State of Decay XBLA Review

Zombies are everywhere here lately. From the growing popularity of The Walking Dead TV show, to the Resurgence in popularity for World War Z, and an ever growing library of zombie games, it is almost becoming a Cliché to speak about the Zombie Apocalypse. Well, not anymore. State of Decay rewrites the rules for Zombie Survival Games, by actually following the rules of Zombies and surviving.

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Pros:

Realism: I know that sounds funny, a zombie game that is realistic. It’s true though. Most zombie games follow the formula of Left 4 Dead. Run in, murder billions of zombies, run out. Some like Dead Island give you more realistic things like weapons breaking and packs of zombies being really dangerous. State of Decay though gets it spot on. You work with a group of survivors to survive. You have to build defensible positions and scavenge for food, medicine, ammo, building materials, and gas. You and your fellow survivors are not invincible. You can die from disease or hunger. Your characters get tired, and can suffer crippling and fatal injuries from things like falls, zombie attacks, car accidents, and many other environmental hazards.  Your weapons get damaged and break, other members of your community use up your supplies and fight with each other, and when you die that’s it. That survivor is gone forever.  You have a finite amount of cars and most other supplies that you can find. You can’t fight huge hordes of zombies either. Once you get good at the game, and if you are playing as one of your survivors that is a higher level, then you can fight a few at a time in a stand up fight. Otherwise you are overwhelmed and eaten.

Zombies: One of the most important factors of any zombie game is of course the zombies. Now, as a diehard zombie lore fan I do not like the idea of most special types of zombies. Left 4 Dead tends to annoy me with the lickers and others types of crazy zombies they have. State of Decay pulls this off brilliantly though. Most of the zombies you encounter are your run of the mill zombies. They shuffle about, some can run but not sprint or do crazy things. There are some special infected types, but all of them but 2 make sense. I won’t spoil the different types, but they are all plays on the type of people that have succumb to the zombie infection. One spoiled example is the SWAT infected type. These are zombies wearing full swat gear, so they can take more damage before going down, and are immune to headshots from anything but the most powerful of rifles. There are several others as well, but like I said. No more spoilers about the types of zombies.  Other than the types, zombies behave as you would believe. They wander around individually or in pairs at first, but over time zombie hordes form from these wanderers. They have poor eyesight, but excellent hearing. Learning to be quiet is probably the best way to avoid (or defeat) most zombies. Fighting zombies also feels very in line with classic zombie rules. You never want to fight more than one or two zombies at a time unless you are playing a very leveled up survivor. If you are forced to fight a lot of them at once try to bottleneck them or set up traps to thin their numbers. Try very hard to fight as few zombies at night as you can as well. Your line of sight is lowered, but they can still hear you just fine.

Characters: From the voice acting to the character models all of them are brilliant. The more “main” characters have very flushed out personalities, but  even the “minor” characters have interesting traits and personality quirks as well that can either help or hurt your group of survivors. I used quotes because there really is no major or minor character because you can play as any of your survivors that you build up enough trust with. There are only a few character exceptions to this rule. They all also mesh well with each other. It really does feel like you have a real community of zombie survivors living with you. There are fights, people become agitated when supplies dip, and you can also see friendships develop among the characters. They all also feel very sad whenever someone dies. Even if they aren’t in your community, although that makes them more sad.

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Cons:

Framerate: Most of the time this isn’t an issue, but when you drive to fast through a crowded area or run into a huge pack of zombies then the frame rate will dip a little. For the most part it isn’t that big of a deal. Every once in awhile it will cause a piece of scenery to appear in front of you while driving and you’ll crash into it.

Background Play: The game doesn’t stop when you turn it off. It is constantly running in the background generating new zombies , burning through your supplies, running missions, and random events in the rest of the world. Now, at first that sounds really cool and makes sense. In practice though it is a nightmare. Your survivors use up way to many supplies. In just one day of not playing they used up 75% of my stockpiled supplies. Ammo, medicine, and food were almost completely gone. They didn’t use up any of my special supplies however such as firebombs, silencers, or noisemakers.  NPC’s also can get hurt, ill, or even die while you are gone, and your morale drops like a massive weight while you are gone. On the plus side most construction and research projects are complete by the time you get back.

Missions: There are several story missions that unlock different parts of the map, and allow you to progress. Those are fine, but the massive amount of side missions going on at any given time becomes overwhelming. On my map now I probably have 12 different missions going at any one time. If they didn’t really matter then it would be ok, but many of them are very important for you to intervene in. Your fellow survivors when left to their own devices cannot do anything by themselves (I don’t know if this is purposeful or if I just have bad luck). Usually you can ignore missions that are not related to your group of survivors. The other survivors will probably be killed, but since they aren’t part of your group honestly it doesn’t matter much (unless you want to add to your numbers). When your survivors are doing missions on your own though, you better go save them. Otherwise they will definitely get hurt or go missing, and they may even get themselves killed. It appears the higher you level your fellow survivors the better chance they have of only being hurt and coming home rather than going missing or getting killed.

edit: Undead labs has launched a patch that fixes some of the issues mentioned above.  Most notably some of the frame rate glitches, and makes it to where Characters can no longer die while you are away.

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Conclusion:

If you like Zombies, RPG’s, survival games, or a good time then buy this game. If you don’t, then buy this game and you will like them. This game is now my second favorite game of all time. I’ve put almost 30 hours into it since release, and I suspect that I’ll put another 30 into it. Maybe even more than that. This game was well worth the 1600 Microsoft Points (20 Dollars). Honestly this game would be worth the full 60 Dollars of a full retail game. Buy it, and you won’t be disappointed.

About Jared Arthur

I'm a married man, father, full time employee, self employed, and an avid gamer. My favorite game series of all time is Mass Effect, but I love playing games from most every genre. My gaming platform of choice is Xbox One, but I'm an avid steam gamer as well. I write reviews because I love games. I love playing games, talking about them, and helping fellow gamers to make good gaming decisions. My philosophy is that every game has some good and bad parts, and I want to be honest with you about them. The more I can tell you, the more informed your purchase decision can be. If you like what I write and want more, check out my blog at jarthur4707.blogspot.com