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State of Decay

By Bobfish18-11-2013
Bis18marck70 (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
State of Decay

The Defence

Undead Labs
Microsoft Studios
Action, Adventure
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GT 240
AMD Radeon HD 4750
2 GB
3 GB

The Case

Video games and the zombie apocalypse are hardly strangers. They've gone hand in hand so long, and so often, they might as well be the exact same thing at this point. Yet there are still a whole plethora of new titles released, announced or suggested on an almost daily basis. Some are promising, some are terrible, some meet expectations, some fall flat and die, some should never have been made in the first place but somehow shambled out anyway. Where, then, does State of Decay, by Undead Labs, a formerly Xbox only title, fall on the spectrum? Let's dive right in and munch away at all those lovely tidbits of my brain to find out.

The Trial

Right from the outset, let me say this much. The game starts off on the right path. No introduction, no lengthy cutscene with clunky, unneeded exposition. You're just there, with a big piece of wood in your hand, watching you best friend being munched in the face by a bunch of crazy lunatics. So you do what any sane, rational person would do, and beat the living shit out of them. No heming and hawing, no forced moral dilemma nonsense. Your friend is in danger, so you jump in and help him out.

Mercy killing or murder? You decide.

Mercy killing or murder? You decide.

The game then progresses along much the same vein. Offering you an almost dazzlingly huge map to explore right from the outset. None of this, again, forced exposition to explain why certain areas are off limits. From the secluded camping spot (which conveniently, but efficiently and organically explains why everything is new to you) where you start, the entire map is available to you. Though it's a lengthy trek down to civilisation.

Along the way, you encounter more survivors, most of whom are munched to death shortly after (that happens a lot by the way) and start to piece together little snippets of what went on. The particulars of the outbreak are left, wisely, extremely vague. As is the plot as a whole. The emphasis is far more on the sandbox experience of the realities of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Gathering food and weapons, medicine, building supplies to provide more sleeping quarters for the bedraggled survivors, that kind of thing.

This begins, ends and persists as your primary focus for the entire duration of the time spent playing. With randomly generated missions like sittings of new survivors, trading with other encampments, clearing out nests of zombies (of which there is a surprising variety in both type and character model) there's always something to do. Allowing the game to, literally, be endless. Something which is greatly assisted by the overall quality of the missions and random, though obviously finite, dialogue options that you hear over the read. Every mission is told to you via walkie-talkie, but the scripting is clever enough that it never feels repetitive. So you could play it forever without it losing the appeal.

Damnit! I lost my watch.

Damnit! I lost my watch.

The same quality extends to the plot, such as it is. There's actually a lot of stuff going on in the background if you want to look for it. The narrative is sparse, yes, but rather deep. Touching on a lot of the issues that would genuinely arise in such an event. Though it does everything at arm’s length, showing you what's happening rather than commenting on it. Leaving you to make your own judgements about what is and is not the right choice to make. Think of it as a sandbox game with a plot if you want to follow it, rather than a plot heavy game in a sandbox. There's enough of either to satisfy both, with the other being just distant enough that it won't interfere with your fun. So if, like myself, you see the advantages and inherent draw in both aspects, this could well be, functionally, the perfect game.

The voice acting, music and sound effects all help, massively, in building the immersion that a game like this not only thrives up, but needs as its basic premise. The characters you meet all feel like real, natural people, delivering beautifully understated performances that make them immediately feel like friends. Or enemies, depending on your mood. Whilst the groans and screams of the zombies in the distance can be utterly terrifying, when you know a massive horde is lurking nearby.

Functionally, the game plays extremely well. Driving can feel a bit floaty at times, with cars having insanely sharp turning arcs. But everything else functions as you would expect. The only downside is the control scheme. Given that the game was made for consoles first, without any concrete plans for a PC release, a controller is clearly the better optimised choice. There is now mouse and keyboard support, which works efficiently enough. But without custom key bindings (at times of writing) they can be a little clumsy in the heat of the moment. Of course, there's always a way round that with config files, which is a bit of a ballache.

We're here to protect you.

We're here to protect you.

Along the way you will come across a multitude of colourful people. Some of which will be friendly, some will be hostile, and some, the lucky few, will join you directly and become playable. This adds a whole new dynamic to the game, which makes it feel a lot more organic, a lot more like there are other, real, people involved. As each character remains active when you are not using them, and all of their abilities are upgraded independently. The amount of information State remembers, even so far as where you left a certain car and the condition you left it in, is truly outstanding.

And it looks amazing! It may not be a graphical benchmark powerhouse, but the assets it has have been expertly crafted. The autumnal atmosphere is evident in everything, with trees and other foliage being a breathing swathe of burned ambers and soft ochre. Whilst character models are nicely detailed and extremely well animated.

The Verdict

State of Decay is a superb game. Despite being built with not only consoles, but one specific console, in mind, Undead Labs have not half-assed the port job. Everything has been smoothed out to near perfection. The only things that could really be said against it are the lack of co-op/multiplayer and the difficulty. The first is a minor complaint, the latter is more of a compliment in a lot of ways. It's the zombie apocalypse. It is not supposed to be a cakewalk.

Case Review

  • Environments: Large and gorgeous to look at.
  • Narrative: Light, but deep and extremely well crafted.
  • Scope: A huge map with a staggering capacity to keep track of tiny details.
  • Difficult: It starts easy enough, but ramps up steadily to become a grind which you will either love or despise, but cannot deny is authentic.
  • Single-player Only: Co-op would definitely be a welcome addition.
Score: 4.5/5
Smoothed out to near perfection.


