State of Decay (2013) – A Bad Movie Studios Video Game (Not) Review

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State of Decay (2013)

Developed by Undead Labs Released on XBLA, Windows.

A Bad Movie Studios Video Game Review.

I haven’t put out anything in a few weeks, “Tis’ the Season” after all, but I’m back and writing reviews again. I’ve been doing a lot of video game reviews and I’ll be getting back into movies shortly. Well, I decided to get one more game review in before I focus on movies just so I could get SOMETHING out. So this time around I will be talking about State of Decay. State of Decay is an Xbox Live Arcade title that launched in June of this year (the Windows version coming about 2 months later). It’s an Action Survival game that centers around, what else, the zombie apocalypse. It’s loosely a survival horror game, but centers less around the horror part and more around the survival aspect. I won’t be using my usual scoring system to rate this game (I didn’t get a massive amount of play time with it) but will instead raise some points and determine if I recommend it or not.

The first thing I notice about this game is the presentation. Considering the low quality of some of the Xbox’s Arcade games, this is like a shot of adrenaline to the chest (Pulp Fiction reference). It actually looks like a game that would have been given a full release. It’s pretty fleshed out is put together fairly well. The game centers around the player…well…surviving the zombie apocalypse (OH MY GOD THE ORIGINALITY!). You travel the in game world, which is larger than I expected, fighting zombies while gathering supplies in the hopes of maintaining your survival. You meet and interact with other characters, and even gain new members of your party to play with. While fighting zombies and finding weapons, food, ammo, etc., you improve aspects of your characters that impact gameplay. It’s a basic stat system really. This game is similar to TellTales Walking Dead game series, only with more emphasis on action than pacing and storytelling.

State of Decay visually looks good if compared to game from back in 2008 or so. The visuals aren’t bad at all, and I’m no graphics junky, but I can’t help notice that it looks dated. Again though, this must be taken with the mindset that it’s an XBLA title. Putting that perspective on it, it’s one of the better looking Arcade game’s I’ve ever seen on Microsoft’s second console. But all is not perfect. Some iffy animations, graphical glitches and low resolution textures can all be found in this game. You’ll also find more than a few of the undead horde half passing through the occasional wall or door. There’s a bit of a blocky look to some structures and things in the game as well. The lighting looks good however and the shadowing of objects doesn’t look bad either. The character models look decent, perfectly serviceable, and the zombies don’t look too bad. Nothing really catching about their design, but they’re fine none-the-less. Of course there are only so many different looking zombies that you’ll encounter in the game, but I don’t remember it being too bad. No rooms of 5 identical twin zombies that all got turned on a family vacation where they wore the same outfit.

The voice acting in the game isn’t too bad but it’s not really stand out. At least, there are no characters that you really wanna sit and listen too for more than 30 seconds. The groans, gurgles and overall ghoulish noise of the zombies is decent though, and doesn’t get too annoying after you’ve heard it the hundredth time. Gun sound effects are alright, and although the hitting sound effects can be a bit weird at times, most of the action noises will satiate the ears. The sound department is handled well, but there’s really just not much to say about it. It’s pulled off okay but there;s no reason you couldn’t replace it all with stock sound clips and noises and really been able to tell the difference.

The controls in the game are decent as well. I don’t recall having any difficulty getting used to them. I will say that there really isn’t much strategy to the whole game. You sneak around trying to avoid zombies while looking for gear you can loot. Crouching, hiding behind walls or in bushes, and creeping along at a slow pace is about as deep as the stealth mechanic gets. To be honest, controlling your character in stealth situations doesn’t feel really intuitive. You don’t have to be stealthy thought, and when the situation arises, you can attack the infected with hand held and ranged weapons. There’s a pretty decent (albeit standard at this point) variety of weapons at your disposal, ranging from sticks, to pistols, to rifles, to knives to shotguns and more. It makes an alright 3rd person shooter when it has to, but it definitely doesn’t feel up to snuff when compared to Resident Evil or Gears of War. The control just isn’t as smooth nor feel as responsive. And when you’re using melee weapons, it just boils down to a hack n’ slash experience who;s only twist is your stamina meter at the bottom of the screen telling you how much more motion you can do. A cool addition to add a little realism and keep the survival theme, but when approached by 5 zombies( they run by the way) and there’s no choice but to fight, it can get annoying. This is both a positive and a negative to the experience. It helps emphasize the fact that the zombies are a threat, but the stealth is just too unintuitive to be such a major component to the game. At least to me.

Now you;re not alone in this adventure. You meet other survivors that you can play as that can also tag along on your adventures. They actually do fight and kill things, even going so far as to hold zombies so you can kill them with one blow/shot, but what hinders this experience is the A.I. Both your partners and the zombies tend to show the occasional intelligence of a lobotomized lab rat. Sometimes it’s WAY too easy to sneak past the zombies, and more than once I found them unable to get out of a tent that was open on two sides to attack me. They went into attack mode (usually just milling around slow and incoherently, but when they spot you they flip and sprint towards you) but just couldn’t realize that the open spot was just to their side. I also noticed a few times that party members I was with would get attacked and just stand there doing nothing. They would react, maybe even raise their weapon, but then just lower it again just to be attacked some more. There’s definitely some things that need to be worked out in this system.

Overall, I recommend giving State of Decay a try, but only if you play the demo version first. I know there’s a trial on Xbox live, and I’ll assume you can find on Steam. It IS a fun game, even though is have a few marring issues. It also helps to try not to compare it to bigger titles. It doesn’t quite stand up. But when looked at in a lesser light, it’s a big fish in a little pond. State of Decay is $20 on XBLA (I don’t know how much on Steam), which is just a smidge too much for my taste. It would be better at $15. But either way, if you like zombie games or things like the Walking Dead TV show, I think you should check out this game. It’s far from perfect, but still a pretty good time.

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