These first couple of years of the current generation has run a muck with game ports – spreading like some horrific mutated virus – it’s perhaps fitting then that the most recent port to spread to Xbox One hardware is the infectious delights of UndeadLabs’ 2013 zombie-hit. Besides its lengthier title, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition boasts several differences over its Xbox 360 counter-part, naturally the original campaign takes centre-stage, in addition to two add-ons in Breakdown and Lifeline.
State of Decay for Xbox One expectedly boasts improved visuals with a vastly cleaner presentation in 1080p, with additional effects and greater texture detail, all of which adds a nice touch of polish to the game’s overall visual presentation. Sadly the same cannot be said for the rest of the game. The bugs encountered are a hindrance to the flow of gameplay, some perhaps even make it a little more intriguing as you await the next encounter. Given that the game has clearly had much love and attention to bring it to Xbox One with the aforementioned visual overhaul, it is a shame that the bugs never got ironed out to make for a more refined and polished experience.
State of Decay at first glance might appear like the typical third person open-world zombie-action game, but there’s much more to take in, and ultimately be aware of. Avoiding combat where possible is the main key to staying alive, where the combat choices themselves are really quite difficult, with low health and weapon resources you really only need to be making use of these when you’re caught off guard. Fortunately there’s also some stealth mechanics, as you can scavenge for resources more slowly and thus quieter as well as crouch and move between bushes to try to avoid the undead’s attention – although for the most part tension is kept at a minimum thanks to vehicular-zomslaughter! The risk of hand- to-hand combat and even bullet usage can be minimised by making use of vehicles as your primary weapon, simply mowing down zombies is the safest and most effective way to deal with the majority of the undead, although not all will stay down quite so easily.
It’s all about surviving for as long as possible. The protagonist is rather irrelevant, whom you start the game with is just one of many survivors of which you can switch between to give others a rest and regain their stamina. It’s quite jarring at first to lose your initial survivor, and with the game auto-saving, it can be rather disheartening to boot, especially after levelling that character up. In this respect State of Decay is especially unique, as it’s not just about one character, but weighing up risks, being necessarily equipped, and asking a group member to tag along for support if needs be. Upon your own death the game switches to another character back at your Home base and has a brief moment of mourning between survivors and then your old ragged backpack is marked on the map for collection, and so the circle continues.
While it’s much deeper than just avoiding death and pushing on, there is a lot of repetition involved. Resources are scarce, from commodities like food and ammo, all of which requires scavenging to keep your tight-nit group alive and their morale high. Many of the objectives play out much the same and are simple rinse and repeat from mission to mission. You can bring up the map and mark an objective, for example collecting supplies and run them back to home base, rescue a group of survivors in peril who may be out on scavenging missions and escort/drive them back to home base, rescue new survivors in peril to add to your group by bringing them back to Home base you get the drift. In general, there’s a lot of fetch quests, which in a game centred around survival and scavenging is fine, although it is essentially going from A (Home) to B (a retrieval mission) to A (Home) again, and deliver the package. What’s especially aggravating with this aspect is there’s no room to group up nearby quests, for example after rescuing someone you both can’t then go and complete any nearby quests together.
Another frequent objective to deal with is Infestations, these are buildings littered with Zeds, and occasionally some special infected are within. These are a welcome reprieve from the repetition and an all around good excuse to let off a little steam. There’s also benefits to cleaning these buildings out, from scavenging for supplies and with a little Influence currency, these buildings, along with many others can be turned into a limited number of Outposts. These act as a little home away from home where you can stock up on some resources and catch a breather in relative safety. Unfortunately the Outposts don’t double as fast travel locations between each other and your Home base, nor can they be used as a drop-off point for quests.
The DLC factor: Breakdown and Lifeline
Breakdown – There’s no story per se, it’s just pure survival. Breakdown is all about putting what you’ve learned to the test. Still set in the same area, but even more difficult than before. The objective is to locate a busted RV, scavenge the resources to repair and refuel it before you can move to the next stage with a few survivors and repeat the process at a new location. There’s several challenges per stage which can result in unlocking Hero characters with unique weapons and abilities, whom you do have the ability to switch to and make life just a bit more bearbable, for a little while. All out survival and end-game just may be nigh on impossible.
Lifeline’s story has you in an entirely new area, where you are in the ranks of the Army and stationed in their base taking orders to recue high-value survivors whom may have information on a potential cure. Lifeline ultimately feels more purposeful as you must prepare for consistent Siege attacks, these are basically several Horde-esque waves where zombies along with special infected attack your base, with the goal being to survive and successfully defend it, at which point a chopper flys in to extract the subsequent survivors you managed to rescue. With this Siege factor, the persistant back and to with quests ultimately carries more weight and thus feels more purposeful than anything else. The siege attacks are intense and thus just so happens to be the most thrilling and entertaining part of the entire Decay package.
Addictive as the survival premise may be in State of Decay, repetition and glaring issues are otherwise the order of the day. The technical issues may be somewhat more tolerable on your first time, though despite these, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition is an otherwise addictive battle of wits and surviving what is thrown at you, zombies, bugs and all. The big question – is State of Decay worthy of a double-tap? Unfortunately, the technical issues still persist to plague this otherwise fine zombie-outing and are likely to infuriate much more when revisiting. The Breakdown, and in particular Lifeline add-ons do make for what feels like a much more complete and varied experience, made all the more alluring with its low price-point for the game and all its content looking at its best.
Score – 7/10
Review code supplied by Team Xbox.