State Of Decay

  • Genre: Open World/Stealth/Zombie horror
  • Developer: Undead Labs
  • Platform: Xbox 360, PC
  • Release Date: June 15 2013
  • Version Reviewed: Xbox 360

Zombies and gaming have been successful bedfellows for the better part of twenty years now. A genre born from Resident Evil, way back in 1996, with the emphasis on fear, survival, and getting out the other side with your underwear unsoiled was the aim of the game. In more recent years, this has fallen to the sidelines in favour of gunning down hordes of zombies, as seen in the highly successful Left 4 Dead series, or fashioning anything you can find into a weapon and crackin’ skulls a la Dead Rising and Dead Island. The question is, have the roots of the zombie survival game been lost? Is it more spray and pray than survive and slay? Undead Labs have set out to bring zombie survival back to its roots with State of Decay, a self-proclaimed ‘true survival’ zombie game.

State of Decay drops you straight into the action, without so much as a training guide. As Marcus, you are first tasked with saving your pal, Ed, from ‘mysterious flesh eating humans’ armed with nothing more than a tree branch. Following this all too easy bout, you are aware that some serious shit has hit the fan in the local Trumbull Valley, so you set about finding an explanation as to what has befallen this town, and more importantly, how to survive.

As the developers rightly claim, State of Decay’s emphasis is on survival, and in this case they’ve got it very, very right. Throughout the game, you find survivors, establish a base camp, fortify it, and ransack any and every house to find supplies. Food, medicine, ammunition are all precious commodities in a world that has come to a standstill. Without food your survivors starve. No meds? Expect a full on epidemic in days. No building materials? Good luck surviving the next wave of zombies that just happen to cross your way. Of course you can always hijack a car and mow the bastards down; something that never gets old. They’ve really nailed the survival element, and although the game itself can get a tad repetitive, it never feels stale. New threats, special zombies, and the always present possibility of new survivors popping up, there’s always something to do, always a danger. You can never just sit back and enjoy the view. So much so that if your character dies, then they are gone, forever. This really jacks up the peril, and will have you checking over your shoulder a good 90% of the time.

The game is not without its flaws though. The story is relatively weak, and almost feels like it was added as an afterthought to justify the very existence of the game. They could have done a lot more with it, instead of just following the zombie apocalypse 101 playbook.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of State of Decay though, is the timing of the repeatable missions. Often members of your company get lost, or trapped in houses, and you have no other option than to go save them. This happens so often, that you can be driving halfway across the map, on a story mission, when a party member gets ‘lost’ three feet from your home base. It’s painfully frustrating, and often gets you in an infinite loop of having to help people. The game actively encourages you to increase your survivors, but this means there’s more chance of them getting into trouble, which will sap more of your time.

State of Decay is an impressive jaunt back into the world of survival horror, with a refreshingly heavy emphasis on the survival element. It’s let down by a poor story however, and although its repetitive nature will appeal to the farmers, and builders out there, it will eventually wear thin with even the most die hard of zombiephiles.

Hopefully, the new expansion State of Decay: Breakdown will inject some life back into a title with seemingly limitless potential.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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