I’ve been sitting here doing a spot of writing while waiting for Red Dead Redemption II to install on my Xbox. I think the wait from the moment I put the disc in to install and finally pressing the start button for the first time seemed longer than the year long delay. This moment has been a long time coming (eight years) and now I’m about to play RDR II for the first time, I have the appropriate cerveza ready too…
Okay so all I’m doing here is taking a look at the first few of hours of the game. I’ll not be going through the story much or at all if possible. This is just to get a quick look and offer my first impressions, a more detailed and fuller look at the game will come later next week after I’ve spent more time with it. So here we go, I’ll just quickly pop in a SPOILER warning, though I won’t be giving any story elements away except for covering the opening of the game.
Just looking at the title screen has put a big ole’ smile on my face (though that could also be the beer). I fucking loved the previous game, best game Rockstar have made to date if you ask me. Yeah Grand Theft Auto is their big hitting series, but there was just something about RDR that entertained me so much more than any GTA game. RDR was a masterpiece of game design, story writing and characterization… oh and gameplay. This one has a hell of a reputation to up hold, even if its half as good as the previous game, it’ll still be a damn fine title.
So it all kicks off with Dutch Van der Linde and his gang lost in a snowstorm before they manage to find meager shelter, seems the law is after them. A long cut-scene just setting the tone before I finally get to control Arthur who with Dutch, goes out in the snowstorm to try to find some help and supplies. Dutch and Arthur talk while looking for some help out in the snow and they talk of a robbery gone wrong and a possible set up (you can chose from various conversation points too), the conversation continues and they mention John – I’m guessing it is the John I think it is. I’ve found a house that could offer some help, only things have gone a little sour. Okay so I’m going to jump ahead a little here, the opening chapter goes on a while and just teaches you the basics. That’s not to say its not any good as its great – but I want to get into the whole open world side as the opening is pretty linear. Still the first chapter shows you the new hunting, searching and fighting mechanics, etc plus you get to meet more than a few familiar faces. There’s a lot of new stuff to learn just in the first hour or so of play but it’s the open world I really want to get a look at and play around in, so I’m going to skip this write up forward a little.
So now it looks like I have the freedom the play around and explore the map, which is really what I want to do. The first thing that hits me is the graphics, damn this game is good looking (for the record, I am playing on the Xbox One X in 4K). The original RDR (I don’t mean Revolver) was a striking game and still is eight years after release. But this? This is a whole new level, RDR II looks sexier than Kelly Brook in a swimsuit and lets be honest, that’s pretty damn high praise…
So our gang have set up a new camp out of the mountains and away from all the snow. This is all looking very Wild West now. Seems I have grown a beard (I mean my character Arthur, not me personally) and you can shave in the game or just that that chin-rug grow. Got a full-on Brian Blessed right now. Looks like you have to support the camp by donating food and money so hunting really has a purpose this time around. But before I got lost in all that stuff, I’m going to head into the nearest town to play around with some of the new features.
Found a small town called Valentine, it’s not the grandest of places but there’s still a few things to mess around with. Had my hair cut and had a shave. Took a nice hot bath as I’d gotten a little dirty travelling around. Hung out in a saloon and had a few beers, then started a mass brawl. Honestly, it was great fun. Looked like something from a Western flick with people being thrown over tables and out of windows, chairs smashed over their heads and so on – a good old fashioned bar brawl, so satisfying. Did a spot of hunting and sold my wares to the local butcher. Even found a tent that does slide shows for a little entertainment.
Well that about wraps this quick look a the game up. I know I’ve only scratched the surface here, so much more to this one that I’ll discover later. I’ll aim to rush to the end of this so I can do a more in-depth look over the next few days. But so far I’m very impressed. Rockstar have created an impressive and amazing world here. I thought they did a stunning job with GTA V… and they did. But RDR II is head and shoulders above it. The level of detail, the way everything feels alive, the amount of interactions and distractions to enjoy. You know how that This is Spinal Tap quote about going to eleven that is overused? Hell I’m guilty of overusing it myself. Well in order for me to describe this game, they need to make a Spinal Tap sequel.
