in gaming.
State of Decay is not without some issues. This is not a triple-A beautiful game obviously. There is a ton of pop-up and clipping and general wonkiness when it comes to the graphics. When you weigh this against how much fun you are having for a twenty dollar game it is easily forgiven. Camera issues are prevalent especially inside houses when the action gets heavy and will lead to many “oh shit, jump out a window!” moments. Driving is serviceable at best. You can get where you need to go with ease, but don’t expect any kind of hairpin turning like you would get from Sleeping Dogs. The problems are really negligible and only are posted here for full disclosure. Nothing that I found lacking in the game took away from the huge amount of fun I was having trying to decide if I should let an infected group member stay in my camp or just invite them to “go for a walk” which in my world means “I will be lopping your head off with a giant knife”.
Don’t be fooled. For twenty bucks State of Decay is giving you all of your hopes and dreams of seeing if you could survive in the zombie apocalypse in one package. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you get down the fact that you will have to make choices and can not complete every task put before you, there is an insane amount of entertainment to be derived from this game. Whether it is micro-managing the day to day activities of your base, to fortifying your defenses, making supply runs, gaining new allies or even just having a blast running over every zombie horde you see in the streets, State of Decay is easily the best value you will find on Xbox Live this year.
At the very least it will occupy your time until The Walking Dead returns.
NERD RATING- 8.5/10
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