Like with the majority of things the player will experience in the game, State of Decay's narrative is mostly decided on the spot by the player. Missions play out in a typical open world fashion with the player moving through a set of missions only to complete more challenges shortly after, but many of the missions in the game have different outcomes and consequences. What the player decides to do can have a drastic impact on other characters' morale and how they view the player's character. The game opens with players taking control of a character named Marcus, who was out on a hike when the zombie outbreak started. State of Decay immediately thrusts players into the action with Marcus and his friend fighting off zombies in the woods and looking for a safe shelter to catch their breath and learn what is going on. The game features multiple playable characters however, and players can begin switching between them after a set of glorified tutorial missions. Each character has their own story, strengths, weaknesses and inventories, and it's always interesting to see how the game eventually turns out by choosing different outcomes in pivotal points of missions and playing as different characters. State of Decay manages to do what few zombie games have which is to make the player care about the storyline and the game's characters.
The huge open world of State of Decay is perfect whether you're looking to explore through abandoned buildings, go zombie hunting, scavenge for supplies or progress through story missions. The game comes complete with map, waypoints and a nice HUD to ensure you'll never be lost, but it's still a good idea to create numerous outposts away from your main camp. Outposts allows characters to safely stop and manage supplies, communicate with other survivors and more. Zombies don't spawn close to outposts, and the safe zones can be made from nearly any building you can find. Main bases work similar and will house the rest of the characters when not under user control or out on a mission, but these can only be placed in certain locations that are more easily defendable from zombie hordes. Plenty of customization options are available for bases as well, and more become available as more missions are completed including options to set up radio towers for better communication, grabbing farming supplies to grow food and setting up an armory to create and store as many weapons as can be found and safely brought back to base. The world of State of Decay is a zombie lover's paradise and one of the most immersive worlds we've played in recently.
Things aren't always pretty in the zombie apocalypse, and neither are things in State of Decay. The game has some troublesome flaws that keep it from being a complete masterpiece, though it is still plenty of fun to play. As previously stated, State of Decay is single player only, which is a true bummer when you see so many characters running around the world that could easily be one of your friends that joined your online session in a perfect world. Undead Labs do have another project in the works titled Class 4 that is said to be similar to State of Decay with massively multiplayer online options, so the future is still bright for the series to be sure. State of Decay is not the best looking game either. While the game looks fine in screenshots and runs smoothly for the majority of the time, it does suffer from frame rate drops, pop-ins and occasional stutters at times as well. The game's controls are fine on foot and make killing zombies simplistic as it should be in this type of game, but driving controls are a whole other story. While there are some cool features and animations when zombies pile up on a slow moving or stopped vehicle, controlling a car can be a nightmare when just trying to get from point a to b despite no other traffic on the road. Luckily, a lot of the game takes place on foot to prevent alerting every zombie in the nearby area of the player's presence.
Sound is a huge part of the gameplay in State of Decay. Much like in real life, everything you do makes noise, but some actions are louder than others obviously. Typically, you'll want to fight off zombies with melee weapons and slowly work your way from one building to another searching for supplies. Every action in the game happens in real-time, so it pays to be alert, and the game does a good job of making the right sounds to let you know when you're not alone. Of course, the game is still very tense and even frightening at times, since you can't even check your map without fear that the undead might decide you look tasty while you're setting a waypoint. The voice actors do a good enough job to keep the surreal atmosphere alive and believable, and few other sound effects, theme songs and the like do there job fine too.
State of Decay isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn close. The game incorporates some form of everything the player could want in an undead apocalypse, and nearly every aspect of the game works as it should. A few flaws and lack of multiplayer slightly mar the experience, but if you're not looking for perfection in your games, you will have a really good time in State of Decay, especially if you're still a fan of the single player experience. With so many colorful characters that take inspirations from zombie film lore, plenty of different zombie types that each pose their own threat and a huge world full of varied environments, there is a variety of content here to suit every type of zombie fan from folks that enjoy the slower, tenser zombie apocalypse such as you'd find in classic horror films or AMC's The Walking Dead to the insanity found in films such as the 28 Days/Weeks series and the Dawn of the Dead remake. Best of all, State of Decay is the best new zombie game around and the perfect game to hold fans over until the launch of the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and all of the new games announced at E3 this week. Survive in State of Decay on Xbox LIVE Arcade and Steam today!
State of Decay is now available for Xbox LIVE Arcade and PC and can be purchased for 1600 Microsoft Points or $19.99. State of Decay is rated M by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes & Strong Language. For more information on the game, check out the official State of Decay website.
Developer: Undead Labs
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox LIVE Arcade (reviewed) & PC
Release Date: June 5, 2013