Twin-stick shooters and zombies are all the rage these days. Housemarque, creators of Super Stardust HD, are hoping to make a mark once again by combining them both in their latest PSN title, Dead Nation. In this game players take on the role of a survivor after a virus has ravaged the world by turning everyone into the walking dead. Why does this sound so familiar?
Players choose from two characters: Jack McReady and Scarlett Black. Both have identical stories and abilities, so the choice is purely cosmetic. Compared to other games in this genre, such as Burn Zombie Burn and Zombie Apocalypse, Dead Nation has a darker tone, with a bit of humor sprinkled in to liven things up.
The protagonist narrates the tale through hand-drawn stills between levels, which was something of a surprise because I wasn't expecting a story at all. I was just expecting to be handed a gun and to start shooting. While the story isn't all that different from every other zombie outbreak adventure, I'm glad to see Housemarque put some extra effort into what is already shaping up to be a solid game.
Twin-stick shooters aren't my favorite type of game and I generally get tired of them pretty fast, which is why I usually reserve them for quick plays on my iPhone. However, the inclusion of a story in Dead Nation made me want to trudge on and find out if the main character finds other survivors or salvation.
If you're a fan of Super Stardust HD then you'll feel right at home here, since the controls are very similar. The game takes place from a top-down perspective with the camera automatically adjusting to the action. The left stick controls movement while the right aims your weapons, with the top shoulder buttons as the triggers for guns and grenades. There is also a charge move assigned to R2 that allows your character to charge through zombies when things get tight. This maneuver has its limitations, as it comes with a meter that fully depletes when used, but automatically refills after a few seconds.
Weapons are the standard fare. Players start out carrying an assault rifle with unlimited ammo that can later be upgraded to a Sub-Machine gun and even heavier weapons. Most of the weapons have a large bayonet on the front for melee attacks, which are very effective when players get surrounded by the zombie horde.
To compliment the main weapons, players also have a series of items like grenades, flares and Molotov Cocktails. Flares work well to distract zombies, while grenades do the same and take out any zombies caught in the blast radius. Weapons have stats such as maximum ammo, rate of fire, and blast radius, all of which can be upgraded with money collected throughout the game.
There are no RPG-style leveling mechanic to upgrade the characters' stats. Instead, characters have sets of armor for arms, legs and torso which control their strength, agility and endurance. These pieces or armor are meant to be mixed and matched to suit different situations.
Weapons stores are located at checkpoints throughout the level. These are basically safe zones for restocking ammo, purchasing upgrades, and swapping out armor. When characters die, they will return to these zones sans any money and points they may have picked up after leaving the zone.
Dead Nation has some of the best looking environments I've seen in this type of game. The lighting and textures are spot on and the character models are nicely detailed. Zombies, still clad in the uniforms of their professions prior to the infection, lose hats, rifles, bags and other props as they fall after being shot or blown-up, all the time reacting realistically with rag-doll physics. It's very satisfying to lure a wave of zombies with the alarm of a car and watch them beat on it until it explodes, raining down limbs and other debris. Yes, you can do that in this game.
The game will feature local and online co-op and a leaderboard. However, instead of just displaying a ranking of the top players in the world, Dead Nation also shows a listing of the top zombie slaying countries. Players' stats are culminated into their respective country and contributes to that country's ranking and how much of the zombie virus is eliminated.
No release date has been set for Dead Nation, though it's scheduled for a Fall release. With Halloween around the corner and the fall gaming season in full swing, we'll probably see Dead Nation release soon on PSN.
Ranters, are you looking forward to mowing down more zombies with your friends, or are you tired of the undead and ready to move on? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @gamerant.