Review by Bkstunt_31
You gotta love twin-stick zombie shooting!
How I haven't reviewed Dead Nation long ago is beyond me. I'll be honest, I played this game a few years ago and had fun, but for some reason it just didn't make it to the review list. Well that little mistake is about to be erased, as I've recently had a reason to play through the game again (for the third time or so) after a buddy and I wrote up a guide for it. So after playing through the game so many times, let me tell you exactly what you can expect out of this game.
Dead Nation is a game about zombies, which I'm sure isn't surprising anyone. In a rather generic origin story you can pick between two protagonists named Jack McReady and Scarlett Blake as they find themselves immune to a worldwide zombie epidemic. They have no idea why they are immune, but there you have it. And although they are immune to the virus, they would rather not be eaten to death so if it ever came to that the two of them have cyanide pills to end it all quickly. Having run out of food and water, the two are forced to leave their shelter for a nearby gas station, to get to the truck located there. This turns into contact with survivors and a series of missions to undertake.
Zombie game aren't generally known for their fantastic stories, and Dead Nation is no different. The story is OK, but it is also incredibly generic. It doesn't have any intrigue or suspense, but it does manage to frame your missions nicely, which is more than I can say about most "cheap" (non AAA title) zombie games.
What it lacks in a story it does its best to make up in game play. Dead Nation is a simple game to pick up and play. Like HouseMarque's other games (notably Super Stardust HD), Dead Nation is a twin-stick shooter. You aim with one stick and move with another. Easy. Of course you have to shoot as well, so it's more of a controlled twin-stick shooter. Your character will kill off zombies while collecting gold, combo points and occasionally armor chests. The armor chests are the real prizes in each stage, as they let you find and equip better armor which gives you more protection, speed and strength. The gold lets you buy weapons and weapon upgrades at shops, which are conveniently placed in safe zones in every level. You start out with a regular rifle (which has unlimited ammo), but you can eventually buy a SMG, Shotgun, Flame Thrower, and several other heavy duty weapons to wreck havoc with. You'll also be able to buy throw-able items such as flares and grenades. Every weapon minus the starting rifle needs ammo (which can be bought or found), and your character can also perform melee attacks and sprint as well.
You'll appreciate the walking armory you'll become as you play through the game, as you soon encounter more than zombies are out to get you. Like most zombie games, Dead Nation has a number of special zombies that attack in unique ways such as the Runner (token fast zombie) and the Mouth (token "call more zombies in" zombie). Generic zombies also come in all shapes and sizes as well. The game introduces these zombies slowly at first but soon enough you'll be fighting multiple special zombies at a time.
In the end, the game play of Dead Nation is easy to learn and fun to play. The game scores you at the end of each level and takes into consideration a combo counter that rewards you for not getting hit, how fast you beat the level, and how much loot you find. It's pure zombie-blasting fun, and who doesn't like that?
The graphics in the game are well-done. The game's camera zooms in and out on it's own, usually resting comfortably at a 3/4 view but able to zoom in when you need it to. Zombies are varied, ranging from skeletons barely covered in flesh to all types of normal zombies (including fire fighter zombies, military zombies and an impressive variety of civilian zombies). The stage designs are also well done, with an impressive amount of detail and thought put into each. This shows by how the developers place objects such as trucks in the stage to launch more zombies at you, as well as the clever places and side areas that items are hidden in. You don't often see this much graphical quality on such a cheap PSN title. I am seriously impressed by the amount of hidden items and areas that are packed into the game.
The audio in the game does a good job at making you feel... apprehensive. The music itself is foreboding and fits perfectly, but it is also smart and react to the game play. In other words, the frantic music ramps up when a zombie rush occurs and dies down once you've dealt with the threat. There's not a lot of tracks in this game (5, according to the OST), but what is there is good stuff. The voice acting in the game is well done as well. Granted, there are only three major voice actors to worry about (as well as tons of zombies, I suppose), but the actors do a great job. Nothing groundbreaking by any means, but good.
The game itself is only 10 short chapters, but feels complete and not rushed at all. I just kinda wish it was longer. Thankfully you can play co-op both locally and online and the game comes packed with trophies and multiple difficulties. The game also has some sort of online zombie killing tracker, which counts how many zombies people in your same country have killed. It's a bit weird and I don't quite know what it is for other than show, but there it is. Additionally, there is a DLC pack called Road of Devastation that focuses on survival and game play as opposed to a series of story missions, giving the game even more re-playability (for a price).
In the end, Dead Nation is an ideal game to waste an afternoon with, especially if you have a buddy to play with. It helps that the game play is easy to pick up and play and the game itself is well made (especially for a download-able title). Killing zombies may be a bit cliche these days, but Dead Nation can still bring a satisfying smile to my face. Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Dead Nation (US, 11/30/10)
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