For those with a taste for uncooked, rotting flesh, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition dishes up quite the mouthful. After its success on old-gen platforms, the title and its DLC have been repackaged, tarted up with a full-HD remaster and unleashed upon the droves of current-gen zombie lovers. Whether the recent fascination with this sub-breed of horror, let’s call it the Z-bomb, has had its day is a different discussion, but as far as State of Decay is concerned, all is far from quiet on the zombie front.
Stitching together the full original title and its two DLC components Lifeline and Breakdown, the offering has plenty of meat on its bones. Whilst it’s true we’ve been swept away in a veritable monsoon of walking dead shenanigans over the past decade, State of Decay’s originality comes from its focus on planning and survival. This is not some wanton, meat-grinding flesh fest – though it certainly has the potential to be played that way – the is the zombie fix for the thinking man, a more thoughtful experience that rewards considered strategy far more than it does gung-ho butchery.
State of Decay seeks to do so much to animate the zombie apocalypse, so much to stage a decently textured and deep simulation of Z-day, laden with an expanse of features and plenty of space for player ingenuity. Where it bites its own bullet is in how these features are made accessible to the player: the graphical interface is chaotic and overcrowded, far from intuitive, and the control system is far from perfect, reliably becoming clunky at the worst possible moments as rotting corpses galore attempt to latch on to your character’s nipples. It’s a shame because given that this is a re-release, the game’s developers, Undead Labs, have had plenty of time to hone the formula.
Next in the list of disappointments is the supposed graphical overhaul, which despite technically inflating the games visuals to fully HD resolutions, still leaves the game as something of an ugly duckling. This could be overlooked if she was a smooth runner, but juddering framerates are not uncommon amongst the game’s more densely developed areas and this serves merely to add further weight to the unfinished feel; the lack of sheen.
There is, however, a bright side – a new dawn comes each day, even in the face of apocalypse. The game’s laudable focus on community, on the wellbeing of each member of your band of survivors, makes things personal, demanding the player’s emotional investment in some of the game’s more subtle aspects. This nurtures a dimension of realism, which in turn allows the game to develop into an absorbing and rewarding layered experience. By including character permadeath as part of the equation, the survival of your big hitters becomes of paramount importance, ramping up the tension when situations threaten to go awry.
In the language of bang for buck, where value exchanged for cold hard cash takes the steak, State of Decay performs astoundingly well, dishing out enormous slabs of gameplay hours across the original title and its two DLC components in return for a somewhat charitable retail price of £23.95. Though this is a rereleased title and there are obvious faults in the quality of its finish, the experience itself and the huge vault of content included makes a purchase hard not to recommend.
Despite a somewhat labyrinthine menu system and interface, outrageously uninviting to a novice player, these outwardly crazed UI features belie a clever, detailed and strongly developed raft of game systems concerned with the micromanagement of various resources, of which time really proves the crux. Time is the ultimate resource in State of Decay, and its use – or misuse – will have consequences stretching over the remainder of the game. Logically assessing the tasks at hand and the order in which to prioritise them holds the secrets to success, naturally rewarding players attacking the game’s challenges from a strategic perspective the most.
What is perhaps most impressive is simply how State of Decay meets the demand for an open world survival game that takes its notes from the insanely popular The Walking Dead television serial. If Dead Rising was homage to the works of classic zombie director George A. Romero, then this is the zombie game for the gore-lovers of the boxset-bingeing generation.