I spot the house that has the rumored supplies hidden within. Turning off the headlights to my trusty armor-plated truck, I exit with machete in hand, pistol on my side. The rumor also told of something else at this house.
The earth begins to tremble as a loan roar echos out from behind a white picket fence. At least one of the rumors is true.
A Juggernaut smashes the pearl-painted wood into shards as he charges towards me.
I dodge out of his way and into the arms of an awaiting plague zombie.
The starving red eyes glowing into my horrified face as the red zed chops into my neck, instantly infecting me with the same disease that made it.
I break free from the plague zombie and swing my machete blade. First the arms, then the head, each exploding with violent force.
The Juggernaut gives another yell, this time of frustration, as I unload my pistols .45 rounds square into his face. He tries to charge me, but a dozen well-placed face shots drop him to his knee.
Now it’s my turn.
I leap onto his giant back and furiously stab at this skull with my icepick. He tries to grab me, but one last pierce into his brain stops all motor functions, and the behemoth drops on the ground, giving one final shake to the earth.
My temperature is rising, a warning to how little time I have left as I search the emptied house. I find my prize, a duffel bag stuffed with ammo. This will satisfy the needs of another group to trade.
But first I have to go home and cure myself of this blood plague that flows through my veins.
The last thing we need is another zombie in this, this State of Decay 2.
Driving through the barren landscapes, I wonder how far has this current console generation gone on for now? Four, five years? Yet, in all that time, developer Undead Labs couldn’t figure out how to push the hardware, how to bend the system into projecting what was important, what could fill the players’ eyes and give them something to look at other than a few bushes with two or three zombies aimlessly moaning about.
Look at a game like GTA V, made over five years ago now, and you can see what I’m talking about. There is a lot of visual flair missing here. That’s not to say it’s ugly. At times I found myself admiring the attention to detail in the shops and houses that force you to sift through them. At least when I was looking for loot and supplies, I could keep myself distracted and look at piles of fertilizer in awe.
I understand that this is a budget title, made by a budget studio, but that doesn’t make it any better. In fact, it kind of adds to the insult. A huge first-party publisher like Microsoft Studios, who finds itself bleeding to death because of the lack of AAA games, and instead of going at it like Sony has for about every two weeks now, (God of War, Detroit, Their own zombie game) then it starts to feel like maybe Microsoft is just taking advantage of what few loyal gamers they still have.
When State of Decay 2 does get flowing and you start to get the hang of base building, the differing supplies you need, and where to get said supplies, it feels good. Fun really. Some of the most exciting times are when you send out a random group member, maybe one that is new, or hardly used, and send them out just for some food or medicine. The fact that if they die, it won’t really affect the community makes their runs all the more intense when you’re low on health, full of supplies, and barreling towards home base.
I also like the base-building in State of Decay 2, though it lack some of the more fine “interactivity”. It’s great to get gas cans from your storage, but the intricacy only seems to go that far. They add all sorts of mods, or items to attach to your various sections of your base, such as generators for the nursing station, or bullet-presses for the machine shop. It’s exciting to find one these mods during a scavenging run, but the fact that you can use only one at a time limits the excitement after a while, even turning into slight annoyance that it wasn’t the food parcel you were actually searching for.
The slow search times add to that annoyance. It takes a while to go through a building. Like maybe too long? Why do I have to wait around while my character digs through shit? Why can’t I just shine my flashlight around, spot what I need, and be on my way? While it might be a game mechanic Undead Labs is fond of, it was one that should of been left 4 dead in the last game.
I did enjoy the combat. Swinging a machete around in the air, hearing those neat little “swooshing” noises, that felt good. Slowly dismembering a zombie? Pretty damn neat. And taking down a juggernaut with nothing more than an icepick? Fucking awesome.
Gunplay is good as well, though the guns’ durability was extremely short.
As far as “hordes” go, they were severely lacking in this game. Maybe a dozen or so zeds on screen seemed to be the most this game was willing to do. It felt like it needed more of a Dead Rising amount of zombies shambling about to make it authentic. Sure, the occasional screamer or feral gave me a run, but I never really felt overwhelmed by a horde, only out of stamina
I’m not a fan of stamina-driven combat, something this game relies heavily on. Once your characters start gaining skills and obtaining perks, the stamina bar doesn’t become too much of an issue. It just sucks to get surrounded and run out of energy in two or three swings, just because I thought that the living room needed a thirty pound first-gen Xbox as a morale booster.
See, stamina is also tied into what you’re carrying, so when you overload yourself with espresso machines, generators, and pounds of ammo, you’re bound to get tired swinging a pipe wrench down on dead heads. Just another mechanic that should have been cut in favor of playability and fun.
Vehicles are a lot more precious this time, replacing their easily-replaceable auto-counterparts in the original SOD. They are around, but they burn through gas and get stuck on every-fucking-thing. Watch out for the God-damn guardrails. It was cool to find an army truck, survey car, and cargo van to spice things up, and there is more ways to upgrade, you just got to grind out the missions and the resources to get to that point.
The music in this game is just the occasional violin chord combined with spooky noises #4. I found myself wanting a rogue radio station or something. You get Old Lee on the scanner every now and then, talking like he’s in charge around there, but he can go fuck himself. So can everyone who keep trying to tell me a boring story about their past, but gets interrupted by a zombie within a half-mile radius.
There really isn’t so much a story here as what you make, offering plenty of opportunities to pursue the four branching hero paths for whoever you choose as your group leader, upon gaining enough skill.
There’s Sheriff, Trader, Warlord, and Builder to set the tone of what kind of survival group you’ll have. A bunch of opportunistic killers, or saviors who constantly put themselves in harms way for strangers? Those choices are left up to you.
Mostly I choose to die for the first few characters. Asian Lee turned out to be a real powerhouse, as did his bud Jason. There is some neat perks that you are given the choice of, and I thought that was neat. What I didn’t like was how easy non-hero characters are taken down. Sgt. Bilko and Celililo were taken out without so much as a last-chance button mash. At least when it almost happened to Asian Lee, I was able to smash that A button and skidaddle out of there.
When you get attached to a character because of their stats you’ve built and the story you made up with them, you get a little sad when you know you’ll never see them again. Still, as with resources and vehicles, you learn to live by simply replacing it, just like I replace real responsibility by playing zombie survival video games.
You just sort of peak, and State of Decay 2 shows it true under-belly: A gathering grind filled with repeating busy work in the form of plague hearts, infestations, and “hordes”.
There’s multiplayer too, but who cares about tacked-on bullshit that only functions as a “Look, you can play together!” without any sort of Vs. or permanent influence. It can straight go Dark Souls itself.
Rating: 3 out of 5. I feel comfortable with giving this game a 3. It could have been a 4 with a little more polish in performance and look. It could have been a 5 if it had Dead Rising-size hordes with a better crafting system and more complexity in base-building. But I don’t review could haves. I review dids. And this game did a 3.
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for these types of busy-work, open-world cluster-fucks, and I love zombie games in almost any form. Even that Walking Dead: Survival Instincts, that was entertaining to me. I found myself engrossed at times in the apocalyptic landscapes of State of Decay 2 and the combat, while basic, was good enough for me to feel like I was digging hatchets through thick foreheads myself.
I am a simple man who enjoys the simple pleasures of life, such as shooting two heads in a row.
At $30 for a game straight-up, or $10 a month with the Xbox Gamer Pass, you could do worse than State of Decay 2, such as Sea of Thieves. If you like zombies, open-worlds, and/or searching containers, you should give it a go.