I’m going to assume you have played through the State of Decay 2 tutorial and have a general idea of basic game mechanics. This Quick & Dirty guide is meant to take that baseline knowledge and advance you to the mid-game without needing to waste energy on trial and error.
- Blood Plague is only contracted when the Infection meter fills up all the way. If you cycle your characters regularly, Blood Plague shouldn’t really ever be a concern.
- Keep an eye on any AI-controlled partners though, as it’s tougher to notice when they take a lot of Infection damage.
- You can Dodge (“C” on PC) in any direction, and can pass through zombie models.
- Dodge backwards through zombie behind you, immediately grapple and execute.
- Dodging forward too early can result in still taking damage.
- If you park a vehicle in a base parking spot, you can transfer duffel bags in the trunk by pressing “T.”
- Save duffel bag turn-ins for characters that need the Standing gains.
- Scoped weapons can zoom in with “Z.”
- In single-player Offline mode, Exiting to Main Menu will despawn Freaks in the vicinity.
- Shooting a Bloater in the head will reduce the toxic gas emitted, but the body still acts as a landmine.
- Juggernauts can almost be meleed to death within the duration of one Smoke Grenade.
There are several different types of bases available, and the exact configurations of them are different between the different maps. Don’t stress too much about picking the perfect base the first time, as you receive a 100% refund of all resources when moving bases. The Facilities themselves will need to be rebuilt, but they are built faster for the first day, post-move.
That said, there are some things to keep in mind:
- A Workshop, Infirmary, and Garden/Hydroponics are pretty much required in every base.
- Each survivor eats 1 Food/day, and generally you’ll need 2 Medicine/day to heal.
- Bases often come with “built-in” Facilities that cannot otherwise be replaced. Make sure you can take advantage of them, else they are wasted slots.
- Dismantling a Facility results in a 100% refund of resources.
- There is no reason to keep certain Large-slot Facilities around once you craft their specific items.
- For example, get rid of Auto Shop after you craft Vehicle Upgrade kits.
- No reason to keep Forge around once you crafted several melee weapons.
- The Staging Area Facility can get extremely lucrative as you upgrade other Facilities – the one in my base “generates” +5 Materials per day by itself.
It is possible to optimize the configuration of your base and Outposts to essentially achieve perfect homeostasis eventually. Don’t spend too much of your time worried about that, however, as it will require looting specific mods and recruiting survivors with good skills. What you should focus on is getting to a point where you can last several days without critically running out of specific resources – having a -2/day deficit of a resource is nothing if you already have 20 of that resource.
Don’t worry too much about picking the “perfect one.” There are no special outposts – the list of possible benefits are standardized:
- +1 Food/Fuel/Building Materials/Medicine/Ammo
- +2 Beds
- Base-wide Water (costs 1 Fuel/Day)
- Base-wide Electricity (costs 1 Fuel/Day)
- Morale Bonus
- Morale Bonus + Espresso
- Artillery Strike
In other words, there are no Outposts that give +2 Ammo, or +4 Beds, ect.
Ideally, you will want to have Outposts evenly distributed around the map, rather than bunched up in one part of town. That way, there will be an Outpost nearby at all times, so you can offload non-Duffel Bag loot and/or swap out a tired/injured character.
If you can afford to, having one empty Outpost slot can take your looting game to the next level. As your inventory fills up, claim whatever building you are in as an Outpost and then offload your gear. Then, through the Base screen go ahead and abandon the Outpost. You get 100% of your Influence back when you abandon an Outpost, so you lose nothing by doing this, other than the opportunity cost of not getting +1 whatever.
The key thing to understand is that not all survivors are worth keeping around. You should absolutely recruit every single person you can, but only because it’s easier to check their Skills/Traits that way. There is no penalty, Morale or otherwise, for Exiling a member, so be sure to do so when necessary (and after stripping them of all gear). You can have a maximum of 10 survivors at your base – nine would be better, if only because you lose the ability to recruit anyone once you have 10.
There are generally three things you want to look for in a survivor.
First, do they have any negative Traits? If they have something like “Lacks Boundaries” (-5 Morale to everyone), then think rather long and hard as to whether they have any other redeeming value.
