State of Decay, which is arguably the best zombie game to release in 2013 having sold over a million copies on 360, has officially released on PC earlier this month. We reviewed State of Decay on Xbox 360 in June, and we fell in love with it. State of Decay released on Steam early access in September with only controller input enabled and featured little to no keyboard controls. But how does the completed PC port of State of Decay perform, and does it feel right at home on the platform compared to other zombie games on Steam? (For a full review on the features of State of Decay, check out our previous review here.)
The game opens with you, Marcus, returning home from a fishing trip to find that shit has hit the fan. Immediately you are thrown into the action as you defend yourselves from several of the undead who are trying to make you and your companion their next tasty meal. You quickly overcome the threat and discover a small group of survivors up at the Ranger Station where you set about offering a helping hand. In the surrounding camp sites you must search for loot while clearing the area of the zeds. Before long, it is night, and after setting out to see what that gunfire in the distance is, you come back to discover your guys at the Ranger Station have been overrun, and you guessed it, dead.
The first difference you’ll notice between the 360 version of State of Decay and the PC port is the graphics. While the 360 version was still a great looking game, there is no doubt that the PC has enabled those graphics to be taken a step further. Everything looks and feels crisper, even on the lower settings. Since it was originally a 360 title, that has come with the benefit that most gamers will be able to experience State of Decay on PC as it will run even on lower-end machines. But the higher you go in the settings, the more beautiful the game looks. It’s clear that Undead Labs spent some serious time creating the high-resolution textures and the lighting. If you thought the sunset looked amazing on 360, you need to check it out on PC!
Due to the nature of PC gaming, State of Decay also benefits from being able to have more zombies on screen without reducing performance or suffering severe lag spikes. When driving around on the 360, there were times when the game would stutter and slow down as it tried loading the world in front of you. Thankfully, these problems are hugely decreased on PC, but the aren’t eradicated. Overall it is a more stable game and runs like a gem. If you have a lower-end machine, you may occasionally experience some texture popping or the odd stutter here and there, but your probably too grateful that you can run the game to even let it begin to affect your experience. It’s not perfect and there are still issues, but it is greatly reduced over the 360 version.
Some may be disappointed to learn that you can not change the key bindings in the PC version, however that ability is coming within the next week or two. The current key bindings provided take a while to get used to, but once you are comfortable with where your journal, radio etc are at, it becomes second nature. Despite being an avid console gamer for most of my life, I recently made the switch to the PC gaming, and I have to say I prefer the feel and controls of State of Decay on PC than console. That’s just personal preference, but it does feel at home on the PC.
The gameplay remains the same as the 360 version, with the story running in the background. The game-world is a persistent one, with your survivors using up resources gathered when you are away. The longer you are away, the slower they deplete. If you are a away for too long, the simulation will completely stop. At first I had my doubts about such a system, but in practice it doesn’t ruin the gameplay that much. You won’t come back to your game to discover that some survivors have been killed or your base overrun, only your resources will be less than what they were. But since you are always discovering new resources to take back to base, you’ll soon forget that you ever lost them. It can be an inconvenience, but I wouldn’t let this feature put you off purchasing the game.
One of my favourite features of State of Decay is the need to watch your stamina. Your character gets tired and puffed out like all of us. If your swinging a sledgehammer a few times, your going to get tired. If your sprinting through town, after a short period you are going to become tired and no longer able to keep up that speed. And that is exactly what it is like in State of Decay. Gone are the days you can take on a whole horde of zombies by yourself. Tactics are going to be needed to see that you make it back to base, alive. The animations involved in this also make it that bit sweeter. You will see your character lean over trying to catch his breath, or stumbling as you frantically try to escape the zeds who are trying to eat you. It helps add to the atmosphere, and even when it seems all chance of escape is impossible, you may just find another way out, be it an abandoned car, ladder or even a distraction. But once a character dies, they are gone for good. No reloading, no revival. They are gone.
There are no new features in the PC version so if you are thinking that State of Decay on PC has more features or plays differently to the 360, you’d be mistaken. However the DLC, Breakdown, which is due to release next week will offer true sandbox mode to the game, tasking you with scavenging resources and repairing an RV to advance. Along with the new game-mode, it will also add new survivors and weapons.
If there was one criticism I would have of the PC version however, it would be the sensitivity. While you can adjust it in the settings, it’s not a pleasant experience trying to work the camera and aim. The aiming doesn’t seem to be as bad once you have found the right sensitivity, but no matter what one you go for, working the camera, whether that is driving or trying to look behind, takes several attempts to get it right. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, but can be frustrating at times and you can find yourself in a sticky spot as a result. Hopefully Undead Labs can address this issue and fix it, as they have been quick to fix other issues in the past.
Overall, State of Decay is a must-buy for anyone who is a fan of zombie survival games. It is unlike anything we have seen before, with superb resource and survivor management in a beautiful open-world overrun with zombies! It is easy to recommend this game to anyone. Some may be put off by the persistent offline world, but I personally wouldn’t let that put you off buying this excellent game. If you have access to a 360 or PC, I would recommend the PC version for the improved visuals and performance. If your not a fan of playing with keyboard, the PC version supports controller in-put. I guess it’s personal preference as to what you choose, but State of Decay is worthy of a purchase on 360, PC, or both.