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State of Decay 2 Review

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The first State of Decay was one of my favourite Xbox 360 games of all time. Back when it released, everyone wanted on the zombie train and while the market was saturated with zombie survival games, State of Decay offered a streamlined survival experience where player choice counted and the will to survive was only as strong as that baseball bat you had in your hands. It has been a few years and State of Decay 2 is here. We need to keep in mind that this genre has been quiet of late but State of Decay 2 is here to disrupt the flow, well, sort of. 

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State of Decay 2 works when it works and when it does not, it fails terribly. Many times I felt as if I was playing an Early Access game as the overall presentation of the game felt subpar to the level we are used to today. Bugs hound its multiplayer to a point where it is almost unplayable, and the game does not do a good enough job explaining what you are doing with what mechanic and for what reason. 

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So with that being said, most of the time spent in State of Decay 2 is done doing what the game does explain well, and what works the best and that is surviving. State of Decay 2 features a large open world to explore as you and your fellow survivors try and live through the end of the world. You need to make sure your people are happy, have food, don't suffer from depression and most of all, don't go crazy and kill each other while you are out trying to grab a pack of chips to snack on. 

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State of Decay 2's housing system is one of the best I have experienced and while the game does a poor job explaining to you what you need to do to make it through the toughest times, most of the time I winged the creations and placements of the people and "facilities" I dealt with. Dubbed as your "home base", you will need to make sure that the building is funded with food, medical supplies and crafting materials. Yes, the people even get anxious if you are running low on bricks because it's 2018 and everyone is a little extra sensitive. 

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Much of the game is spent running around trying to find resources to keep your home base up and running. The plot is subpar with not much going for it other than an annoying side character going through a mental breakdown, and its missions boil down to finding zombie-infested settlements, killing all of them and hoping you have enough reputation, the game's currency, to take it over. If you don't then you are walking away with a backpack full of nothing useful. 

The biggest change in the game's narrative is the new Blood Plague that has taken over the country. This new sickness causes bigger and stronger zombies and it is your goal as survivors to try and get rid of it when it pops up its ugly head.

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Blood Plague zombies look a little different to the regular ones. Their red skin and orange eyes are easy to see and they are harder to kill too. They live around nests which are also your main goal to destroy in the game to prevent them from growing in numbers. While the Blood Plague plays a big role in the game's story, its threat is soon short lived once you realize that in order to get infected by it you will need to get hit a few dozen times over and over again. It sort of ruined the fear of it that the game sets in you from the start and I wish it was deadlier. 

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Collecting resources in State of Decay 2 never get easier. The bag limitations are a struggle and just when you think you have found a car boot to put things in it breaks down and you are left going back and forth to deliver your goods to your base. Much of the time I was just walking up and down mindlessly gathering resources with no real reason why. The game does a poor job laying the foundations to why you collect what you do and the biggest issue is that all of the benefits of the gathering are never explained properly. Why should I get those supplies if they are not going to do anything for me? Meanwhile, they do but you did not know about it. 

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The lack of engagement is the game's biggest downfall. Its home base feature feels unrealised thanks to its lack of explaining and its so-called "deep" player decision system results in nothing but often losing a settlement member and never worrying about them again. You could spend hours investing resources into your base and upgrading each facility but why would you? The game never gives the player reason to. 

State of Decay might fall short on the survival mechanics but it shines brightly in its combat and exploration. Heading into hills in the dark of night looked great on an HDR TV as the darkness was a dark as night. Yellow eyes glowing in the distance were the real dangers that waited but you knew you left a sack of food out there and you needed to get it.

Exploration through the game is enjoyable as you try and find the rare resources in every area. Searching is slow but you can speed it up by holding down a button which could alert nearby zombies if you make a loud noise. There was always another building I could not wait to find and another box I could not wait to search.

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Combat in the game keeps things fresh too even if it does get tedious after a while. Melee weapons range from sharp to blunt, you then also get guns such as your pistols and sniper rifles which obviously need ammo. Swiping at zombies is enjoyable and then knocking them down to the ground and smashing their head in makes for a satisfying finisher. It gets tougher when the hordes arrive but playing carefully is key to survival. The true combat skills are put to the test when you stumble across a group of humans that don't want you to be around. I just climbed into their car and drove them over but you need to watch out for their skills and weapons which they all pack in a fight. 

As State of Decay 2 features a few playable characters that make up everyone at your home base, you can switch to them at any time as long as you are back home. Each character has a wide range of skills that make the time with them feel unique. Some are better at finding resources, some are better at using two-handed weapons and some run longer before getting tired out. While each character has a good side to them, they also lack a stat in another field but the good thing is that once you level up certain perks then you can specialize them into a specific attack or ability that further enhances that said character. It all makes for a deep system that you can either use or not. 

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Without a doubt, the biggest problem with the game has to be its technical faults. Exploring the vast wasteland is great but when enemies bug out like walking in the sky above you, getting stuck on nothing, and just flying across the screen it starts to affect your gameplay. The Xbox One S I tested the game on barely managed to run the game at a solid 30FPS. Draw distance was terrible and the overall look and feel to it just suffered from an unoptimized engine. The only good side to it was the HDR. I then played it on PC and it was much better but still not perfect. The game just does not look great in general and it kind of feels much like its predecessor that was released a whole generation back. 

We then have the multiplayer which is without a doubt the most disappointing experience I have had in a while. The game is good fun and it would be even better with friends if it worked. Server issues, major lag jumps and general poor connectivity ruined every attempt to enjoy this in co-op. It was an unplayable mess one which was a major letdown for me. I don't care much for visuals or frame rate but give me a decent co-op and I am happy. State of Decay 2 did not deliver any of that. 

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State of Decay 2 is a fun game if you have Xbox Game Pass. I would not recommend you buy it yet as it needs work. Its multiplayer is broken, its systems are underutilized and lack all depth to them, and the engine is poorly optimized to deliver a game with less polish than something that just hit Early Access. I would love to jump back into the game and will probably ignore all the game's issues if only the co-op worked. Until then I am going to find another wasteland to explore. 

This review was conducted based on a review code sent to us by Microsoft

Available On: Windows 10, Xbox One | Reviewed On: Xbox One S | Release Date: 15 May 2018 | RRPR449

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