Second, do they have any Skills without 7 (blank) stars? If so, it means that that particular Skill cannot be upgraded to a specialized version. For example, I had (emphasis on had) a survivor with the Used Car Salesman Trait, which meant that their Mechanics skill was permanently limited to three stars. That still counts enough to build an level 3 Workshop, but not enough to specialize in Automechanics and unlock the Auto Shop. Since the specialized skills can actually grant really good bonuses, there really isn’t a reason to keep any of these limited survivors around.
The only exceptions, on a case-by-case basis, would be those with 1-star skills. Sometimes those provide unique bonuses that can make it worth it.
The final consideration for survivors is their 5th skill slot. If that area is blank, then great! A blank slot will allow you to teach the survivor any particular skill you have a book for, giving you the opportunity to plug any skill gaps in your base. If not blank, make sure it’s actually a skill you need.
As a bonus note, new survivors start out with the Recruit rank. After earning enough Influence, they become Citizens, which then tells you what bonuses they provide should they achieve the Hero rank. Some of these bonuses are so-so, like +3 Morale. Others are straight-up bonkers, like Tough Negotiator granting +30% Influence gain. Which, by the way, affects how much Influence you get by selling things – Bulk Plague Cure goes from 500 Influence to 650. So, if a particular survivor is borderline, it’s worth sending them out long enough to hit Citizen level, and check their Hero bonus.
If you’re looking for more people, there are basically two ways to get them. First is helping survivors out in the world, e.g. answering all those inane radio messages every 5 minutes.
The second method is recruiting directly from Enclaves. Talk with each member of an Enclave, and look at their stats by choosing “Learn more about Survivor.” Their specific Traits will be hidden, but their Skill list will not. If you find one you like, keep in mind that recruiting them will effectively disband the Enclave. There will always be more Enclaves popping up, but you’ll need to help them out again and the bonuses they provide aren’t always the same.
As your survivors level up, they will have the opportunity to specialize their Skills. At a minimum, you always get two choices. One key note about Skills is the fact that they have a “hidden” bonus effect once you max them out. Sometimes that is enough to make or break your decision.
There aren’t many Wikis out there at the moment, but here’s the best I could find.
Some specific notes:
Cardio–>Powerhouse is incredibly strong. While it grants the ability to Drop Kick right away, once you hit 7 stars you unlock the ability to Grapple from the front. This move not only interrupts zombie attack animations, it essentially allows you to chain kill entire mobs of zombies, given how you get a few invincibility frames performing the move.
Fighting –> Endurance grants you the Slam move right away, which will vastly increase your survivability. Basically, the Slam move interrupts zombie attack animations, and leaves them on the ground behind you for an easy execution.
Shooting –> Gunslinger is unique in that “Aim Snap” basically allows you to instantly and perfectly track the head of zombies (at the cost of Stamina). Note: it is currently broken as of patch 2.0.
Wits –> Stealth is better than it sounds, and certainly better than Scouting. Stealth allows you to sprint while crouched, and silently open stuck doors.
For the most part, gaining Influence is a slow, incremental process. You get some for completing quests, but most of your gains will be from killing zombies:
- Kill X zombies = +5
- Kill Screamer = +5
- Kill Bloater = +10
- Kill Feral = +20
- Kill Juggernaut = +50
I’m not 100% sure of those values, as I have a +30% bonus to Influence gain from a survivor, so I’m working backwards.
Beyond that, you can get Influence from selling things. The absolute best gain comes from crafting and selling Bulk Plague Cure, which defaults to +500 Influence (or +650 with bonuses) from spending 20 Plague Samples and 8 Meds. This means each Plague Sample laying around is worth about 25 Influence by itself, considering Meds can be produced by a Garden. So, yeah, pick them up.
Somewhat surprisingly, traders actually care about those random notes you can occasionally loot. If you bothered holding onto them, they will sell for 10-15 Influence apiece. Backpacks are also nice items to sell, especially as you cycle through survivors and slowly upgrade them to 8-slot ones.
Taking Out Plague Hearts
e.g. beating the game.
While scary at first, Plague Hearts are almost comically easy to destroy. You will essentially handle them the same way you (eventually) handle all zombie groups.
- Get a visual on the target, preferably from outside the building.
- Toss a roll of Firecrackers near the target.
- Toss 3-6 Fuel Canisters/Molatovs at target.
