With the highly anticipated release of “Guardians of the Galaxy”, the coming weeks can only be described as a Guardian Bonanza. Solo issues for Star Lord and Rocket Raccoon are leaping up onto the shelves to be bought and I just couldn’t be bothered. Honestly, it’s one step up from buying a Pepsi because Batman showed up and saved a Pepsi truck in that one “hilarious” commercial. So instead I’m going to talk about what I do when I want to waste inordinate amounts of time—Video Games! More specifically, the State of Decay series for the Xbox 360.
For those of you uninitiated into the franchise, State of Decay is a zombie game. There you go, mystery solved… Oh all right, State of Decay is a zombie survival game taking place in a nameless town in the Midwest. I say nameless but it is vaguely called Trumbull Valley in the same way Cumulous Nimbus is called clouds or Shia La Bouf is called an asshat. In the game, you take control of an enclave of survivors and have to survive and fortify against an ever increasing onslaught of zombies. You run around and scrounge supplies and use it to make your fortifications even more solid by building helpful buildings like sniper nests and infirmaries. I remember when I first read that premise and catapulted my wallet at the Xbox in an effort to get my money to the developers as quickly as possible and was pleased as punch as soon as the game was released and downloaded. And then I gnashed my teeth because the game has a bug list longer than the US’s chances at winning the World Cup—Zing!
Let me take a step back. State of Decay was made by a company called Undead Labs. They’re a tiny game developer who has less employees than a vending machine. But their mission statement upon making their company was that they were going to make zombie games. That’s it. So we step back to State of Decay and the face melting agony of its technical issues. First, the game takes place in an already established town with shops, roads, and cars. However, I learned that these cars do not actually exist until you are barreling down the freeway at seventy miles per hour in a tiny Honda Civic. Then, enormous pick-up trucks materialize out of thin air right in front of you. This causes the hilarious effect of launching your car and the pick-up you collided with into the roadside ditch of which there is no escape. This non-permanence also affects the structures of Trumbull Valley. On more than one occasion I barricaded a door against oncoming zombies only to then be mauled by a zombie who stepped through the door without opening it. And although the structures don’t stop the zombies, they certainly stop the humans. There was the time that I was looting a house and all of my survivor followers piled up in the doorway and stood there as a horde of zombies broke down the door and started parading through the house on their way to the buffet. I had to throw myself through the window as if I were an extra in a Western movie and run around to the front. And speaking of fellow survivors causing me problems, they all have the bravery of Conan the Barbarian with the fighting skills of Conan O’Brian. They all charge into battles, waiving whatever battle implement they have at hand and very quickly get surrounded and devoured which means if they were important to a mission you get a hilarious critical failure and have to start all over from the very beginning—oh did I forget to mention? If you die, you are dead, a feature I thought would inject a bit of fun into zombie fighting and ended up being shit on a cracker after I started over for the tenth time.
All of this is just complaining to me though. When I step back from my own personal torment and really examine the situation, this game has no other competitors. Sure there are other zombie games but they’re not the same thing. Left 4 Dead is a fun zombie romp with four friends or a lesson on why random internet players are ungodly scum. Dead Rising was an absolutely fantastic series for the silliest, most gratuitous gore zombie murder game though I was warmer towards the franchise when Frank West was the protagonist. His out-of-shape photographer story compared to Chuck Greene’s hot stunt motorcyclist storyline was the tiniest bit less cheesy. Dead Island was just an example in trailer fuckery for zombie fans… and I suppose Last of Us is kind of in the zombie category even though they push against the zombie word harder than Simon Pegg in “Shaun of the Dead.” The thing is State of Decay is the only game out there that focuses on survival.
For all its faults and aggravation, I’m still a huge fan of the State of Decay franchise. Yeah I spent a third of my article bashing it but in this age of triple A gaming, this game is trying to do something special.
First off, before the game was even off the ground, publishers were trying to force Undead Labs to make the game “more World of Warcraft-y”, but the developers stuck to their guns and made something they wanted. Also? The game was actually really cheap, considering most are released at the $60 price point, I think I picked State of Decay up on sale for $12. And the developer keeps working on more material! They’ve already released two different DLC packs, both costing $7. So bang for buck? This series is delivering. Instead of pandering to as wide an audience as they can and charging an ass load of money, Undead Labs knows exactly what it wants to make and keeps on trucking. There’s something admirable in that and I feel like it is our duty as fans to foster that spirit and keep it growing amongst the chaff that mostly floods the market nowadays. Let’s keep this completely buggered, piece of shit, bundle of love and zombie massacre going.