In a market saturated by games featuring the always loveable undead, creating an original game that revolves around these reanimated corpses is indeed a tough task. Housemarque's new zombie slaughtering PSN exclusive title, "Dead Nation," doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it takes the best qualities from zombie survival games while incorporating new features that, for the most part, work very well.
Taking a slightly angled top-down perspective, the player is tasked with mercilessly killing zombies and monsters through 10 chapters either solo or with a friend. Each chapter brings players to a slightly new location such as a park or a cemetery. Overall, the environments are presented very well although their variety is somewhat lacking. The game also takes place exclusively at night which, while adding to the suspense, makes enjoying the subtle details of the environment difficult. The darkness of each level also makes seeing certain enemies harder which can result in cheap shots. The story is easily forgettable, but it fits the bill for a game about mindless zombie killing. Housemarque is known for its PSN hit Super Stardust HD, and a similar attention to crisp gameplay is apparent as soon as you decapitate your first zombie.
Controlling your character consists of movement with the left analog stick, aiming your weapon with the right analog stick, and firing with the R1 button. The aiming is very precise and lining up a shot into a charging zombie is gratifying on its own. Along with an assortment of weapons ranging from a rifle to a rocket launcher, players can also choose from a selection of equipment such as grenades and flares. One of the strategies involved in playing Dead Nation arises from the ability to upgrade one's weapons and equipment with money that is found scattered throughout each level. Choosing which weapons and equipment to buy and upgrade is essential to succeeding as this game can be ridiculously frustrating even at a normal difficulty.
Each level contains a set number of checkpoints where you will be able to buy/upgrade your gear and switch out your armor. Armor can be found hidden in chests throughout each chapter. Between each checkpoint players will have to overcome an incredible amount of adversity. Housemarque has managed to fit what seems like the most zombies on screen ever. Because of the weapon selection and upgrade ability, overcoming these swarms is tough but not impossible. The challenge occurs when other strange monsters come into play such as a huge purple creature with two blades for arms. Parts of the game throw numerous amounts of these monsters at you, and in turn, force you to die and die until you somehow manage to kill them all. These parts induce fits of controller-twisting, hair-pulling rage that will definitely leave a sour taste in the mouths of casual gamers who aren't prepared for such spikes in difficulty.
Dead Nation is extremely detailed. Zombies vary in shape, size, speed, and damage taken/inflicted. The sound design enhances the creepy atmosphere, and each level emits the kind of sorrowful chaos that you would expect from a city overrun by the undead. Online coop and a score tracking system that shows results in how many cycles the virus has gone through in each country creates some lasting appeal, but players may find Dead Nation tiresome after playing through some of the annoying moments in the game. Overall, Dead Nation succeeds at being an action-packed, eerie experience. Aside from some minor annoyances, this is a definitely worth the time of any gamers looking for something to hold them over till the big releases of 2011.
[Dead Nation]-$14.99 PSN