State of Decay review

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State of Decay is the first game by studio Undead Labs. While the game has a few hiccups here and there, State of Decay is the fantastic zombie game we’ve all been waiting for.

The story to State of Decay is simple. Zombies (or “Zeds” as they are called in the game) have appeared across small town America, and two friends have managed to get themselves caught up in the madness. Apart from the opening, there is little real story to be found in the game. But that’s fine, because the game isn’t about telling a gripping story that will change the world. State of Decay is all about going out and creating a personal unique story that no one else will share.

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The main reason State of Decay is all about personal stories is because of the permadeath system. While exploring the world, if a character dies, they are dead. No revives. No checkpoints. Dead. There is no main character. This is refreshing to see in a game these days, it harkens back to games of old such as tabletop RPG’s. If a character dies or grows tired, the player can easily switch to any character in their safe house to play as. This creates a strategic element to the game, as it’s important to create a strong army of characters that can fight against the Zed hordes.

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The whole map is open to explore, every house can be raided for supplies. These supplies can be used to heal sick and hungry survivors, create weapons, and level up the base camp. As well as a main base camp for supplies and survivors, small outposts can be created when all the Zeds in an area are killed. These outposts can be used to house more survivors and supplies. Making the human resistance against the Zeds stronger. The best part of this is when running around the world, if a Zed horde is chasing the player, entering an outpost area means all survivors in the area will run to the players aid, making the human collective feel like a safe family to be around. It’s completely reasonable to become attached to these characters, each with their own personalities and backgrounds. But soon death rears its ugly head, and people start dying.

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Death comes knocking from a multitude of things; zombies, illness, lack of food, and the frame rate. One of the biggest complains with the game is the frame rate. The game looks fantastic on both a beefed up PC rig and an Xbox 360. But an issue occurs as soon as too much action is taking place on the screen. The game decides to take a break and pause. These pauses can be over 3 seconds long at the worst of times. When the game freezes, everything gets spun around, often having commands happen with a delayed reaction. Turning down the graphic settings on the PC version helps a bit, but those with the Xbox version are out of luck.

A redeeming feature of the game is the music. Rather, the lack of real music. The majority of the time the game uses atmospheric noises to maximize the creepiness factor. Zombies can be heard groaning in the distance, and every footstep sounds like its one decibel away from giving away the players location. When tension rises, the game begins to play very distant music, the music slowing builds and never reaches its climax, creating one of the most intense feelings given by a game in recent memory.  Surround sound is highly recommended to get the full treatment, but turning the volume nice and loud will do the trick.

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There’s so much more to praise about State of Decay, yet a real joy of the game is discovering things over time. The game isn’t perfect, the zombie AI does leave us wanting more, but for people looking for an amazing zombie game that creates events for amazing personal stories to unfold, State of Decay will leave you with more unbelievable stories than any other game this year.

Rating 8.5

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