There’s something about Zombie Apocalypses that pull me in. The shift from order to chaos. Broken cars scattered everywhere like somebody knocked over a gumball machine, emergency service vehicles, quarantine zones and well of course, humans reanimated and trying to eat whoever is left. It’s beautiful in it’s sheer destruction of everything we know, the rat race, nine to five grind of life. Who wouldn’t prefer the adrenaline of running for your life, stumbling over corpses while stopping to loot their unfortunate half-eaten bodies, meeting new survivors with the uncertainty of who to trust or knowing where your next meal is coming from or whether you’d be the meal yourself.
Developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studios, State of Decay Year One Survival Edition is a perfect example of how Zombie survival games should be. Challenging and intense, with death literally being a moment away should you happen to stumble into a horde of decaying zombies who would like nothing better than to rip you apart, literally and devour you entirely. Previously released on the Xbox 360 in June 2013, it’s back with a new character, music, supply drops, incendiary ammo and enhanced looks and combat mechanics.
Tearing the flesh from each Zombie, one Katana at a time
The game takes place inside Trumbull Valley which has a wide open landscape filled with farms, rivers and mountains the scenery is quite breathtaking and it would be even more luxurious if it wasn’t for an outbreak of flesh hungry Zombies. The Valley was formed after the last major Ice Age when silt and soil was brought down from the river flowing from Canada. State Of Decay starts with Marcus and Ed, arriving home to Trumbull County to find people eating each other. After fighting them off and climbing the hill they reach a Ranger Station and try to find out what’s happening. As the situation escalates you’ll encounter the army and other factions trying to survive the ravaged landscape.
State of Decay is The Sims, Zombie Edition. Your goal is to set up a base and fortify it, building a whole host of different facilities ranging from a shooting tower, Bunks, Garden and a medical lab. All require materials gained from scavenging around the map, risking your life to very slowly search houses, warehouses and shops which make a lot of noise attracting all the zombies around you, who then terrifyingly crash through the windows and run at you, grabbing you if you fail to dodge in time. Everywhere you go, you feel a little on edge because of the sheer amount of Zombies around.
There is an option to search faster but it has with it the risk of making a huge crashing sound and even more Zombies head your way, definitely not worth it. When you have improved your home, you can recruit more survivors but you have to keep them happy, failure to provide enough food, medicine or beds might make them run away. Good luck to them I say, what with the gazillion Zombies out there. Survivors are also prone to throwing mood swings, you have to keep their morale up and you get a lot of morale missions when they are angry or scared which consist of them throwing the term “I’m fine” around which we all know, means they are definitely not ok. Kill a few zombies and turn into Dr Phil for a few minutes and they are happy again.
Zombies, Zombies!!! everywhere!
What’s cool about the game is being able to switch between the survivors to go on missions, if you are out for too long they will start to get tired and their overall stamina bar will drop, this is bad. With less stamina fighting Zombies becomes harder, as if it wasn’t hard enough. So make sure you go back to camp and switch out with somebody else to allow everyone to get some rest. Fighting Zombies can be done in numerous ways, finding a variety of melee weapons, using shotguns, assault rifles and Pistols or my personal favourite, most efficient way to fight the never ending horde is by “tactically retreating” back to your vehicle of choice and mowing them all down, just one hit is normally enough to splatter them all over the road, apart from the Juggernauts though, don’t hit them they’ll cause your car to explode and probably set your corpse on fire in a burning fireball of regret and stupidity.
Your car will get damaged though, and zombies will jump like Spiderman and cling on bashing away at your doors, and if you allow them, pulling off the door entirely and pulling you out. Drive fast or brake to knock them off and teach them a lesson they won’t be alive to forget. If you find yourself without a vehicle you will have to rely on your stamina, swinging around will drain it rapidly and your character will go as limp as a noodle, flailing your chosen weapon around with little damage being dealt. If you’re surrounded you’re dead and will probably be torn apart in under a minute. Shooting Zombies is effective if you have a death wish as the noise will summon pretty much every enemy in the area to your current location, craft or find suppressors to stop that from happening. If you knock a Zombie down, you can do a cool finishing move on them.
