Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Dead Nation - PS3

Seeing as there's not much on the internet about Dead Nation, I thought I'd write a review from somebody that's been playing it for a good while now and would like to give some feedback for those thinking about getting it.

What's to say about the plot? Well, not much tbh. You turn up in an apocylptic city where some "virus" has mutilated all that live there and now you have to find the reason and the cure. Hmmmm.... So, there is a plot, but you might as well ignore it because that's not what this game is about.

Pure and simple, this game is about shooting and shooting and shooting at... ZOMBIES! You start out with a simple rifle with unlimited ammo, but a pretty crappy rate of fire. A nice feature that took me a little while to get used to is how you aim. You use R2 in a kind of 360 degree fashion to point at the desired direction. This ultimately means you can be running backwards, and fire forwards. It takes a little while to get used to, but I kinda like it.

As you work your way through the game, you reach checkpoints where you can upgrade your rifle or buy bigger jucier weapons. The flamethrower should give you some early enjoyment as you squeeze lit petrol towards the buggers. If the group are close enough together, they'll all set fire to each other. Marvelous.

In fact, that's the general premise of enjoyment on this game. You get to try out different weapons and get a real sense of satisfaction when you find the right "tool for the job". For instance, if large pack of zombies are making their way towards you in a narrow area (and there are a lot of large packs as you'll find out), stick a mine in their way. KABLOOM !!! Limbs everywhere. You can upgrade the mines to have multiple detonations as well. So the pack behind get given the same treatment. Sorry boys! And there are plenty of static objects that you can use to your advantage. There are cars, fuel barrels etc that will blow up if shot at and take out anything in a given radius. Some cars have alarms that you can trigger that will drive the undead nuts and they'll attack that rather than you. Their fate is sealed as the car alarm going off is basically a prelude to it going pop and taking the locals out!

You can blast your way at high speed through the level to a checkpoint gate, or kill everything that moves in the area and the side streets. I would definitely reccomend the latter, because there are hidden caches to be found, containing money, ammo and often armour. Cash is the key to upgrading your weapons. I made this simple mistake when playing 2-player with a mate first time and we ended up literally being unable to complete the last wave of level 3.

At this point, I should talk about the graphics. They're great. The mood is set really well. It's very dark (too dark sometimes imo) and the framerate doesn't drop when there are 30+ zombies making their way towards you. Clearly a lot of effort has gone in to the game engine and it shows. It's not gonna blow your mind, but it's definitely a satisfying setting.

Not too close sweetheart

The game also contains multiplier concept. This is probably more relevant once you've completed the game because it doesn't improve the cash you receive, which is basically what  you want to fulfil the urge to upgrade. The  multiplier can rack up to 200x-300x plus, only to be hammered back to 1x having taken a few close hits. I must admit I do fancy trying a few of the early levels again to see what I can achieve.

So on to some negatives. My first grumble is weapon selection. In the heat of battle, you often have to make a quick switch to (say) the flamethrower. You do this using the L/R buttons and it's near impossible to hear the woman tell you what you've got selected, meaning you have to look down at the weapon icon selected. You can sort of get away with this by remembering that the SMG is one to the right of your rifle, which is left of the flamethrower. OK, that works for a bit, but then you get a new weapon and the whole cycle changes. What would have been better is if you could assign certain weapons to triangle, square, circle and X. These are unused in the game.

It's also too easy to accidentally press L1 which will lay a mine or grenade or whatever. Possibly my ageing reactions are to blame, but the odd flare would pop out. Grrrr...

Checkpoints are a little long on occasion too. Particularly the last "boss" checkpoints. They make you clear a lengthy few standard waves before bringing in the big boys. It's annoying to have to bust a gut finishing one phase to begin working out the strategy for the heavy-duty fellas. And there is always a strategy to beat them, it's just you have to fail quite a few times to work it out. I don't mind that (it's part of the idea right?), they could (should) have made the first couple of waves a bit more straightforward.

But I think all of the grumbles could probably be resolved if you play enough. And that's possibly not going to happen. Once completed, there isn't going to be a lot to make you want to play it again. There is a 2 player online co-op and some global league tables on which you bolster the effort for your specific country. I think I made about 0.0001% difference for each level I completed. The stats were moving quickly for the USA (obviously) and Finland (the developers country!?). The UK (my country) was ranked 11th, and it did give me an initial urge to "help the cause". I don't think I made a single grain of difference mind you, so that was very annoying. Checking forums, those stats might have something to do with zombies killed as a ratio to the population of that country.

Arrgh, that car alarm noise is so annoying... Uh oh...

Final verdict: I bought this game for £7.25 (approx) as a Playstation Plus member (I think it's £9.99 standard). That is excellent value for money. It's a game you can pick up and play with a mate very quickly. It's a laugh at times, especially when the limbs go flying. For me, setting a car alarm off, and watching 'em run towards it, shake it and then explode is possibly one of the most satisfying gaming moments I've had in years. Not one for Christmas day with the kids, that's for sure. But perhaps when they've gone to bed ;-)