Dead Nation PS3 Review

December 19, 2010 by  
Filed under PlayStation 3, Features, Reviews

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Housemarque – Genre –  Action – Players – 1-2 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

It’s funny how zombies are more in vogue in games today than they were back when Resident Evil first found its major success. The zombie plague has spread all around leaving zombie killing fans with plenty of choice, and it’s even spread to the likes of Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption. Now, Super Stardust HD developer Housemarque has jumped on this zombie bandwagon.

Dead Nation is a rather apt title for a zombie game, being that most of the people have been turned into the walking dead in the majority of these games. In fact that’s your lot as far as the story is concerned in Dead Nation, it’s as barebones and as predictable as they come. Two people carrying guns have to survive a zombie infestation and that’s all you really need to know.

Dead Nation is played from a top down view by up to two players (online or off). Zombies pour in from all angles and there are literally thousands of them for you to kill – you always have to be ready to blast them out of your face as this is one very action packed and intense game. Zombie attacks are relentless, there’s various mutations, and you’ll soon come to rely on a number of things to assure that your flesh stays intact on your body.

Set a car alarm off and the zombies will gather around the vehicle and will soon be blown to pieces. It obviously helps when you're in a bit of a bind.

The game is a twin stick shooter – you use one stick to aim and the other to control your movement and the action barely gives you pause to allow your heart to start beating normally again. Luckily, the two characters have the kind of crowd control equipment that sees those nasty zombies being thrown into the air and then raining down in chunks of flesh. This is all thanks to explosive weapons such as grenades, mines and sticks of dynamite, while Molotov cocktails will cause a smelly zombie blaze.

It’s just a shame that the visuals are so small and that the camera isn’t as reliable as such a game deserves. Don’t get me wrong, there’s impeccable detail and lighting to be found, but the camera sometimes obscures the view: your character is helpfully highlighted but the game then seemingly forgets that there may also be some zombies hiding nearby that you cannot see. Another thing that detracts from the game is that there’s so much going on with zombies filling the screen that it’s very possible to lose yourself in the crowds of flesh eaters. The game is frustrating enough without the added frustration of losing your mini character amongst the hordes of mini zombies, leading to what feels like some rather unfair deaths.

Like I mentioned, even without these unfair deaths Dead Nation is a game that requires both your patience and your attention at all times. I certainly died a lot on normal as sometimes the zombies would just charge in and eat and claw my health bar down to nothingness before I could even prepare myself properly. Housemarque has added in a dash ability to make haste away from such attacks and you’ll find it to be a very helpful ability to get yourself out of the midst and to a safer zombie killing distance. Another helpful ability is the rifle charge – hold your finger down on the fire button when you have the rifle equipped and you’ll charge a more powerful shot, taking the heads straight off some of the lesser zombie’s shoulders in an instance. It’s just as glorious as it sounds.

The majority will heave a sigh of release when they come across checkpoints in the ten large dark, urban levels. Here you not only have a new place to start from when you inevitably become another victim of the zombie holocaust, but your health bar is also brought back to the top, any players that were overwhelmed by the zombies and killed are revived, and there’s a weapon shop to buy ammo, upgrade your weaponry and swap armour pieces around. But if you grow tired of constant deaths at a certain point, sadly the game doesn’t allow you to save during levels, meaning you’ll be forced into the repetition of revisiting areas until you reach the next checkpoint, well either that or you can turn the game off and then have to start an entire level again when you return to it, which isn’t a whole lot of fun.

Weapons include the rifle (the only gun with infinite ammo), the machine gun, the shotgun and more imaginative kit such as the shocker, which sends electricity through a crowd of zombies, popping their heads like balloons.

The flaws and frustrations make Dead Nation a hard game to really fall in love with, although I can’t tell you how satisfying I found it to realise that I could stop shooting after one of the many zombie slaying moments and then look down at all those piles of little zombie bodies, thinking that I had actually achieved something in the game and I could then move on to the next zombie encounter, raising the on-screen score multiplier and contributing zombie kills to the UK’s overall death count leaderboard. This is all really empowering stuff and it’s gratifying enough to forget about any of its flaws and frustrations, at least for a moment.

Dead Nation is as equally action packed and exciting as it is flawed and frustrating – it’s a vicious cocktail of a game for sure, but for only £9.99 it’s one that many will enjoy, particularly if they can look past said flaws and frustrations. I’d certainly like to see a sequel sometime down the line vanquish these flaws, and then we could be looking at one excellent zombie killing game.