Review: Dead Nation

ZOMBIES!!!! It seems now-a-days they are the” in” thing. I, for one, LOVE zombies!  Zombie movies, zombie books, and yes, even zombie video games. We’ve seen a lot of great games with zombies over the years, including, but not limited to, the Resident Evil series, Burn Zombie Burn, Call of Duty: World at War and Black Ops, and Zombie Apocalypse.  This time it was Finnish developers Housemarque who have been infected. With a history stemming from the Stardust franchise, a popular arcade-style shooter from back in the Amiga days, it was only natural they stick to their roots with their newest IP, Dead Nation.


You might be thinking that another plot about a zombie apocalypse is redundant. Well, you’re right. During my play through, I didn’t see much you probably can’t already guess at. Here’s the basic synopsis… It’s been over a year since the outbreak; the main characters are immune from the disease; and everyone they know and love is dead (go figure). Throw in some blood, gore, weapons , and there you have it. But, when was the last time you played an arcade game for its story? Those quarter-guzzlers were all about gameplay, and there is certainly no difference here.


Getting used to the controls was a little awkward at first. If you are used to your standard “Aim button/shoot button combos (as seen in most FPS games), FUGGETABOUTIT!!!! I played through the first level a few times to familiarize myself with button layout and strategy, which seem confusing throughout the whole game, but it can give you plenty of hectic moments when fending off its sneaky AI. Not only are the zombies plentiful in number, but they can launch surprise attacks from rooftops or charge from nowhere out of shadowy corners and man holes. It can get especially frantic when these ambushes happen during an oncoming zombie rush.
There are also ways to counteract these moments of impending doom. You can cause distractions that will keep zombies occupied at a moment’s notice, and even set a few traps using mines, grenades, and flares which draw zombies’ attention. Setting off car alarms is another way, and you can cause cars to explode if you unload enough bullets. Vending machines are also good for drawing away some unwanted attention, but destroying them also sacrifices the important health packs within. There seems to be quite a few strategies when surviving the zombie onslaught, and snatching up some weapon upgrades will only increase your chances.
Each zombie kill grants you a bit of cash to spend at your safe point weapon shops. These shops not only serve as a place to buy and upgrade weapons, but they also double as checkpoints for each level. You can purchase anything from an SMG, Shotgun, Launcher, Blade Cannon and grenades to flame throwers and flares, along with various stat boosts like power, rate of fire, and clip size. You can also find large crates scattered throughout levels that contain armor upgrades. These armor pieces can be applied at shops to boost your strength, endurance, and agility. Depending on your play style, you can equip any number of armor combinations to suit your ever-changing needs, although be forewarned that armor upgrades don’t always boost your stats. Sometimes you will raise you strength, but you sacrifice endurance and agility.


I did get to spend a decent amount of time with the game, but unfortunately none of it was with the game’s multiplayer features. Being that it’s an arcade-style shooter, this has to be where the game really shines. It fully supports both online and localized co-op for the campaign, but for some reason is absent of any other game types. It’s a shame, because this game is ripe with potential when it comes to multiplayer and seems to be begging for just a few more options.  I did notice, however that you can Track your zombie kills with the daily online world map. This map aggregates the scores of players all around the globe and ranks you among the top zombie-killers that are out to rid the world of the apocalypse. Currently the USA is in the lead (who else would be, Canada? HA!)
The graphics look decent, and the game has an isometric viewpoint that lends itself to more detailed backdrops. Cutscenes come in the form of voiced-over artwork panels that tell the current story of the phase and basically outlines your objective for the level. It seems very similar to a comic-themed narrative, and the audio feels solid. The music doesn’t do much to add to the suspense, but it’s definitely not something that will hinder the experience either.
Dead Nation has the potential to be a very solid PSN release. The gameplay is fun, and the addition of a co-op partner (I would assume) can only make things that much better. If its success can warrant more additions to the multiplayer component, then the overall experience could be even stronger. Besides, no one wants to go through a zombie apocalypse alone, right? Hello?
If you’re the kind of person that latches onto story as the main draw for a game, then you should definitely look elsewhere. Also, if you’re not already a fan of dual-stick shooters, then the controls might take some adapting at the start. However, once you get through the initial adjustment stages, there are plenty of good times ahead.  I give this game a 7.5!

Likes

  • More zombies on screen at the same time, at any time
  • Global ranking showing the infection’s destruction
  • Interesting weapon choices
  • Long walks on a sandy beach at dawn (it’s the beist!!!)

Dislikes

  • Lacking story line
  • Confusing control layout
  • Elvis impersonators

7.5/10

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