Is State of Decay another zombie survival game? No. State of Decay is THE zombie survival game. You might think you’ve had the same experience before, in one of those games where you shoot zombies and pick up random loot from their corpses. You might have survived a zombie attack, sure, but you haven’t survived the zombie apocalypse yet. Not until you’ve played State of Decay. You see, this one takes a somewhat different approach than what most zombie survival games do. A much deeper approach. You’re not just surviving encounters with zombies here. You’re establishing communities of survivors, gathering resources, recruiting new members, building and upgrading your facilities and making sure morale stays up to improve the odds of survival. You’re literally rebuilding a future for mankind.

It isn’t going to be easy. Each encounter with a group of zombies is lethal, and if you die, you’re dead for good. You’re not only controlling a single character here, but have the option of switching between several members of your enclave at any time. That still doesn’t change the fact that if you lose your favorite character, he or she will be gone forever. All of them have their own personality and unique set of skills. You’ll have one less mouth to feed, sure, but you’ll also have one less friend watching your back. Hell, the game even plays itself after you shut it off, and characters you care about can be dead when you boot the game up the next day. That might sound a little hardcore, but it’s also one of the things making State of Decay so incredibly immersive. You will literally stay up longer to make sure your community has enough of all the necessary resources that outposts have reloaded their defences and survivors have the best equipment on hand, before you finally go to sleep at 8 in the morning. It’s a game where you will care for your people - even the ones you kind of hate.

State of Decay is certainly ambitious, but it has its share of quirks harming the overall experience. There are still numerous bugs, the worst ones having to do with the AI. NPCs sometimes get stuck in the dumbest of places, which is incredibly frustrating if you can’t get them loose. You’re essentially losing a survivor permanently without it being your fault to begin with. The controls feel a little clunky, particularly in the deadly combat. Some design choices will also leave you scratching your head, like how you are the only one allowed to carry back resources to the base, and none of the guys or the pickup truck you brought with you are of any use. Those who hate games like The Sims where you’re always asked to do annoying little tasks for annoying little characters, can also quickly get irritated with some of the survivors in State of Decay. But at least here, it’s thematic. You always have the option of sending that survivor out on a one-way mission. To sum things up, the positive aspects and sheer ambition of State of Decay far outweigh all of its shortcomings. I heartily recommend it to anyone who’s not yet sick and tired of zombie games. Because this, this is where it’s at.


Score: 4/5


As much as I hate bias, it's hard not to feel some disdain towards a zombie survival game, when another one is being released every week. Despite this, State of Decay still brings some fresh ideas to the table that help with creating a unique experience. Being a sandbox allows for some freedom that a lot of other survival games don't provide. Instead of being a horde mode, or a plot heavy journey, State of Decay lets the player choose how to spend the precious hours in the day to either scavenge nearby houses for supplies, or to do the various missions available like trading supplies with other survivor groups. If anything it feels like those mid-2000s endless zombie flash games.

It's around the actual gameplay portion where the game starts to fall apart. The combat is nothing more than monotones mashing away at the attack button, and you're only occasionally relieved of this by warding off a zombie attack, by mashing another button. The driving controls suffer from being on the PC, as you just can't get the finite movements on a keyboard when compared to a gamepad. On top of this, the game's got a rough habit of bugging out at the worst of times. My first character died from an unkillable zombie that had found its way underneath the floor. It could be the programming as a whole, because the AI is about as thick as a brick. It doesn't matter if you want to sneak around the zombie horde, your AI partner will gladly run into the horde armed with a frying pan like he's Leroy Jenkins.

State of Decay does add a few interesting gameplay elements that shake up the formula. But for every good thing it adds, it ruins another. Forcing you to scavenge for resources and constantly repair your home is the right path to go in a survival experience, but making one button combat and retarded AI is most certainly not. I feel that the lackluster parts don't completely kill the experience, but do tarnish it to say the least. Although, it is said that having to constantly find new areas for resources was great for making you explore the world without some waypoint markers telling you to. And on the whole, it did for a great job at making the game feel organic.


Score: 3.5/5
Comments (27)
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Posts: 3290

That was Biscuit's decision

Posts: 341

But the video is still gone.

Posts: 3290

He filed a YouTube DMCA claim, that's not the same thing.

It's also since been revoked

Posts: 341

Apparently the suing was "falsely reported" but yes it was about the copyright claim.

And take a look at the latest BF4 news comments, by Ruby ;)

Posts: 1548

@XiDiO - did he really sue him? Or is that the story about the video being taken down?

Posts: 341

You know a funny thing about Day One?
The developer sued TotalBiscuit (Halibut) on youtube for making a video ;)

Posts: 1317

Oh sorry, I meant Monotonous. Of the Monotonous of the Year.

Posts: 1317

Hmm. Day One was made by only one guy, now? I never knew. But apparently I told Xidio. And yeah, I said it was a pretty good game. Weird that my review of it stated otherwise. Nice try though, Mr. of the Mundane of the Year.

Posts: 3290

@XiDiO: I've agreed with several things you've said actually. The problem is, you expect everyone to agree with everything without question. You're never happy until you get the respect you so rightly deserve. It's quite sad really

Posts: 1548

@XiDiO (your last comment) - I am probably the only one who is thinking about those things. Everyone else on the site gives the scores judging the game. Sometimes people give too high, sometimes too low scores but as long as the review can justify the score then it's fair game.