This isn’t the only way to take them out. You can get fancy by crafting some C4, sneaking in to plant it, then blowing it up. Regular grenades technically work, but not as well as fire. If you happen across a 50-caliber rifle, several shots (recently nerfed to 6) from that will kill it too. Entire clips of gunfire will work in a pinch as well, but there’s no such thing as a Plague Heart “pinch” – just leave and come back with molatovs, because the Plague Heart isn’t going anywhere.
One of my favorites though? Drone Strike. Get a survivor with Computers –> Programming. Spend 25 Parts and wait ~20 minutes for drones to come online. Spend 75 Influence to get the targeting smoke. Toss the smoke near the outside wall closest to the Plague Heart, then run away. Instant death, +150 Influence. The blast ignores walls and is fairly large, although not quiet large enough to hit a Plague Heart at the back of a house if the smoke is on the front porch. The smoke doesn’t register indoors, by the way, so don’t toss it too close to the eaves either.
Drone strikes are a great way to clear hostile Enclaves too, without needing to put yourself at risk.
As mentioned, I buckled down and bought State of Decay 2 (SoD2) recently.
It is difficult for me to directly compare this game to the original, because I last played it in 2014. Based on that review, a lot of things have stayed the same. You are still selecting base locations at predetermined places, you are still looting all the places for supplies, you are still recruiting survivors, and are still faced with Ironman mode – auto-saving checkpoints and permadeath.
Let’s assume you haven’t played this series at all before. What’s it like?
After the (extended) tutorial, you are basically given a base and four survivors. Your survivors are going to consume certain resources every in-game day, such as 1 Food/person, 2 Medicine when healing from injuries, etc. Missing those resources will lead to negative morale, which leads to in-fighting, which leads to survivors leaving and/or dying. Thus, you need to keep supplies high.
To keep supplies high, you can scavenge for them. Each building will typically have 1-5 spots where you can look for stuff. Some of those things will be individual items/upgrade materials, and others will be the duffel bags of base supplies that you are really looking for. Your character can only carry one duffel bag at a time, so extended scavenging is best done with a vehicle that has decent trunk space. Of course, that vehicle will need to be gassed up from time to time, which requires you to scavenge for Fuel too.
Another way to get supplies is leveraging base upgrades. Building a Garden, for example, will grant you +1 Food/day. That Garden can be upgraded if you have a survivor with the Gardening skill, and it can also be modded (say with a Compost Bin or Fertilizer) and temporarily boosted at the cost of Seeds. Doing all of those things, including providing your base with water somehow, can boost the Garden into providing 9+ Food/day. You can also turn the Garden into a Medicine factory by switching the yields to herbs.
Bases also allow you to claim Outposts. You start off with two possible slots (up to 5, I think), and you can essentially claim almost any building anywhere as an Outpost. All Outposts will create a zone where zombies won’t spawn, and will allow access to to your storage area and the ability to swap out characters. Additionally, certain Outposts can passively give you resources – Ammo Stores give Ammo, fast food joints give Food, etc. Some just give you more bed slots, and others actually give you base-wide power or water, at the cost of daily Fuel.
I mentioned all of the above rather than getting into the meat of the actual gameplay because the above essentially creates the gameplay. You need to scavenge for materials to make your base more self-sufficient, or scavenge to make up for the deficiency. You recruit more survivors because the one you are currently controlling has gotten injured, or is exhausted. There are quite a few guns and explosives and different melee weapons in the game, but zombies don’t drop loot and are best avoided in general. Technically, killing them will periodically grant you Influence, which is a catch-all currency in the game, but eventually weapons wear out and you’ll likely be spending that Influence on spare parts to repair said weapons.
Don’t get me wrong, the game is a lot of fun for me. But if you don’t like the base management and/or resource management side of things, SoD2 is definitely not for you. This is not Dying Light or even Dead Island. There are quests to follow, but since any member can permanently die at any time, there isn’t really a strict narrative going on. The overaching “point” of the game is to destroy all the Plague Hearts, which involves tossing a bunch of molatovs inside a building while waves of red zombies attack you. That’s… basically it.
Like I said: fun. For me, for now. For you? Maybe, maybe not.
