State of Decay First Impressions

Our first peek into the open world zombie game.

Seldom do I play a game that loses me all concept of time. Equally, it’s rare that so soon after leaving the menu screen I find myself quite so immersed in a new world. Undead Labs’ downloadable open world adventure State of Decay managed to achieve both feats.

In a land overridden by zombies, you’re going to be living by your wits. These guys don’t amble or shuffle along, they run. And not only that, they’re everywhere. One minute you’re traipsing through the woods, the next you’re surrounded and batting them off with a plank.

Coming so soon after the PS3 exclusive, The Last of Us, you could be forgiven for wanting to give yet another survival horror title a wide berth. I must admit, I had my doubts – especially given the elevated price point for a digital title (it’s 1600MPS on Xbox Live!). Plenty of people, it seems, didn’t share my concerns. State of Decay has already amassed an impressive half a million sales in just a couple of weeks since its launch.

Take the plunge – and forgive the slightly ropey graphics, clipping and pop up – and you’ll quickly come to love the huge playspace with its creeks and mountains, infestations and safe havens. What’s more, you’ll also become massively overprotective of the NPCs you meet on your journey. Each has a different personality and skills, and may well opt to join you and other survivors at an outpost or your home base. Many of them will succumb to a zombie bite and meet a grisly end, and when that happens, you’ll actually mourn them and feel a sense of loss. That’s the magic of State of Decay.

You’re thrown right into the action, having to run to the aid of a stranger who’s being set upon by the undead. The onscreen guide explains which buttons you have to hammer to fend them off. There’s no explanation as to the outbreak, no lengthy tutorials or cut scenes… it’s just you and your new compadre versus the horde. And from that moment in, you’ll be hooked.

My first few hours were spent wandering around camp sites, firing off rifles and speeding around the streets mowing down the occasional zombie. It was only after a while, when ammo ran low and my health was rapidly depleting that I realised raising merry hell in the midst of an apocalypse wasn’t the best idea. Rather than my gung-ho approach, stealth and the strategic use of the limited supplies should have been the order of the day.

Various time-based missions pop up every now and again – and there are plenty of other distractions besides. By exploring and scavenging, you can amass all you need to survive the outbreak from melee weapons to guns, and painkillers to backpacks. Whether you’re constructing buildings to accommodate more survivors or doing all you can to keep morale high, there are loads of things to keep you occupied. Then there are the zombie infestations to deal with…

Every time you stray from the relative safety of your base, you can’t be sure that you or your cohorts will make it back alive. Do it after nightfall and the odds of returning unscathed are significantly reduced.

State of Decay is real time, open world and addictive. And I, for one, can’t wait to spend more time playing. Expect a review here soon.


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