There are few things as satisfying as a good zombie-themed game which offers solid, uncluttered co-op play. Even though we’re clearly moving into an era that’s soon to be dominated by graphically brilliant open world MMORPG’s, games like “Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition” still manage to please. Titles like this just reinforce the assertions of retro-centric gamers who might claim that older architectures and gameplay designs are still valid and entertaining. Even better, since DN is a free-to-play game (March) for PlayStation Plus subscribers, the experience is all the sweeter.
As far as the plot is concerned, Dead Nation: AE is more of the same - “the world has collapsed into ruins, it was a virus, now most everyone is a zombie…” Don’t get the wrong idea though; this doesn’t impede its brilliance in any way, shape or form. For all intents and purposes, it’s basically a top-down version of Left 4 Dead (sort of) which features some slightly more RPG-ish upgrading taking place at regular intervals. While it’s technically classified as a shoot-em-up title, DN can feel like a crude, blood-drenched strategy game at times.
The top-down view is of course, much more commonly found in simulator and RTS titles, but nevertheless, it works well here too. Being able to survey the action going on all around your character at all times also means that it’s much less likely that a brain-muncher will be able to sneak up on you. Each of the game’s 10 levels is thoughtfully designed and generates order amidst the chaos of Dead Nation’s campaign. Yes, this is a rather linear game, but it’s the action that we’re looking for, isn’t it? In terms of visuals, all of the environments are generally dark, but sufficiently sharp and impressive depictions of a more or less, war-torn areas. Likewise, the on-screen response is smooth and stable, graphic faltering or stuttering being a non-issue, of course.
As you might expect, frantic action more or less dominates the day here, with the game taking on a very admirable “pick up and play” sort of characteristic. It’s more or less just one shoot-em-up encounter after another with some additional modes and DLC thrown in for good measure. Again though, don’t take this as some type of critical assault – on the contrary, Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition is actually a thoroughly gratifying game for its genre. Along with its wonderful multiplayer, there is also a metagame which involves tracking the progress of each nation via leaderboards on the PSN.
Given the fact that Dead Nation is available to PS Plus subscribers freely and with DLC, no less, there’s very little reason to not give it a shot. Most will sink right into the game’s sweet spot immediately, languishing it its rather straightforward formula and slightly old-school charms. To put it simply, it’s a great shoot-em-up title which doesn’t really do anything new in terms of gameplay, but that’s ok…