Project Zomboid (PZ) is an Early Access, isometric post-zombie apocalypse survival game set in Kentucky. While the pared down graphics and isometric camera might give one pause, I was fairly excited to give the game a try. What I discovered is possibly one of the more “realistic” survival games out there… and that realism is way overrated. And less fun to play.
Honestly, I was actually surprised how much I disliked PZ almost immediately. After character creation, you take control inside the one for-sure non-zombie house – your own. From here, you go through houses and find… normal stuff. Fully stocked refrigerators and freezers. Ovens to cook raw meat. Working lights. Faucets that deliver fresh water directly to your mouth. While your character starts with no skills, you are fully capable of surviving quite a while just fine doing nothing.
That does not last for long, of course. Within a month or so, both the electricity and water will shut off permanently. So the game’s central conceit reveals itself: how long can you survive?
In the abstract, this is not dissimilar to, say, Oxygen Not Included, wherein there is no win condition per se. Nevertheless, I was surprised to find myself immediately repulsed by PZ, conceptually. When you wake up naked on a beach in ARK, there is a very obvious, grokkable progression path towards survival. All of that is turned on its head with PZ. I found myself ransacking houses for supplies, and then asking myself why.
The answer is supposed to be “to prepare for self-sufficiency and safety after the lights and water turn off,” but that feels like such a weird, abstract endgame. It’s definitely unique in this particular genre, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like it’s probably unique for a reason, e.g. it feels bad. You aren’t building up to self-sufficiency, you’re building down. It is also harder to feel any particular sense of urgency without metagaming the entire experience.
I dunno. There is technically a starting game mode which takes place 6 months after the start of the zombie apocalypse, which features the water and lights already off, and most things already looted. In other words, a more typical survival game experience. But after spending a few hours with the base game, I don’t know that I feel it.
This is definitely going to be one of those Early Access titles that needs more time in the oven.
An hour or so after yesterday’s post, I went ahead and bought State of Decay 2. Life is short, I have the money, let’s do the thing.
Just as a warning though, Microsoft doesn’t make it easy.
State of Decay 2 is not on Steam. Further, there is no express PC copy. The game is apparently part of Microsoft’s “Play Anywhere” initiative, which means you end up having to buy the Xbox One copy, which can also be played on Windows 10 machines. I purchased on Amazon because of my 5% cash back card, but I suppose you could do so from the Microsoft store a bit more directly.
The problems were just beginning though. One of the first things I had to do was associate my PC with a Microsoft account. My copy of Windows 10 is legit, but I never bothered to register it or anything, so now apparently I had to reconfigure how I sign into my own damn computer just to get access to the storefront. Once that was done, I took my digital code, followed the links, and redeemed the code in the Microsoft store. But… where was my download button? Where was My Games? Every link I followed just took me around in circles.
In case you follow my lead, hopefully this link works:
That will hopefully take you directly to the game’s page. Be aware that you’ll probably still need to add your PC as a Device on Microsoft’s servers or whatever, but you should be able to eventually download it from there.
I cannot comment much on the gameplay thus far, beyond confirming that it’s definitely scratching the itch. I’m not a fan of the game giving me a mission to kill a Plague Heart, pointing me to an NPC that gives me explosives for free, and then surprising me with the fact that the very items it told me to use were not enough to actually kill said Plague Heart, but whatever. I’m looting things, building a base, and killing some zombies. That’s exactly what I wanted to do in this moment.
Okay, now I’m (probably) done with 7 Days to Die.
The one thing I really wanted to do was try and succeed at a randomly generated world. Which is kinda weird, since I’m not exactly a huge fan of procedural entertainment for its own sake. The issue in the absence of randomness is that… it’s not random – you know exactly where everything is. The specific loot might vary from seed to seed, but you’ll always know where the police station is, where there might be a gas station, ect.
Of course, random maps often end up like this nonsense:
I almost abandoned my attempt within the first 30 or so minutes, simply because of how annoying it is starting back over. In my prior save, I already had crossbows, iron sledgehammers, and nearly all gun recipes. The real meat of survival games happens in that inbetween time where you are desperately scavenging for supplies while establishing a base. So while it’s fun stepping foot into zombie town for the first time, loot possibilities endless, it’s also highly annoying trying to break down doors with a stone axe. Oh, a gun safe? I’ll just break the lock… ah, right, Stone Age.