Collecting resources and doing morale missions and story missions earn you influence, with this you can take better weapons from your storage back at base and recruit survivors to help with your missions. Be very weary of this though, they will run off home with no notice at all leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere to fend for yourself with nothing but a time to go home message on your screen. For players who have played the 360 version of State of Decay, you will get a bonus survivor Gurubani Kaur, who comes with a permanently suppressed rifle and two swords. More survivors always come in handy with the undead sometimes attacking your home.
The early bird special ends in 5 minutes, get out of my way!!!
Survivors also level up, shooting, wits, melee and cardio which makes them stronger. Once you have reached a high enough level you can also choose a specialisation and technique with new moves and new bar to level up be it edged weapons, blunt weapons or guns.
What was slightly annoying for me was the fact that there is always an ally in trouble. Lily would call you over the radio a lot. Have you done this, have you checked this out. Having just risked my life, stumble-dodged back to my car to be pulled out and jumped on by a feral Zombie, moments from death to somehow manage to escape all organs still attached to my body, drive a little down the road to hear, hey have you checked this out, there’s not a lot of time left and they are in trouble. It was overwhelming. I learned that if I had too much to do, sometimes leaving a few missions was ok, most of the time the survivors escaped ok with a slight decrease in their friendship meter with you.
Later in game you will encounter tougher Zombies. Bloaters will explode if you shoot them anywhere other than the head (or mow them down) and could cause you to become infected and possibly die. Juggernauts are huge Zombies that charge you, pick you up and nibble on your head like Bugs Bunny nibbles on a Carrot, Feral Zombies are quick and will pounce on you, trapping you on the ground while slashing away severely damaging your health. Screamers will stun you, screaming and alerting everything around you and Army/Swat Zombies have full armour and helmets on so shooting them is pointless.
“Run Forrest run!!!!”
You will also get the chance to change your home moving it around the map to a location more convenient, with houses you haven’t searched providing you have enough resources. If you go to a house and you find a lot of resources you can radio in for scavengers costing influence but this will probably lead to an ally in trouble mission, best bet is to load up your rucksack and load the back of your car with the bigger cars holding up to six slots. Various enclaves and survivor camps will be dotted around you and provide more missions and things to do. You can also ask Lily to radio out asking them to join your home.
The extra content that comes with the game, the dlc packs from the 360. “Breakdown and Lifeline” extend gameplay quite a bit. With breakdown pretty much like story mode but with challenges to complete, what felt like a big increase in Zombie activity making searching for resources harder and constant Zombie Hordes attacking your home. To move on to the next “level” you have to repair your RV and basically start again in the middle of nowhere and find a home again, with more challenges available. Each challenge gives you an overall score with difficulty increasing per level but your challenges also resetting each time you move up. This is a great addition and extends your time in Trumbull quite a bit, also giving you more reason to switch up between weapons and test your abilities.
A whole array of Zombie slaying weapons to choose from
Lifeline is a separate storyline in the city of Danforth, following Greyhound One a surviving army unit tasked with extracting important people critical to fighting the outbreak. Most of the map is bright red and deemed a danger zone and entering it means death, Zombies are everywhere pretty much covering every inch of the map and will charge you, ripping you apart and pretty much killing everyone with you. New vehicles and weapons are added, with me driving a pretty badass Army vehicle around passing a car with an American flag on it and sitting for a few minutes debating which one I wanted more. Tough decision to make in a Zombie Apocalypse. New options on the radio allowing you to drop airstrikes on your enemies, obliterating them with zombies storming your base in “sieges” you are tasked with surviving.
I liked Lifeline better due to a new area and story and survivors to control but both were pretty enjoyable experiences and great additions to an already tough but addictive game. Overall State of Decay is a must for survival-horror fans. The whole time you’re on edge and you’ll probably spend a lot of time running for your life. The game looks a lot better on the one and my only regret is that I didn’t play it sooner.