Jul 20, 2011

[Games] Dead Nation (PS3)

Dead Nation (PS3)While I maintain an abstract appreciation for the horror genre at large and for zombies as part of that group, I've never been a fan. And the computer games that have capitalized on this segment of the market including all the survival / horror games that have been created over the years have certainly made a name for themselves, but generally never struck my fancy. But my partner is a big horror buff, as I've mentioned on this blog many times now, and so I've learned to appreciate the glorious undead a wee bit more since we started living together.

Another thing I've never really been good at would definitely be first person shooters. The games get me way too tense and that ruins my chances of surviving the level since I tend to panic. I hate the need to be constantly on the move and trying to adapt to new challenges. And I don't often enjoy competitive game play - I guess in that regard I practically hold up a little flag and ask if we all can't get along or something. This is why I favor local cooperative games versus the head-to-head / player versus player games, except maybe for real-time strategy. But even that's pushing the envelope.

Thus given the options made available as part of the PlayStation Network's Welcome Back program, this game did appear to be one of the better ones in the mix. I figured that if ever my partner could have a good time and it's a free game, so why complain right? And thus we made it one of our selections for the package - and then I can't quite explain what happened after.

Dead Nation is a 2010 zombie shooter game predominantly viewed from an third person perspective and sometimes directly from a top view. The game was released exclusively for the PS3 and was developed by Housemarquee.

The story is set in an alternative reality where the world is overrun with zombies. In terms of zombie lore, these are the kinds that come from an unknown virus outbreak that has caused the dead to come back to life. And naturally you find yourself playing as a person who turns out to be immune to the effects of the virus. Starting with a basic rifle, you and one other player (whether local co-op or online) set out to survive in the remains of society while trying to find help or at least some form of respite from the undead.

In recent years, developers have combined trad...Image via WikipediaThe game consists of ten levels divided into multiple segments. In this regard the game might remind one a lot of the Left 4 Dead series where each stage ends with a safe room. In this case, each level has a series of weapons stores secured from the undead where you can buy new weapons and power-ups along with changing your armor settings and the like. And then it's back to dealing with the undead until you get to the safety of the green zone at the end of every stage.

You'll gain access to a fairly wide variety of weapons each with their own combat effects and benefits in battle. For example, the SMG allows for rapid firing, which is great against weaker hordes but not very effective versus the heavier bosses. On the other hand, the Shocker fires a steady stream of electricity which can slow large opponents but won't do much against a horde of zombies out for blood. Each weapon has its own upgrades such as stronger power, a larger clip or the option to bring more ammunition. And there are other items that you can throw at your enemies like zombie-attracting flares, explosive grenades and multi-charge mines.

The game presents you with a wide variety of challenges and an insane number of zombies to kill. At first you have your generic corpses in civilian attire but in time you'll find yourself fighting undead police men, soldiers, firemen and even clowns. Yes, the clowns really freaked me out when they first appeared. Each have their own hit points and increasing degrees of toughness, thus making the hordes more and more difficult to dispense with even as you get stronger and stronger weapons. And that's not even considering the unique monsters like the Mouth that summons more zombies to the area and the Jumper that is strong, agile and pretty dangerous.

The level of detail in terms of the animation is really what sells this game. It makes masterful use of light and shadow with some stages in complete darkness as you try to find the zombies by the light of your flashlight or by using a handy flare in case you still have one. The environment is rich with little nuances like zombies emerging from porta-johns, firemen emerging from a crashed firetruck and pretty much every single corpse, soda can and box able to make a little sound when you interact with the object. The richness of the experience is what makes the game so involving and thus ultimately rewarding.

I only played through the co-op mode and I find it hard to imagine playing the game solo given the increasing need for tactics in latter stages. When my partner and I worked through the game, we often had to work out tactics so that one could lay down covering fire while the other operated a machine or we'd find ourselves laying a network of mines in preparation for a boss. The game is pretty challenging and quite thrilling in this regard as you might often find yourselves back to back as you deal with hordes coming at you from all sides while you try to figure out how to achieve your objectives in the end.

Dead Nation is quite the fun gaming experience and probably the first time that I've even enjoyed a zombie shooter this much. Heck, we're actually trying to play through the game on a higher difficulty now after having finished the co-op campaign on normal mode. Thus Dead Nation gets a full 5 freaky zombies falling out of the sky out of a possible 5.

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