State of Decay is an open-world zombie survival game developed by Undead Labs. Originally released as an Xbox 360 arcade title, this ambitious entry into an well-saturated genre has a tall order to fill in order to stand out amid a sea of similar entries. Thankfully, and despite a few flaws, the game is pretty addicting.
The game starts you out in a forested area in Trumbull Valley, a sleepy sets of communities that have recently come under assault by a mysterious zombie outbreak. Decay functions through a third person perspective and unlike most games does not have a central character, meaning you shouldn't get too attached as any character you choose to inhabit can die permanently. As you manage to accumulate a couple of friends near your campsite you'll soon set off for the nearest town, where you'll learn the basics of taking care of your community.
There are a few designated locations around the world that are eligible to become permanent settlements, assuming you have the resources and people required to man the piece of real estate you're looking at. Each of these can upgraded through your menu, which will necessitate runs into zombie territory to scavenge for supplies such as food, ammunition, and construction materials. Adding things like additional sleeping space keep your morale high and your people rested while other upgrades will allow you to manufacture your own goods and even grow crops. Along the way you can set up outposts, which will allow you to set up a safe zone around the chosen building so that zombies can't spawn near it. Generally these make your life a lot easier as setting up a few of them can essentially clear an entire area of the pesky undead and leave you free to forage.
Each individual survivor in your group will have their own set of needs, skills, and attributes that will contribute, or detract from your group. Some of the more common (and annoying) side missions consist of essentially taking troubled members of your group on a therapeutic stroll into zombieville to blow off some steam. While I enjoyed the dynamic, even with excellent morale it seems like these missions happen way too often and only come in two generic flavors. You either console the troubled survivor, or you tell them to man up. Other missions, like helping other friendly groups and taking down certain varieties of badass zombies are much more engaging.
Combat, which is probably what most people are interested in, tends to be pretty stimulating. Guns are actually a challenge to use seeing as you're required to score shots to the head to down your target, and even if you do, odds are the noise will attract more attention than you'd like. Sneaking is also a component, with stealthy takedowns and ground stomping included regardless of your character skills. There's a button for dodging, which can be useful if a little unbelievable and a healthy selection of cudgels to bash your foes with. Driving cars through hordes of zombies though is probably the best way to take them out, even if driving is difficult and taxing using PC controls.
State of Decay has a few noticeable flaws, though nothing game breaking. Perhaps the first thing you'll notice is that the user interface wasn't truly adapted for a PC, and can be cumbersome at times. Graphical oddities will occasionally pop up, usually in the form of zombies phasing through walls and other solid objects, especially if they're in large groups. The camera I found to also be incredibly sensitive, something that without a way to modify can become quite perilous in the middle of fights or driving a motor vehicle at incredibly unsafe velocities.
The story in the game is fairly loose, with major missions popping every now and then that can be taken at your leisure. A lot of them will have to do with the military's presence in the region. Most of the time this kind of lazy way of progressing works fairly well, as there's no rush and you can push ahead at your own pleasure. The ending to the story however leads to a climax with an immediate lack of resolution or follow through. If you're confused by what that means, think of the ending to Fallout 3 before the DLC and you'll have a pretty good idea. No doubt they're pulling a tie-in to their own DLC but considering the story is rarely at the forefront of your experience it's kind of a bummer.
Overall State of Decay is a pretty fun addition to the zombie collection. Scavenging, fighting, and establishing homes and outposts is fun and rewarding and despite the flaws in the game none of them were ever annoying enough to put it down. The game is available on Steam for PC.