I very rarely pre-order games, I fail to see the point as they are often over priced and I prefer to just wait a while for the hype to die down and get the game at a lower price later. However, there is one game I’ve been looking forward to since it was first announced a couple of years back that I just had to pre-order. State Of Decay 2. Thankfully State Of Decay 2 was being offered at a low price at launch anyway, much like the previous game as it was a low budget/indie game. Plus the fact that I’ve gone for the Ultimate Edition and one of the bonuses was that you get to play the game four days early too…so I had to jump on this one.
I thought I’d just play the game and offer my first impressions as I play. But before I get to that, I just want to quickly cover what State Of Decay is for those not in the know.
Developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 and Windows. State Of Decay is a zombie survival horror/action game that has a hell of a lot of enjoyment hidden within its basic premise. You’ve played zombie survival games before…but not like this. If there is one thing that amazed me about the game at the time is just how much it has packed into it considering it was originally an Xbox Live Arcade game, which itself was a platform Microsoft used for smaller downloadable games from both major publishers and independent game developers.
Not that I’m saying that Xbox Live Arcade games were poor as they often had plenty of great hidden gems – but more a case of the games the platform offered were just smaller, rougher games over the big AAA titles that were being released by bigger studios. State Of Decay broke the mold – it was a big (for an indie game) open world marvel that really pushed indie games to the limit. Just as a quick visual example – CastleStorm was a game released on the Xbox Live Arcade and it looked like this…
The game itself is pretty fun to play, but its a simple 2D action game and there were a lot of them on Xbox Live Arcade. Then State Of Decay, released the same year looked like this…
State Of Decay actually starts pretty slowly and dare I even say, its rather dull really. For the first several minutes of the game, you are just walking around hitting zombies with a stick. Then you get to meet some survivors hiding away in a ranger station and the elements of scouting locations and searching buildings for weapons and supplies is introduced. This is followed by a mission where you rescue a fellow survivor who then joins your team. The game really starts to open up as you make your way to the first safe-house in the game and then the whole base building element is introduced.
In short, State Of Decay is an utterly engrossing game that has a hell of a lot of gameplay when you really get into it. Individual characters have specific skills and traits that can help grow your community through the game. Base skills level up the more you use them, run a lot and your cardio increases, use guns and your firearms skill will improve, fight zombies using blunt, sharp, heavy weapons to increase your skills with these. You slowly but surely begin to build stronger and stronger characters the more you use them…you grow attached to them too and fight hard to ensure they survive as when a character dies in State Of Decay, they stay dead – there’s no checkpoint saves, no reviving. When you lose one of your best, leveled up members of the community you have built up over several hours of gameplay…they are gone for good. Its this element that really makes you care for your characters, do you send out a lesser character to clear out a zombie infestation and just hope they can handle it or do you risk one of your better peeps who have the skills to fight off a zombie horde but could die losing all the work you have put into them?
Your base can be uniquely created with specific rooms such as a bedroom for your survivors to sleep in, a library where you can learn new skills, a garden so you can grow your own food and a kitchen to cook it in. How about building a workshop so you can maintain your cars and even build weapons, plus several other rooms to build. Some rooms work in conjunction with others; build a library and a workshop to unlock more advanced weapons and upgrades for example. Each room can be upgraded and some will require a specialist to get the most of of them. The base building is brilliant and adds a lot of depth and strategy to the game as you safe-house only has limited space so you have to pick and chose what to build. You can’t have everything all at once. You have to balance your resources such as building materials, ammo, food and fuel to get the most of your you continuity along with dealing with morale issues and other problems. And I use the word ‘continuity’ because that’s exactly what you end up building, a continuity of survivors all fighting to stay alive.
The game has driving, shooting, fighting, base building, scavenging and so much more. All wrapped up in a beautiful little indie package that really has the gameplay value of a title made by a worldwide famous software house that knocks out AAA titles regularly. In fact, State Of Decay puts a lot of big budget, massive releases to shame.
Not that the game doesn’t have its problems as it does. The graphics are okay at best, there are frame-rate issues and I’m about to use a word I desist using…overall the game’s look and style is very ‘janky’. There are clipping problems, zombies will sometimes just appear from nowhere or walk through walls of a building, etc. There are problems but they’re also mostly forgivable given the low budget and indie team that made it. The game is rough around the edges but still one of the finest zombie survival games I have ever played. In fact I’m going to say it – State Of Decay is THE best zombie survival game I have played so far.
