State of Decay was first released on the Xbox 360 way back in June of 2013 where it was well received by both critics and fans alike, and it achieved this despite being more than a tad rough around the edges. In fact, the original release would go on to set a record for Xbox Live Arcade sales, a remarkable feat for its small, Seattle based developer. Despite the lengthy gap between then, and its subsequent Xbox One re-release, Undead Labs have managed to release two surprisingly good DLC packs and create this 1080p iteration, but has it finally allowed them to give their game the level of polish that it so thoroughly deserves? Well, in a word, no, sadly it has not.
Having said that, of course, I must point out that the original release was a thoroughly ambitious, and highly enjoyable title to begin with, it was an open world zombie game that seemed to combine the very best elements of its contemporaries into one supremely enthralling whole. And naturally, that still rings true today, but it was plagued with a whole host of technical issues such as screen tearing, slow down, clipping and warping characters, the majority of which are still present in the new Xbox One build. On top of that, mission design is rather simplistic and uninspiring, combat could certainly be better and driving isn’t particularly hot either, yet surprisingly it just manages to hold together somehow, and most likely, it achieves this because on paper, it really ought to be the ultimate zombie based videogame.
State of Decay provides a fairly unforgiving gaming experience with more depth than your standard, braindead zombie killing title, it isn’t a balls-out action game, and it’s not your typical open-world experience either, it’s essentially a zombie holocaust survival simulator, because here, survival really is the name of the game. Undead Labs tasks the player with maintaining relationships with their fellow survivors and ensuring that a suitable level of influence can be maintained over them, but this is a challenge in and of itself, and it is one that becomes more trying as time passes on and tensions flare. On top of this, players must ensure that supplies never run out, keep an eye on their level of fatigue and to top it off, even the weight of their backpack. It’s an awful lot to ask of just one person, but this is made all the more manageable thanks an intuitive interface, yet not to the point of making it all too easy, players will always find themselves on the cusp of losing their group, and that, given the situation, is exactly as it should be.
As I mentioned previously, the developer has released two extra pieces of content for the Xbox 360 version, these being Breakdown and Lifeline, both of which were intended to be played after the main campaign had been completed, and both offer quite refreshing changes from the standard gameplay. Breakdown is a challenge based piece of content that sees all of the action take place within a single section of the overall world, this tasks players with simply surviving for as long as possible, harvesting resources within the area until none remain – doing so will see them advance to the next level where the map resets itself and the difficulty gets ramped up. The second expansion, Lifeline, is set in the city of Danforth, and sees players enjoy a more story orientated experience seen from the side of the military, who were at odds with the player throughout the main campaign. Both content packs offer a substantial, and rather refreshing change from the norm, and both come with the Xbox One release as standard, thoroughly increasing the game in size and helping to warrant that higher price tag quite considerably.
I have to admit that despite this perhaps being the best encapsulation of the zombie apocalypse nightmare, the lack of technical improvement is a bit of a sore point for me. State of Decay has always been the ultimate expression of the near miss, a game that veered close to virtual perfection but was let down by its technical mishaps – issues that really should have been entirely ironed out for this Year One Survival Edition, and that, I’m afraid, really is unforgiveable. Yet somehow, just like it was on the Xbox 360, State of Decay manages to have just enough allure about it to justify a purchase at its now £19.99 price point, for those that haven’t already experienced Undead Labs’ vision, this really must rank as a must have title, but for those who have already played it out on either the 360 or on PC, this is likely to be one Xbox One title that they’ll miss out on, and perhaps rightfully so too.