The first thing that came to mind while playing this game was that it isn’t going to win any beauty contests, it’s not awful, it just seems to lack a certain polish. A perfect example of this is the vehicle design, while the cars themselves look great smaller details like the taillights or petrol caps look like they were an afterthought. If this had been the only instance of graphically cut corners I wouldn’t even have brought it up, but it isn’t.
At my home base there is a 2-car garage (fancy I know right) with an old basketball hoop. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the red marker that usually surrounds the basket looks like it hasn’t properly loaded. The same goes for areas within the house, such as the kitchen and living room with cabinets that look like they’re painted on. Now I know some of you may think this is petty of me, but with the current advances in graphics technology is it too much to ask that we get those small details right, I think not.(“Wash you windscreen sir?!?!”)
As far as the character design goes it’s not great. I have been playing as Adrian, and while he looks fine there is nothing to make him stand out. He looks like any other generic NPC, making it hard for the player to form a connection to him. I’m not saying give him a sombrero and handle bar mustache, but something to make him seem unique would be nice.(Not even a beard!)
But it’s not just character design that is lack lustre and lazy, the environment design is also pants. You start off in a small area with three houses, one shop, a petrol station and a pizzeria. A great starter area to teach the player the games fundamentals that also happens to have that secluded in the middle of nowhere vibe. But after exploring a few more towns I realised that the devs had cut & pasted the same area and tweaked just enough to make them seem different. Some were a bit bigger, others had more zombies but none of them felt unique.
“But what about the zombies” I hear you cry, “surely you can forgive some graphical imperfections and reusing of maps if the enemies are challenging and threatening”! Of course I could, except I won’t, because they aren’t. When I encountered my first zombie I was armed with a chef’s knife and a handgun, so I decided to blow his head off John McClane style. Rookie mistake I know as it alerted every zombie in the local area to my position but I needed to test the waters. Having seemingly annoyed the un-dead I decided to stay and see how the melee system held up. And after a few minutes of rapidly smashing the X button, I had dispatched the undead horde sustaining only minimal damage.
“Okay” I thought, “this is the starting area after all, it’s probably easier so inexperienced players can get to grips with the combat system”. But this trend of hack and slash continued no matter how far I ventured out and what’s worse is that this approach seemed more effective than using guns. I was always finding different melee weapons that were both silent and did more damage, removing any fear of the zombies or challenge in the combat.
But enough about the combat, we’re here to get our survival and base building on. One of the long-held fantasies, not to mention most discussed topic is “in the event of a zombie apocalypse where would your base be, what would it be like?”. I chose the top of a plateau overlooking the petrol station and pizzeria with no access from the rear or sides. With three adjacent houses for me to expand to once I had cleared any zombies from the area. My first order of business was to go out and hunt for materials with which to construct my fortress of doom. After a few short trips I had enough to begin construction on a small 1 bed medical area, a workshop to repair weapons and a latrine for the obvious. After gathering some more supplies I had enough for two more beds and my kitchen was up and running. This is actually one of the most fun aspects of the game as you can see the improvements of all your arduous work sourcing materials, so the grind is worth something.(“Your authority is not recognized in Fort Kick-Ass!”)
My biggest issue with this game however is the abysmal “State” of the multiplayer, the fact that Microsoft saw fit to release it in this condition is pathetic. I tried countless times to start a multiplayer game with friends only for constant glitches to ruin the experience. One had me stuck on the same loading screen forcing me to restart the game. Or my personal favourite, when the planets finally did align and I managed to get an online game, I would then fall through the fucking map.
This game falls down exactly where the first State of Decay left of; the underlying feel of this could be a great game if it was given to the right developer. There are little glimmers of light that shine through the darkness, but sadly they aren’t good enough. If this is the latest and greatest Microsoft has to offer then I’m afraid we are in a right state.
Note… The game is currently priced (at the time of writing) at £25 on the Xbox/Microsoft store. For a half assembled, half assed, glitches galore game it is not worth anywhere near that amount. I have the Xbox pass subscription and therefore get certain games for free and sadly this was one of them.