But I’m not here to drone on about the first game. I put this article together to take a look at the sequel. So lets get into it. Just as a quickie – I am going into this one blind, I’ve not read about the story, I don’t know any of the characters and I have avoided looking at any gameplay footage and reviews – all I have seen of the game was the E3 reveal trailer from 2016. I have not played the game yet and I really am just going to just play a few hours and give my first impressions.
So what follows is going to be as much of a surprise to me as it is to you. There could be spoilers ahead as I write up my experience so there’s a pre-warning for you there.
I’ve waited two years to get my hands on this one and now I finally have it four days early thanks to the Ultimate Edition. I’ve been looking forward to this all damn day, I even booked the weekend off work so I could get some serious State Of Decay 2 playing done. So lets crack on…
I suppose the first thing to do is check out the co-op mode, yes State of Decay 2 features a co-op option where you and three friends can fight of zombies together. I have managed to get my bother to join in for this one so lets bash some undead.
Well right of the bat, it looks ten times better than the previous game. Much more colour and detail. Looks like I’ll have to play through the tutorial before I can do co-op though. Just have to make my way to a camp to find help, bludgeoning a few zombies along the way. All good so far made it through the tutorial and now I get to chose which one of the three maps I want to start on. And off we go, got a car and now just driving off over the horizon as the title appears.
Well the car has run out of gas, that’s another new feature in the sequel – you now have to worry about gas consumption. Now the game starts proper and I’ve teamed up with my brother for some co-op. The map is really well detailed, just saw a lizard run across my path on the way to the first safe house. The game does look really nice, not exactly GTA V level of detail but a massive step up from the first game. The menu seems a bit cumbersome compared to the original, but I think I must need to get used to it. The same basics are there such as the base building and resource management, etc but everything is different enough to slightly confuse me after playing State of Decay so damn much, as I say, its just a case of getting used to the new interface. The controls have been slightly tweaked to over the first game and I keep pressing the wrong buttons. But managed to make it to the first safe-house. Its all very familiar and yet new at the same time. Looks like we have our first mission to so some surveying.
And off we go out to venture into the unknown for the first time. Really loving the graphics so far and the views are really quite lovely to look at too. There is a tethering system in place so you can’t wonder off to different areas of the map – that’s a bit disappointing but the range you are tethered to each other is still pretty large and I’m not sure if you really want to be leaving your companions behind anyway as this is the kind of game where you need to stick together. But I’m able to go off and explore one area and numerous buildings while my brother does the same elsewhere. The tethering is not too restrictive to be fair. Well after a few diversions and a bit of exploring, we finally made it to the surveying spot, pretty much the same as the original game. Look around and reveal locales, searchable buildings, vehicles and special zombies.
Back home after a spot of scavenging and can now build a medical bay at the base. Just been introduced to a neighbour and it gives you the option of working with him or not. Could prove interesting further in the story, stay friendly with neighbours and build up some trust…or don’t and who knows what they may do in the future. Yeah this is pretty much what I was expecting so far – State of Decay with a tone of refinements. The character development is still there, the base building is too. So it looks like building a community from the first game is back but with several more options to explore and play around with.
The characters themselves feel much more emotive and animated. The combat seems to be the same as before but with a load of new animations and gruesome finishing moves. This is exactly what I wanted from a State of Decay sequel. They haven’t messed with the winning formula too much and improved on the areas that needed improving. I’ve have only just scratched the surface on this one, done a few story missions, need to get to grips with the new interface and menu system. But overall I’m well pleased. It’s now almost 3 AM and probably a good time to get some sleep. I can definitely see myself getting lost in this game just as I did with the original – I must have sank hundreds of hours into that on the 360 and then again on the Xbox One. This was just a little taster of what the game has to offer in the opening couple of hours, I’m sure there is so much more to see and do and I’m really looking forward to it too.
Just as a quick aside. I’ve not read any reviews of the game myself, but I do know that its getting a bit if a bad rep for bugs and glitches. I have to say that me and my brother never really experienced any on the couple of hours we played. There was one instance of a frame-rate drop for a couple of seconds and that was all. Nothing worth worrying about anyway.
Yup, really happy with this one and I may do a more in-depth and proper look at the game later. I’ll be playing it a lot more over the next few days and I think the co-op will be a damn good laugh too. Well done Undead Labs, I’m well happy with the game so far.
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