I have been a die-hard fan of horror games going all the way back to the Commodore 64 days when I was in first grade and I still have fond memories of popping my floppy copy of Friday the 13th into my Commodore 64 and running around Crystal Lake absolutely terrified.
As far as great zombie games go Dead Rising was the first really good zombie game to come out that amped up the tension levels with thousands of zombies swarming all over you. The next outstanding zombie game to push the limits of zombie action was Dead Island which took things into the first person and put us on a resort island that had gone to hell in a hand bag.
As much as I love both of those games and the many other zombie games that have come out in-between none of them can hold a candle to Undead Lab’s new title State of Decay which is easily the greatest zombie game of all time. Made on a shoe string budget without the advantages of big names or big money State of Decay has managed to show up the major players delivering one hell of a grand gaming experience.
All previous zombie games I have played have a formula and force gamers to play the game that game makers want you to. The fact that Undead Lab’s State of Decay does not do this is one of the reasons it is the best zombie games ever made. State of Decay is a third person action adventure title based in the present day just after an apocalyptic zombie event has destroyed the world. In State of Decay you are tasked with one thing and one thing alone… survive. Unlike Left 4 Dead which is a mindless button mashing bullet spitting debacle State of Decay draws in all the best elements of earlier zombie games and adds its own twist making it a truly outstanding gaming experience.
Unlike other video games where the goal is to get from Point A to Point B and carry out C State of Decay is literally just an open world where you the gamer decide what you want to do next. There are plenty of missions and doing them will advance your character and make survival easier but it is entirely up to you in what order you do the quests and whether you do any at all.
In State of Decay if you want to simply drive around town running over zombies and hacking and slashing through tens of thousands of zombies you can. If you choose you can team up with other survivors who are hidden in various buildings and compounds throughout the world and build fortifications, safe zones and outposts. You wont rebuild humanity in State of Decay but you can make survival much easier.
What makes the game phenomenal is its focus on detail. Looting grocery stores you will find food, raiding the police station will find you armed to the teeth and building outposts will make you responsible for feeding, protecting and defending your survivors. Survivors are much more to you then just characters you toss in a pen and forget. You will be regularly running missions to get them food, medicine, and ammo and just plain keep them alive.
State of Decay is a truly open world that gives you the freedom to live and die a hundred different ways. As you explore and loot you will acquire weapons, skills and friends who will help you survive but the biggest feature by far is the freedom to do what you want or simply do nothing at all but kill zombies and rampage around as a one man or woman army.
Did I mention State of Decay has perma-death? You will need to think carefully and plan ahead because when you die… you are dead. Period. There are hundreds of buildings to loot and pillage and more quests than I can count and the zombies are plentiful and incredibly dangerous!
If you are planning to go investigate signs of survivors at a nearby city permanent death will have you thinking twice and thinking long and hard on what you bring with you.
In many cases I found myself weighing whether the trip was worth the risk of loosing important survivors to permanent death. Each survivor has skills my group needs. Some are doctors, some are mechanics who repair cars and others are just key shooters.
At one point in the game I had one working car at my outpost, about a half-dozen shotgun shells and a grenade I had saved for literally weeks and was weighing where I could get more supplies. I needed materials to build more storage for food because I now had 11 survivors and we were facing starvation to often.
While I was weighing whether I should raid the local warehouse for building supplies I located and climbed a water tower and spotted a gun store and since all stores have logical contents I raided it first, found a big bag of ammo and some assault rifles and made my move from there. Planning ahead is the difference between death and survival and in State of Decay there is no second chances.
As you travel through the world of ‘State of Decay’ you get tired and hungry requiring rest and food and as you do battle with hordes you will find your weapons breaking, ammo running out and worst yet exhaustion kicking in forcing you to stop swinging that fire axe and instead start limping and pushing your way to the nearest escape. Survival is not easy in State of Decay and that is part of the reason the game is so good!
The battles can be brutal and even with the best weapons and a few clips of ammo on your belt you can find yourself being swallowed up and literally torn to shreds by zombies that come in many flavors. Worse yet the real world elements of this game make each battle a true challenge. Even when you are carrying a fully loaded AR15 Assault Rifle you will have to weigh whether risking firing the weapon is worth luring in hundreds more zombies or are you better off to fight it out with the shovel you are carrying.
State of Decay is the Grand Theft Auto of Zombie games with a healthy dose of George Romero and is in my humble view the best zombie game ever made. It is well priced for around $20 and is available for download on the Xbox Arcade. Play it, love it and come back and tell me what you think of it.
State of Decay sold 250,000 copies in its first 24 hours and I for one can not wait for part two and I am sure I am not alone!