I kept at it though, and before I knew it, I had an impenetrable zombie base. Actually, I knew exactly when I had such a base, because I recognized the weird structure that lays atop a “hidden” bunker, and also knew that zombies can’t dig anymore, so the game was effectively over. I mean, there was still the very real chance at death due to zombie dogs, which I encountered several times while venturing about. But as far as Horde Night goes? I could effectively just go AFK while browsing Reddit while it occurred in the background.
Later, I created a zombie cage with bars and spikes such that I could shoot/stab through the bars and even loot while the zombies couldn’t do much. I have yet to encounter the Screamer or Cop Zombie types, so perhaps increasing the difficulty could engender some additional feeling of danger.
Alternatively, I might be effectively done. Which is fine, considering I have been obsessively playing it for the last two weeks and have racked up nearly 60 hours at this point. Not bad for a game in Alpha. Indeed, the next update is supposed to have a Behemoth zombie that will topple structures with ease. Unless they let zombies aim at the ground though, bunkers will still be an I-WIN button.
In any case, I highly recommend this game.
I might also recommend waiting until at least Beta to get the most enjoyment out of it. But hey, if you catch it at $5 or $10, it’s worth the money if you think you might like zombie Minecraft.
I technically wrote my last 7 Days to Die (7DTD) post last week. As of today’s post, I have more than 30 hours in the game.
Things were dicey there for a bit. As mentioned, I had a wooden house on stilts on top of a gas station. While I survived the 7th day zombie horde with ease – whose zombies automatically see you through walls – there was a night where some zombies made it to the roof and were mucking about, seemingly ineffectively.
When I tried to repair a bit of the damage they dealt, I noticed that 3-4 of my roof blocks kept falling down. As I was walking around on the remaining roof tiles trying to figure out why… the entire wooden structure collapsed. Which destroyed my forge and two wooden chests, instantly destroying all of the items inside. Apparently one of the stilts had been destroyed, destabilizing the structure.
It is the nature of these sort of games that such a setback is enough to justify starting a new map.
Although I wanted to give up right then, I decided to pack up what little I could salvage and then strike out into the world. If I was going to give up, I may as well poke around and get some additional experience with the game world, eh? After walking around for a while, I suddenly saw it:
Yep, a football stadium. Score.
Over the next in-game week or so, I holed up in a makeshift structure on the roof of the press box, making traps and speeding along the crafting path. I might have just stayed there permanently, but I had no source of Potassium Nitrate, which is a key component of Gunpowder. While I understand that this is good game design, e.g. not having all resources in the same biome, it was nevertheless extremely annoying. So, I packed up some supplies, and struck out into the world again.
In the course of my journey, I came across a burnt forest biome. While scavenging a destroyed house, I noticed a well. With a hatch. Hmm. Opened the hatch and descended down, only to see a bunch of wooden stake traps in front of a bunker door. I spent the waning hours of Day 21, e.g. horde day, tearing down that metal bunker door with increasing trepidation. I had no backup plan; it was either this or death.
When the door finally fell, I walked in and… yeah: Loot for days.
I created a makeshift barricade down near the bunker entrance, but it did not appear to be especially necessary. The zombie AI had little issue attacking me on top of the gas station or even the stadium, but they have significant issues with underground bases, apparently. Indeed, none of them even really got to the well itself. I have read on the forums that there will eventually be digging zombies or something, but it’s hard to imagine them being able to get through ~10 blocks of dirt and then the concrete bunker itself.
Ironically, this was another logical end point. All my resources were back at the stadium, but I had effectively found a zombie-proof base. It reminded me of the endgame of Civilization matches, where winning is a foregone conclusion and you are left with just the drudgery of going through the actual motions.
Nevertheless, I’m still playing. I ended up leaving the bunker and trekking to a snow biome to finally get some Nitrate. By the time I got back to the stadium, I sat through Day 28’s horde with relative ease. At the point I stopped, I had a mini-bike (7DTD’s only vehicle) all but completed, and was considering the logistics of moving all of stuff to the bunker, including fertilized dirt since the burnt forest biome is kinda depressing. But… nah.
