The idea of State of Decay is very simple: survive. There are many zombie videogames doing the rounds at present, most if which set you an ultimate goal: reaching a destination, preventing an outbreak, saving the world or something equally grandiose. State of Decay dispenses with all this and simply presents a world, an avatar and a mission: survive.
You arrive on a beach with no real backstory as to how you got there, nor any explanation of where ‘there’ is. But you don’t need one. State of Decay is a videogame that is all about designing and executing your own zombie apocalypse survival strategy. Exploration, resource gathering and building your community by rescuing other survivors; these are your priorities. There is an arranged structure to the campaign, but alongside this comes emergent missions. Climbing a water tower and partaking in the surveying activity may reveal the location of some survivors of a new structure, taking a wrong turning off the beaten track may result in the discovery of a zombie horde. These and many other activities make for a very immediate experience in State of Decay.
There are some limitations to the player’s abilities that go beyond being outnumbered. All acts can be committed faster, be it running, searching an object or climbing, but the player has a limited stamina meter and must wait for it to recharge. You can gather many items and return them to your safe house, but your personal inventory is limited. Melee weapons are remarkably powerful, but break quickly. Luckily your movement is swift and flexible, automatically adjusting from a basic jump to a leap through windows or over fences, allowing you to quickly escape when any of these situations become your downfall. Which they will, regularly.
The videogame features an impressively large map which slowly unlocks as you make your way from town to village, raiding supermarkets and establishing new defensive structures. The map isn’t limited – you’re free to explore as you see fit – however one of State of Decay’s key principles is not overstretching yourself, and so it’s advisable not to travel too far from your safe house at any time when it’s not necessary.
As inventive as State of Decay is in terms of gameplay it’s undeniably flawed in it’s technical presentation. Far behind the curve, the character animation and textures are very poor when compared to the average 3D Xbox LIVE Arcade title. The characters aren’t sold as being unique despite the reasonable voice acting and many of the interior locales are indistinguishable from one another. It’s a real shame that State of Decay falls at this very obvious hurdle, as in every other regard Undead Labs have created a compelling zombie survival experience.