I love playing Dead Nation: Apocolypse Edition, I will just put it out there. I’m not gonna deny it and haters can hate (not that any should for this beauty of a game). After playing Housemarque’s previous freebie title in the earlier days of the PS4, ‘ResoGun’, I always thought that whatever they did next was going to do well, and not only that but it will be a little different too. Well, I think they have done just that. With the Zombie game market feeling a little saturated with what has already been done, being new and innovative is no easy feat. So there will always be a feeling of “I’ve been and done that” or “this isn’t anything new”. However, I feel Housemarque have done something a little different and, altogether, great fun (and rewarding) to play. Especially with how games can look now with the next-gen graphics, Dead Nation does impress me.
It’s a zombie game with a few neat little tweaks and tricks up its indie sleeve. As you may know, Dead Nation is a top down shooter, where you play as either Jack McReady, whose voice is so rough and hardened it could turn stones to rubble from the sound alone. Or Scarlett Blake, who actually seems about as boring as Kristen Stewart. Both characters happen to be immune to the virus that has spread throughout the city, so you’ve got that going for you, which is nice. It’s a game that focuses on your coordination of the dual sticks, making you rely on maneuverability and spacial awareness, as well as having a pretty stern trigger finger. But it isn’t easy and to be honest, you’re going to be in for a rough time.
The setting is as usual, normal life being dramatically changed due to an outbreak of brain eating zombies, as is per standard protocol in such an apocalyptic event. Your job is to get through the various areas in a bid to reach a particular destination which offers hope of getting you the heck out of there. Which, funnily enough, gets postponed quite a bit instead allowing you to sight-see different areas of the location, and all its friendly area specific inhabitants.
Upgradable guns and equipment are found as you progress through the game, with the usual rifle and machine gun, not to mention man’s best friend in a zombie apocalypse, the shotgun. As you progress you will also come across weapons like the flame thrower and rocket launcher, along with numerous throwables. However, I found that even though you have all of these weapons in your arsenal, I only ever stuck with two; the starting rifle (which you need to boost to max ASAP) and the shotgun for those tight moments. Although that isn’t saying the others are not useful, I just didn’t feel like I had to buy them for the stage of the game I was at. There are also different tierd armor pieces (head, shoulder and legs), which will boost either your physical hit damage, health or movement speed accordingly to the armor you have chosen.
There are great mechanisms found within the game, where you can use the environment fully to your advantage. Whether this be cars with alarms, requiring a quick shot to draw away attention or to blowing them up to send limbs flying. Or simply coming across handy traps, which can be activated by a button to cause mayhem in the form of saw blades or just electrifying zombie goodness. It also gives the player the cruel choice of shooting a health giving vending machine, in order to attract the zombies instead of providing precious health. Although I did often wonder how, in such a bomb shell of a place where basically everything is either on fire or destroyed, it’s nice to know that you will still be able to grab a refreshing beverage.
What Housemarque have also done amazingly well at is the atmospherics of the game. What’s great about the game is the little things. Walking about the map and noticing your character kicking little bottles or splashing through water pools as they trundle through the apocalyptic scenarios just add to those atmospheric moments. I found myself listening as hard as I was watching for changes, trying to predict the next zombie horde that would ultimately be my dealt, if I wasn’t ready. And that did happen frequently throughout my plays, as I found myself under equipped or had chunks of health bitten away by the feared special zombies found throughout the game. Me and Thinkbad Monkey definitely have a hatred for the fat police zombie, who lures you into a false sense of security upon your first meeting. Slowly dragging his feet towards you, only to run and lunge at your character after getting shot at, killing you in a few swipes of his claws! And that was playing on Grim difficulty!
I’ve found that a trend in what makes a good game for me is rewarding the player for doing well, something Dead Nation does mighty fine I feel. By picking a good route, using ammo tactfully or having a smashingly good aim (which you definitely need for sure), you get this sense of relief after a huge wave of Zeds. Pushing them back and fighting for your life, seeing the screen filled with zombies is a moment that inspires panic. So by finishing them off, only to sit back and look at a mound of the buggers, is nothing short of kick-ass.
Then there is the online and co-op, both do a great job of combing two-player action and the fact that you have to rely on both players’ skills to pull through wave after wave of onslaught. Also, with the ability to stream your footage, the game mode of “Broadcast” even allows the audience to call in waves of zombies to abuse the player at the enjoyment of the spectactor. A great way of creating involvement for those who get bored easily watching some one else play a game, that’s for sure. Or more than likely, it is aimed at the type of person who wants to watch you suffer. I’ll go with that.
All in all, Sony have release yet another pretty sweet game and handed it over to the audience for free. So if you haven’t picked it up, you’re up for a challenge. If you want to have some zombie shooting madness, ensure it’s next on your download list on the PS4.