Am I done with the game for now? Probably. Maybe. Who knows? Unlike many other #ForeverAlpha games, 7DTD’s forums have active developer commentary and updates scheduled. The next build, for example, is supposed to include electricity, wires, automated traps, and some base-destroying behemoth zombies for all your endgame needs.
The game is fun and compelling in a visceral way for me, but I’m definitely heading towards the tail-end of novelty and optimization. If I play some more, I’m abandoning the default seed (of which I downloaded a map; cheesy, I know) and heading to randomly generated worlds. I’m just worried that this game will go the same way as Minecraft: a fantastic sandbox that I play in Alpha/beta and then never go back to, even after they add all the good stuff by release.
In short: zombie Minecraft.
7 Days to Die (7DTD) is a fairly robust post-apocalyptic survival sandbox game that features deformable terrain, zombies, and the titular over-the-top weekly attempt on your life. I played version 15.1, and the game itself has been in alpha since December 2013. I just purchased it in the recent Steam Winter Sale for $10.
As with most survival games, you start out mostly naked with limited supplies. Run around, punch some trees, craft a Stone Axe that will be your primary tool for most of the game. The nice thing is that just about every single thing in the game world is able to be manipulated or destroyed. Craft a Stone Shovel early on and you can pretty much dig to bedrock. Or just dig a large moat around your future fortress. Then fill it with wooden spikes.
The zombies in this game are fairly standard walkers and runners, at least as far as I have seen. There is supposedly a “heat” system in place that determines whether the zombies will be attracted to your location, and the zombies themselves apparently can hear you (including the noise you make opening your inventory). Oh, and smell you too, if you happen to be carrying any meat. In practice, there will basically be zombies around at night no matter what you do.
Speaking of zombies, there is an interesting interaction with them and the game world. Everything is destructible, remember? That also means by zombies. While they can certainly try to break their way through windows and doors, there is nothing stopping them from literally banging their way through the walls either. Even elevated positions are not immune, as zombies with readily take their rage out at anything near your location, including any sort of support structures.
Oh, and have I mentioned that there are (rudimentary) physics in the game? Alpha is alpha, so there are some goofiness like floating candles and such, but buildings can absolutely come tumbling down if enough supports are destroyed. (Cue ominous foreshadowing.)
Mechanically, the game is… in an interesting place. The early game feels fantastic. Looting feels extremely rewarding, as you can get some rather extreme rewards from any random pile of garbage. Things get weird in the mid-game though, around the Iron stage of crafting. At that point you are going to need a standard, defensible base to craft a forge, and then start harvesting a ton of resources. If you haven’t looted some critical tools before the Forge though – such as a Cooking Pot – you almost might be better off resetting the game. You can craft such things, but it is so far along the “tech” tree that most of the benefit is moot.
Speaking of tech trees, there is a rudimentary leveling system in the game, somewhat similar to Ark. Honestly, the implementation needs some considerable iteration, as it is not intuitive at all. There are some “big” skills that cost 10 points per rank, and grant you thinks like faster Stamina regeneration or bonus damage to blunt weapons. There are also skills that only cost 1 point each, such as Mining, which are naturally raised by performing the skill in-game, but can be purchased outright. Then there are other ones, such as Leather, which just straight-up grants you the ability to create leather. But there are also schematics in the game that are required before you can craft certain items.
Like I said, the Skill/Leveling system needs some work. It feels good seeing your crafting skills naturally improving, but you also run into the Oblivion problem of incentivizing, say, crafting a hundred wood clubs to power-level your way to the next unlock. It also irks me a bit that Iron and Steel take the same materials, with the latter just being kinda arbitrarily locked behind “Construction Tools X.” Some kind of progression system is good, but I’m not sure this one is the right one.
Overall though, I am both impressed and pleased with 7 Days to Die thus far. I put in around 10 hours in two days, and will probably be stopping here. On my second character, I built a sort of wood treehouse on the roof of a gas station, and survived the 7th Day horde attack with relative ease. As I started digging a moat around the perimeter in anticipation of the next one, it occurred to me that playing any further was likely to result in me extracting all of the fun out of the game before it is fully implemented/tweaked.
