Title: Dead Nation
Developer: Housemarque, Sony Computer Entertainment
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.8 GB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
Zombies have been a large and popular theme in media for decades. Ever since the dawn of Romero with Night of the Living Dead back in 1968, there has been an ever-growing craze with the idea of the zombie apocalypse. It has dawned with a lot of different franchises from the Living Dead to 28 Days Later and, more recently, The Walking Dead.
In video games, there are a lot of these themes as well. Some of the themes are present in continuities and franchises like Resident Evil and The Walking Dead (Telltale Games) or standalone games like 2013 Infected Wars and ZombiU. The longer things go, the more franchises spawn and the more games come out with these themes.
On the Vita, we recently reviewed the zombie shooter 2013: Infected Wars. Today, I am back for some more zombie coverage. Having originally released on the PS3, here is my official review of the twin-stick shooter Dead Nation!
Society has broken down because of a virus transforming the majority of the population into flesh-eating zombies. The plot of Dead Nation surrounds two characters by the names of Jack McReady and Scarlet Blake. Both of these are inter-changeable depending on who you decide to play through the game as. They are unique individuals as they do not turn into zombies when bitten. They are immune to the virus.
About a year after the initial outbreak, their shelter is being overrun, so they must break through a horde of zombies to try to find high ground and find a new shelter. In their travels, however, they get wound up into a plot and journey to try to find a cure for the disease and end the zombie outbreak.
The story of Dead Nation isn’t a bad one and is narrated well, but isn’t anything out of the ordinary for a zombie apocalypse setting. Jack and Scarlet’s dialogue are almost word for word the same and there isn’t much back-story with anyone. It’s not a terrible story, but also not a great one.
Dead Nation is a twin-stick shooting game. Unlike Crimsonland, it doesn’t have a completely top-down perspective, which makes it unique. Due to its isometric angle during gameplay, it is more comparable to games like Halo: Spartan Assault. As such, Dead Nation is defined as an isometric twin-stick shooter.
When you first go into the game, you will have a few options to go through. You can do Solo Play either in the story campaign or the Road to Devastation DLC (which is not built into the Vita version. It must be bought, just like in the PS3 version) as well as Ad Hoc and Online multiplayer modes through the same modes as well as specific missions and sections.
When you actually go into the game, be it a mission or in the campaign you will be traveling through large areas to obtain money, ammo, and health packs in the form of loot that you can find in cars and boxes as well as taking down seemingly-endless waves of zombies and bio-weapons that are rushing towards you in each new area. There are check points, weapon shops, and end goals, but you’re essentially running through each area to mow down enemies and get to the next area, where more enemies await.
Traveling through each area will consist of finding checkpoints. In each of the 10 chapters/missions, there are a few checkpoints for you to reach, where you will be closed off from enemies, the game will save your progress, and you can use the money you’ve found to buy and upgrade your weapons as well as buying ammunition and equipping new armor pieces that you find.
Weapons vary from the default rifle that has infinite ammunition to a shotgun, SMG, rocket launcher, as well as weapons that can launch spiked discs and electric shocks. You can also buy items here like grenades, flares, and mines. Weapons, themselves, have various areas you can use money to upgrade, such as clip size, power, rate of fire, and adding laser scopes. Each chapter will unlock new item and weapon types so it’s important to visit the weapon shop at every check point.
Armor is a little bit different. There are many different sets of Head, Chest, and Leg armor, but they cannot be bought. In various missions, you can find large crates that contain armor pieces. These are normally hidden from normal view, so you may need to explore to find these. Combining these is also essential as some armor is better for attack and endurance (defense) and some are better with agility, giving you more mobility as you’re running around zombie hordes.
Actually going through the stages will have you running through ruined highways, hospitals, harbors, and more as you try to get to your goal and take down as many zombies and bio-weapons as you can. Essentially, this can sound repetitive, but the introduction of new enemies and mini-bosses in each chapter helps to keep things fresh, as does the fact that this game has online co-operative play, just like the console version does.
The difficulty of the game also comes into play. There are some enemies that you need away from you at all times to stay safe, especially when you can only do a running rush once every so many seconds. The Bombie, for example, will explode upon contact with you or upon being defeated, and that explosion will cause huge damage to anything in the area, be it other enemies as well as you. There are also sections that require specific weapons, regardless of what difficulty setting you’re on.
This is much easier if you’re using co-op, but on the higher difficulties, you will have to be planning and moving very strategically, particularly around the larger enemies and mini-bosses like Cutters and Jumpers. The game doesn’t have rage-inducing difficulty, but don’t expect to just fly through the game, even if you choose the Braindead (Easy) difficulty setting.
Road to Devastation is similar to the campaign, but it’s like an endless survival mode. In RtD, you travel through one of various paths to and back to a laboratory, taking down zombies in waves and collecting prizes. The further you go, the stronger the zombies get, pushing you to adjust your strategy as you travel through the game, as the game will restart the moment you die. As I said before, Road to Devastation has a spot in the Main Menu, but is not included in the base game. It must be bought and downloaded from the PlayStation Network before it can be used.
All in all, Dead Nation’s campaign should last you at least 3-5 hours, assuming you don’t go through on the easy difficulties. Each of the 10 missions can last about 20-30 minutes. It’s not a super long game, but also not a super short one. For the fan of zombies and twin-stick shooters, there’s plenty to keep you busy for some time.
The controls for the game are definitely something we need to discuss. First of all, you won’t need to use the touch controls for any part of Dead Nation. If anyone was worried about touch controls, you don’t need to worry about a thing. You can play through the entire game without touching the screen even once.
You will be using the analog sticks for a lot of the game. The Left Analog Stick moves your character and the Right Analog Stick will control your aim. You can use the face buttons for interacting with objects, reloading your weapon, and rushing through short areas. The L trigger is used for throwing an item, the R trigger is used for firing your weapon, and the D-Pad is used for switching which item and weapon you are currently equipped with.
One last thing to note about the controls is how the game plays. Much like the console release, it is very hard to accurately aim and keep your aim steady as you play through the game. You control your aim with the Right Analog Stick, but there is a really high amount of sensitivity on the aim. Enough so that every time I hit the R trigger, my thumb moved and the aim moved quite a bit. I tried this on the Vita as well as both a Dual Shock 3 and Dual Shock 4 controller on the PlayStation TV and it was the same. You can get used to it, but it’s very annoying and frustrating.
The visual presentation of the game isn’t bad, but isn’t great. On the bright side, all of the environments and lighting effects are there, just as they are on the console release. However, the visuals have been downgraded to run well on the Vita. There are a lot of jagged edges in the character models for your characters as well as enemies. It doesn’t look terrible, but definitely doesn’t look as polished as some of the Vita’s other twin-stick games.
Another thing to note is slowdown. There isn’t a huge amount of slowdown, but I notice it every so often in each of the missions. It only lasts a couple seconds and normally when you are firing on enemies. It isn’t going to frustrate you, but it happened often enough that it is worth mentioning. It happened at least a few times in each mission.
Otherwise, the game plays well. The Load Times aren’t anything to be frustrated at and the game responds well, especially when you’re using a controller on the PlayStation TV.