State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition review

State of Decay: Year one survival edition throws you into what was once a beautiful scenic town that has been overrun by zombies, not only do you have to survive, but you have to keep others alive too and stop them from becoming scared and hungry, you also need to scavenge for supplies too – in some respects it’s a bit like looking after children, without the zombies obviously, but it’s good fun doing it.

When State of Decay first hit the Xbox 360, zombie fans couldn’t wait to get their hands on it, and clearly it was popular enough to get the Xbox One treatment with all the DLC thrown in. If you already own the game on the Xbox 360 you’ll get 33% off this version, plus you can also transfer your save over.

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If you are new to the game, you don’t really get much of an explanation as to what is happening, except that there are zombies, and zombies eat humans – you are human, therefore you need to try to survive. To do this you’ll need to scavenge for supplies – from food and ammunition to building materials that can be used to fortify your home base, which is where the survivors live and where you will start most of your missions. Completing missions will earn you influence, which is essentially the currency of the game.

Influence allows you to take weapons out of your base’s locker, but everything you take decreases your overall score. As you explore the different areas of the game you can return items to bump your influence back up. Having a high influence will allow you to upgrade the base with extra facilities, such as new sleeping areas or a garage that can repair your vehicle each time you park it there. It adds a whole new side to the game that I really enjoyed – it made scavenging feel more worthwhile too.

The map is quite large, which you will really feel should you venture out on foot, thankfully there are plenty of vehicles to commandeer to get you around, and they are also great for running over zombies – though if you hit too many, the car won’t last very long and you’ll soon be off searching for a new motor. The year-one edition treats you to a brand SUV, which is pretty cool, as well as some paint jobs that can be found throughout the game. Rather helpfully, the map marks off any locations you have explored allowing you to concentrate on what and where you need to go next.

As you explore, you’ll eventually come across other survivors that will come and stay at your base or take up residence at any outposts you may have built or unlocked, having more survivors allows you to swap between the different characters, this allows you to spend time upgrading each of their abilities, such as fighting, shooting and stamina. Inactive characters will have their stamina and vitality restored, so it’s worth swapping characters often.

On the 360, State of Decay wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, and felt quite primitive in some of its movements, like when your character is searching through boxes – nothing really happens, boxes don’t get opened and shelves look exactly the same even when you find items. When barricading an area, wooden planks just pop into place out of thin air when you cover up windows! The Year-One edition of State Decay has been remastered to 1080p and had the lighting and textures improved, which has made the game look a lot better, but the character models don’t feel like they have changed, which is shame. As well as the graphical improvements, the game has had an extra 30 minutes of music composed by Jesper Kyd – Rich will certainly be happy with this, he has quite the soft spot for Jesper Kyd!

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Combat in State of Decay is fairly limited and is split between melee, firearms and finishing moves, the Xbox One version has introduced some new weapons to discover as well under-barrel attachments that can hold grenades and incendiary ammo. The combat animation have been overhauled but I’ll admit that they don’t seem vastly different but the finishing moves still look and respond really well! There is also a new mission type that sees random weapon crates drop around the map, if you can take out the large amount of zombies surrounding them, you’ll get access to some of the most powerful weapons in the game. Despite the limitation in the combat I found it a nice challenge, especially with the constant fear that if you make a mistake with a character that sees them die, then you lose them for good, which is quite hard to take when you have spent a long time investing in their abilities. Where possible it’s worth brining a survivor with you to help out on solo missions.

The Year-One edition is certainly not short on content, you’ll also unlock Gurubani Kaur, a survivor with an awesome sword that I have had a lot of fun take zombies out with, it’s worth noting that only Xbox 360 State of Decay owners will get this character to unlock. The game also comes with the two pieces of DLC that were previously released, “Breakdown” and “Lifeline”.

The “Breakdown” DLC adds a Sandbox Mode, where the player leads a group of survivors in repairing an RV in order to escape the valley. It’s actually a lot of fun as there are 6 levels where you and your fellow survivors have to survive stronger enemies while trying to find the RV to escape, tactics were really important in the main game and even more so here. The RV spawns in random locations, which will constantly keep you on your toes. When you find the RV you then face the difficult decision of having to choose a maximum of six characters who will escape in the RV. I say difficult, it isn’t really as you don’t have any chance of gaining any empathy for the characters you help survive.

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The other piece of DLC, “Lifeline”, allows you to play as the army on the first day of the outbreak, it’s a great idea to play the game from a different perspective, it’s just a shame that the story from the main game didn’t hit a sweet spot with me otherwise I think I would have enjoyed this DLC more.

Although the story is somewhat of a letdown, I’m having a great time with State of Decay. Frankly it’s a package full of great content that I’ll be playing for many months to come, the majority of the graphical improvements are good and the new weapons are great to play with. I love the micro management side of the game and the responsibility that comes with looking after your fellow survivors. I’ve been much more careful to look after my characters after losing one of my strongest survivors – I can’t remember the last time I have had to do that in-game without being punished, if you are looking to play something a bit different then this is well worth a look at – it is a shame that there is no co-op support, Rich and I would have had a blast playing this!

Thanks to Undead Labs for supplying TiX with a download code

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