[Blaugust Day 9]
Game: Dead Rising 2
Recommended price: bundle
Metacritic Score: 78
Completion Time: ~17 hours
Buy If You Like: GTA Zombies, Frustrating mechanics, Improvised weapons
For the record, Dead Rising 2 is the only entry in this series that I played. Coming into this entry, my expectations were fairly minimal, and I knew only that the game featured wacky weapons and… that was it. What I discovered was a title that both exceeded my expectations wildly, and one that almost immediately squandered all the goodwill it generated.
The premise of the game is that you play as Chuck Greene, a father desperately trying to make ends meet and pay for his daughter’s Zombrex, the toxic daily prescription drug that is the only thing standing between her and undeath. Unlike many other titles in this genre, the setting takes the zombie apocalypse as a given – Chuck participates in a televised gameshow with prize money being awarded to whomever is able to kill the most zombies with their chainsaw-motorcycles. After the latest Live event, someone dressed as Chuck manages to frame him for terrorism when they release said zombies into the greater Fortune City casino area.
What follows is perhaps one of the most, if not “authentic,” certainly the most interesting takes on the zombie apocalypse. There are zombies everywhere, hundreds of them. Frankly, there are so many zombies on screen at a time that I’m honestly surprised that the devs were able to pull it off.
Despite said zombies being of the shuffling variety, they always feel like a threat by sheer numbers alone. At the same time… it’s difficult to describe, but the zombies felt like understandable obstacles. By the midpoint of the game, I found myself not just capable of weaving through dense crowds of them without stopping or even taking damage, but it feeling correct for this to happen. In other words, it wasn’t that the zombie AI was dumb or that I “exploited” their behavior, but rather that the zombies followed natural rules in terms of range of motion and the like. If you approach a zombie from behind, for example, it had to turn to its left before it could attempt to lunge, and thus you could escape by passing on the right. And even more than that, said swiveling zombie would act as an obstacle to the zombies that were following behind you.
Another great aspect of the game was the refreshing take on narrative. The game is structured around the inexorable passing of time – your daughter needs Zombrex every 24 hours at a minimum, and your window of opportunity in clearing your name similarly closes with each passing hour. Inbetween the big events, you will get notifications about trapped survivors and such, most of whom will be dead soon without assistance. You might be having fun crafting weapons and collecting cash on one end of the Strip, for example, but unless you book it to the other side in a hurry, those survivors will be zombies themselves right quick. The clock creates a subtle tension throughout the game, without (usually) being too overwhelming.
The problem with Dead Rising 2 are the Psychopaths, e.g. boss fights. Along with survivor quests, you will occasionally get vague quests to head over to a specific location. Once there, some random survivor will have snapped from the stress and be out for human blood. Generally speaking, these fights are total gimmicks and stupidly, inexplicably deadly. Whereas you might be able to sustain 20+ zombie bites across a period of time, Psychopaths will kill you in a few hits or less, especially if you don’t immediately understand the gimmick.
Compounding the problem, the Save Game structure of Dead Rising 2 is that progress is ONLY saved when you go to the bathroom. Psychopath on the other side of the Strip across four screens of zombies and nary a Porta Potty in sight? Guess what you’ll be replaying over and over? This isn’t even taking into consideration that Psychopath fights are scripted to occur at specific locations at specific times, which means you can suddenly find yourself in the middle of one while you were trying to escort some abysmally dumb survivors across a sea of zombies.
Indeed, I remember one Psychopath battle in particular as it was the most god-awful situation I have experienced in videogames. Basically, this encounter was with four redneck snipers who decide to take residence in the central open area of the game. You know, the place with the most zombies per capita? That you had to routinely cross through all the goddamn time? And they never left, even after the end of the proper game. What the literal shit, Capcom? Those snipers hounded me the rest of the game, on into the epilogue, and by that point I did not have the time or ammo to take them out.
The bottom line was that Dead Rising 2 felt and played as an innovative zombie game, with enough cool things going on to make one horribly disappointed with the superfluous bullshit tacked on for no good reason. From what I gather, Dead Rising 2 is actually uncharacteristically serious compared to the other titles in the series – a sort of Saint’s Row to, say, Dead Island’s GTA – and that’s certainly interesting trivia. I didn’t play the other games, and based on my experiences with this game, I probably never will. If you can snag the game on the cheap though, I think it’s worth trying out if only for the first ~5 hours or so, as you steep in the goodness that is a freeform zombie apocalypse.