If you’re done not laughing at the horrible pun in this review’s title, you may be wondering what State of Decay 2 really is. The obvious answer would be a sequel, which is correct, but it’s also a game with zombies. These are the facts. What really sets developer Undead Labs’ endeavour apart from other survival-horror titles featuring the ever-shambling gore monsters is the thought put into what it actually takes to keep a group of survivors alive during a zombie apocalypse. In that regard, this game is unmatched.
As State of Decay 2 is quick to show, zombie games don’t always equate to locating duct-tape, rayguns, or some sort of bizarre combination of the two – as many fans may have been lead to believe. Instead, it’s about scavenging for resources and deciding which characters are worth bringing into your fold (or booting out into the wilderness) based on their attributes and your supplies. It’s a hectic balance with real ramifications.
You see, when you die in State of Decay 2, you die for real. Not in a campy real-world horror film sorta way, but in terms of your actual in-game character never coming back after death. If they become overwhelmed by hordes of the undead or ripped in half by a special infected then that’s it for them, as players then jump into the shoes of another survivor from their camp. All the supplies and progress with that character are then lost, although the former can be reclaimed by survivors brave enough to face the same zombies that annihilated their friend – and, of course, the reanimated corpse of the recently deceased ally in question.
Special infected also play a pulse-pounding role in this sequel, as they can often be the line between living to see another day and being on the receiving end of a brutal death. Various versions of the creatures each have their own abilities, with Screamers supercharging/alerting nearby baddies and Juggernauts capable of tearing apart any person or vehicle they come in contact with. With perma-death being a backbone feature of the State of Decay series, the basic instinct of fight or flight kicks in when your path crosses these monstrosities.
Fortunately, the four-player co-op mechanics of SoD2 make it easier for players taking on elite enemies and other various tasks. Having an ally jump in is rather painless as well, and strategizing which missions to take and how to approach any given situation is a fun-filled (yet occasionally fatal) prospect that greatly aids players hoping to build up their safe zone and explore more of the landmarks present in the environment.
Indeed, getting ahold of a few chums and taking on the zombie apocalypse together is a wondrous prospect, and one that can easily occupy countless hours for the zombie-inclined. Shenanigans ensue as gamers progress and reach past the modest borders of the area they find themselves residing in, and the difficulty ramps up accordingly – all while the ever-looming threat of permanent dismissal looms over their heads. It’s truly a blast.
The game isn’t perfect – especially since the intro had me scratching my head for the first hour of play – but the sloppy tutorial is soon overshadowed by the pressing needs of the group you occupy a place within. As characters are encountered, killed, and recruited, the mythology of the world in State of Decay 2 is customized and deepened. Sure, there’s a little tediousness involved with the need to keep obtaining supplies, but this also pushes players forward as they begin to move outside of their comfort zone in order to keep members of the group content and healthy.
Those looking for a new game on Xbox One or Windows PC will find something worthwhile in State of Decay 2, and those hoping to try before committing to a full-on purchase of the zombie survival title can do so for the reasonable cost of a month of Xbox Game Pass. At that point it becomes hard to think of a reason to not test your resolve during the virtual end times with a friend in tow.
State of Decay 2 arrives across Windows PC and Xbox One platforms on May 22, 2018. Microsoft Canada provided Okay, Cool with a download code of the game on Xbox One X for review purposes.
If you like zombies then you’ll probably love following Riley on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle between the hours of 8am and 12:30pm EST – prior to him having coffee, that is.