Review

Dead Nation

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Dead Nation for PS Vita is a port of Housemarque’s original PlayStation 3 game, handled by Climax Studios. It’s a top-down shoot ‘em up set during a zombie apocalypse and the campaign supports both singleplayer and two player co-operative play.

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What You Need to Know

It’s the classic zombie apocalypse plot, really – society has fallen prey to some virus that has turned the vast majority of humanity into zombies. The protagonists, Jack McReady and/or Scarlett Blake, have survived for a year in the post-apocalyptic world and are just about to venture out of their current shelter in search of food and water when the player/s step in to take control.

The character’s movement is controlled by the left analog stick while the right analog stick controls the character’s aim and flashlight. Through the course of the game players accumulate cash which is used to purchase new equipment and upgrades at checkpoints. There is bucketloads of zombie killing as well as plenty of eerie nerve-wracking moments as you navigate through the desolate land of the infected.

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What’s New?

As far as top-down zombie shooters go, Dead Nation has plenty of company, but what Dead Nation offers is a gritty, tense, nerve-wracking journey through the campaign. The levels are graphically detailed, painting a dark and desolate landscape filled with post-apocalyptic carnage. Where most other top-down zombie shooters hold your attention through resplendent violence, Dead Nation has also opted to never shy away from disturbing your enjoyment of the game with healthy doses of paranoia and anxiety.

What’s the Same?

The top-down shoot ‘em up experience is very similar to Warhammer 40K: Kill Team and Zombie Apocalypse, both of which offer offline co-operative play and a similar control interface. In all three cases, there is an emphasis on killing things and gaining cash so you can upgrade your gear.

You’ll Enjoy Dead Nation If You Liked…

… Warhammer 40K: Kill Team. If you’re looking for similar thrills, then there are some scary moments in Warhammer 40K that will keep you satisfied, but overall, the co-op experience and style of the game is very similar to Dead Nation. The campaign levels are as detailed and carefully mapped out as in Dead Nation.

… Zombie Apocalypse. Although not closely related to Dead Nation in terms of its mood, it’s another co-op zombie shoot ‘em up employing a similar twin-stick control interface. Zombie Apocalypse is a much lighter and more comical action game than Dead Nation but if it’s zombie destruction and an arsenal of weapons you’re after, then it shares a lot with Dead Nation.

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What I Liked

- 5.) The metadata that links players by country is a cool leaderboard feature – it’s fun to see how well your country is doing against other countries in their battle against the apocalypse. A nice touch that doesn’t put on any additional overhead to the game.

- 4.) The mood of the game is fantastic. The gloomy colour and the small illumination from your flashlight act as constant reminders that you’re hopelessly outnumbered and alone in a dark and desolate landscape, keeping you on edge and nervous of what might be lurking in the shadows.

- 3.) The use of the environment to help you in combating the zombies. There are plenty of abandoned cars in the city and you will often have to decide between looting the cars or using them as improvised explosive devices to kill large groups of zombies in your way. Sometimes the cars will have active alarms which can be set off to lure zombies into a tight group and then the car can be detonated to send the zombies flying.

- 2.) The game can hold a significant number of zombies on screen at any time and this makes it a real challenge to kill all the zombies and still survive the encounter. There are some really hairy moments when zombies swarm you from all sides and you have to frantically switch to your under-powered but more effective SMG to try and hit as many zombies as you possibly can.

- 1.) The gritty and detailed graphics. You can see there’s been a lot of attention placed on the minor details, like sections of the game where you encounter zombie firemen or zombie soldiers with their respective gear. Their different gear will affect how many shots it will take to kill them and the world is full of areas that clearly and graphically outline the carnage that has befallen the survivors of the zombie outbreak.

Favourite Moment

My journey through the town carnival was incredibly creepy. Even at the best of times if you’re the sole survivor of some apocalypse, encountering a circus full of disgruntled clowns would be disturbing, but when they’re flesh-hungry raving zombies it’s downright horrific. Not to mention their squeaking shoes and relentless pursuit! Too much for me!

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What I Didn’t Like

- 4.) It was often difficult to distinguish accessible areas from inaccessible areas. I probably should have learned by the fourth level that the game is actually fairly linear, but the appearance of many sections made it seem like they were accessible zones for hidden items. I often was left disappointed or frustrated.

- 3.) The darkness in the game can sometimes make it difficult to see what’s going on, even when you shine your flashlight. To add to the frustration it can be quite easy to lose yourself on screen because of the delay in the isometric camera responding to your whereabouts.

- 2.) I would have enjoyed a little more variety in the equipment available – there are enough options to allow you to customise your load-out quite significantly but the armour just looks a little strange (like exo-skeleton stuff) and there is no chainsaw. How can there be no chainsaw?

- 1.) The controls on the PS Vita are a little difficult to master when there’s a lot of action on the screen. Switching weapons requires you to let go of your left stick (the movement stick) to use the D-Pad to switch your weapons or equipment (grenades, etc.) – if you’re trying to pull off a weapon switch while running you’d probably dislocate your thumb!

Least Favourite Moment

Again, when I was in that carnival of hell, I found a large open tent and I thought that’d be a nice place to hide for a while, but when I attempted to enter it I lost sight of my character because of the angle and before I could react, I was swarmed by those squeaky-shoe’d zombies. The responsiveness of the isometric camera is often annoying but it can also be lethal.


Dead Nation Review – Launch Trailer


What’s Extra?

Dead Nation presents a global leaderboard which groups players together by country. This is a really fun feature that pits different countries against each other in terms of their overall progress in surviving the zombie apocalypse.

Each level includes a few secret areas which, when discovered, reward the player with extra cash and additional equipment that becomes available for purchase.

The Bottom Line

Dead Nation has finally landed on PS Vita and it’s just as entertaining as its PS3 predecessor! Being able to play in solo or co-op mode is fantastic and the gritty graphics and menacing mood will keep you on edge whether you’re at home, on the bus, or in a boring meeting.


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