Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Undead Labs
State of Decay by Undead Labs is one of those games you either spend hundreds of hours with, or play it a few times and leave it alone. Taking pages from other Zombie infestation/end of the world games like Dead Island, Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising, State of Decay takes what works from those games and mixes it in with stuff that doesn't. Upon starting a new game, you are thrown into an open world surrounded by zombies, leaving everything up to you as to what you should do next to survive. Let's dive more into this new title, to see if this decayed state will leave you wanting more, or feel like an undead nightmare.
You and your pal, Bob are on a fishing trip to "escape the rat race of life" for a while, when you are suddenly attacked by crazed zombies out of nowhere. After fending off a few blood thirsty monsters, you collect yourselves and try to head for the nearby ranger Station. This is where you learn your controls and get comfortable with the menus. Once you reach the station, you enter the main objective of the game, fetch quests and dangerous treks through zombie infested areas to search for survivors. Since it feels like you are the only one in this world with a brain to make sound decisions, you'll be juggling an endless run of missions, exploring surrounding areas for food and medicine and killing many zombies that are lurking around.
While taking care of business here, you will also have the somewhat tedious task of babysitting your teammates and taking care of almost every little problem they whine about to keep them happy. Making things right with your teammates increases your influence, so when a teammate ventures off on their own, their survival is more likely. Failing to meet their needs, or just ignoring them affects the overall morale of the group of survivors, you'll have to deal with some people losing their minds and committing suicide, or even stealing things from the group and ditching you. Keeping everyone happy and on the same page is key to surviving any mission. The more folks you have in your group, the better your chances of survival. You will be spending a lot of time exploring and scouting areas to find places that may contain supplies or even more survivors. Thankfully, you never seem to get overwhelmed by attacking zombies, and can sneak by groups of them most of the time. I never had more that 5 or 6 in a group after me, but I've heard others have encountered 10 or more in a single onslaught. Killing as many as you see reduces the chances of a group ransacking your home base, so it's sometimes necessary to thin the herd. To reduce walking and sneaking, finding a car is key and is fantastic when you have to get to far away areas, plus it also provides a nice zombie deterrent.
While having a variety of things to do and keep an eye on makes for a challenge, State of Decay can also be tedious at times as well. While off looking for new weapons, I heard screams from a distance but couldn't tell where they were coming from. I ended up ignoring it, only to find out I missed out on having a team member that would of helped me a great deal on a future mission (due to his use of guns). Making one bad decision may not seem like a problem at first, but it will come back to bite you (no pun intended) later. So sometimes you have to follow a set path of missions to ensure that playing this game won't become a burden. Thankfully, these parts are few and far between, leaving you with a mostly open world, leaving all the decision making up to you.
Graphics are somewhat of a mixed bag in State of Decay. Ranging from perfectly detailed forest floors, to a tree that resembles something made of metal. I found it funny to be walking at a somewhat slow pace, only to have a zombie pop up out of nowhere right in front of me. Sometimes, your teammates might merge into one another, or magically phase through a tree or wall. Nothing looks horrible or broken, but the inconsistencies in graphics is somewhat laughable. The tents you find at camp sites, and the abandoned cabins/houses all look the same inside at out, and the frame rate can't seem to keep steady even when there is nothing happening on screen. Sound ranges from eerie and off putting to downright annoying, the latter referring to when the characters communicate. A conversation can be awkwardly interrupted with a completely new set of dialogue when a zombie is nearby. Only to pick up where the original conversation left off after the fight. Also, the repeated statements (like the one I used in the tagline for this review), will get on your nerves after about the 15th time or so.
Control tends to get a bit difficult at times, with partner characters blocking you into a corner where you have to fight to get out. Other times, a button press may not function correctly leaving you thinking you used a healing item when you didn't. I still couldn't get the hang of how to use different weapons, even after extensive playtime. I ended up searching for abandoned backpacks and closets just to get the item screen to pop up. While these issues do take away from the overall package, there's nothing that will break the gameplay or stop you from enjoying the experience too much.
State of Decay is, at it's core, a mixed bag that will not be for everyone. Those who will enjoy the zombie hunting and killing, may not like the long fetch quests and team building. Others may be turned off by the ho-hum voice acting and strange visual issues. This one is difficult to recommend as a must buy, but it's something you may want to look into with a quick go on the demo. Once I got into it for a while, I started to enjoy my time. Others may be hard pressed to find something to like. It's no Dead Island, but it's on par with other zombie survival games and can provide you with a nice challenge.