Welcome Back Games – Dead Nation
A timely repost of our Dead Nation review from issue 201
With the PlayStation Store back up and running you’re probably trying to decide which of the free games Sony is offering you would be the best to grab. To help you out we’re posting our original reviews of all five of the PS3 titles being made available.
They did the mash, they did the monster mash
Surely the PS3 doesn’t need yet another zombie game? After all we’ve already been treated to the likes of Burn Zombie Burn and Zombie Apocalypse, so surely we don’t need another top-down zombie blaster? Well, as a matter of fact we do.
Dead Nation certainly isn’t without its flaws, but it’s the closest we’ve seen the PS3 come to emulating Valve’s incredibly excellent Left for Dead series. Unlike its zombie peers, Dead Nation actually has a lot more in common with Team 17’s Alien Breed series, although its online structure makes it far superior. In short, it’s the best top-down shooter that’s currently available on PSN.
Developed by the same team that made the excellent Super Stardust HD, Dead Nation is a visually stunning game that sees a lone survivor – or survivors if you’re playing with a friend – trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.
The weakest part of Dead Nation is definitely its story, which is an old hoary piece of work that could have been cut out from a dozen zombie films. It involves government conspiracies, average voice acting and an ending that you can see coming a mile off. Worry not though, for Dead Nation’s relentless gameplay will have you playing into the last cheesy bit of dialogue is displayed onscreen.
The first thing that impresses about Dead Nation is its sheer size. This is a large title for a download game, with 10 massive levels to fight through. Although you’re initially equipped with a few basic weapons you’ll soon be able to get your hands on a whole range of devastating items ranging from shotguns to rocket launchers. Money can be found in the back of cars, in chests or on defeated zombies and handy weapon shops are liberally scattered around each stage.
Weapon shops allow you to alter the range of a weapon’s fire, its power, rate of fire, ammo held and much, much more and it’s also possible to grab hold of other useful devices such as mines, flashes and grenades which can be similarly upgraded. It’s also possible to upgrade the body armour you’re wearing, but unlike weapons you have to find new upgrades as you explore the ten huge levels.
These stages are not only teaming with thousands of zombies, but they also contain some truly magnificent lighting effects. Indeed, part of Dead Nation’s power is that it’s an incredibly scary experience, with the eerie lighting and clever use of sound making for plenty of pant shitting instances of terror. There’s nothing more horrifying than having to mow down a horde of zombies with only the light of a diminishing flare for company.
It doesn’t end there though. There’s a huge range of different enemies to destroy – including some bloody big boss types that are devastatingly lethal if they’re not handled quickly – plenty of hidden secrets to discover and lovely little touches like setting off a car alarm to distract nearby zombies.
Yes the very nature of the gameplay means that it can get rather samey, but take the battle online and team up with a friend and it remains a fresh and exciting blaster. What a pity then that even normal difficulty is so insanely hard it’s likely to put many gamers off.
It’s a little too tough for its own good and the online play is occasionally laggy, but this is another polished effort from Housemarque. Just be sure that you don’t play it with the lights off, or on your own.