"Breakdown" Breaks It Down Review

State of Decay is an exciting open-world title that came out for the Xbox 360 a while back. When I wrote for another site, I reviewed the title and gave it some seriously high marks. I had been tracking the development of the title for a while, had interviewed the community manager and was getting amped for the game’s release. It remains an intense, difficult and beautiful zombie apocalypse survival simulator.

Breakdown is the most-recently released DLC, which, I’ll admit, I didn’t like at first. The proper game had a very minimal story, which, as slim as it was, was actually quite brilliant. The game never spoonfed you anything, narratively. For those who don’t know, State of Decay cast the player in the role of a survivor of the zombie apocalypse, trying to survive the onslaught of the undead while also managing weapons, food, supplies and personalities of other survivors. Don’t pay enough attention to issues going on at home and you might end up losing influence in your community. Sometimes this would be disastrous, other times the effects wouldn’t be that drastic. It felt real, natural. Resources were relatively finite. Once you picked an outpost clean, you couldn’t get anything from it any longer.

Well, Breakdown takes that concept and expands on it further, focusing solely on the survival aspects of the game, while completely removing the narrative. Yes, you read that right. A game with an already-minimal (albeit wonderful) narrative has been stripped of that narrative in favor of survival, resource management and what the developers refer to as “heroes,” who are overpowered survivors that are, in effect, those who have survived the zombie apocalypse.

I’ll admit, I hated this at first. Starting off as a rugged blonde dude, I was operating with minimal supplies, weak weaponry and a headset connected to a character from the original game named Lilly who was guiding me through the game’s early objectives. Starting from a small farmhouse, I ventured off into the wilderness trying to find more survivors and a good place to set as our base.

For the first hour of playtime, I found nothing. I found myself to one of the most popular bases in the original game, an abandoned amusement park. I didn’t have enough materials (think of wood, nails, other building supplies), survivors or other supplies to settle in the place, so, hopping a fence and grabbing the first vehicle I could find (a beaten-up station wagon), I drove off toward more populated regions of the map, hoping to find any semblance of humanity.

About forty minutes later, I stumbled across a group of survivors holed up in a Mexican restaurant. I went up to the leader of the enclave (marked on the minimap) and immediately became best friends with the guy. Not because we had anything in common, but because I pressed a button to end the monotony of running around outside with minimal energy and health remaining.

We set up roots and I immediately switched characters to the former leader of the group. He was a bit more skilled with the weapons than the guy I started with. Almost immediately, I was alerted that about ten million zombies were approaching the restaurant. With minimal defenses (something the survivors in the restaurant were all too happy to bitch about every few minutes), I hopped in a nearby police car and decided the best course of action was to run every single one of the zombies over until the car broke down (which is one of the more exciting things to happen, as frustrating as it might sound).

Essentially, the goal with Breakdown is to survive as long as humanly possible, while building up defenses and saving other survivors. Once you’ve exhausted a map’s resources, it’s time to move on to the next map, which also has an increased level of difficulty. This is accomplished through finding an RV and driving off, proverbially, into the sunset.

Let’s talk about the zombies. There are your standard zombies, the undead. They get angrier at night and their eyes glow, otherwise, if you’ve seen any television or film with zombies, you’ve seen these guys. There are also some boss-level zombies, the types of which you’ve seen in other games before. That’s not a slight against State of Decay or its expansion, in fact, it gives the player a more rounded-out approach to the kind of creatures you’ve faced. It puts a new spin on an old concept.

State of Decay Breakdown is intense. The removal of the overarching narrative is a problem, if you ask me, however; I do get what Undead Labs is trying to accomplish. The entire game is a test for their eventual open-world zombie survival MMO, and I believe Breakdown is another step toward accomplishing that goal. If you don’t care about a fairly brilliant storyline, you’ll really dig Breakdown, but if you’re like me and have been through the narrative and enjoyed the hell out of it, you might feel remiss that there isn’t more great writing. At the same time, we’ve all worried about what it means to survive a zombie apocalypse. Resource and personality management is a big deal. That’s emphasized wonderfully in Breakdown.

"State of Decay: Breakdown" is on sale November 29, 2013 and is rated M. Sim. Developed by Undead Labs. Published by Microsoft Game Studios.

Dec
18
2013
Robert Ottone • Staff Writer

A natural bon vivant in love with cigars, finery and luxurious booze, SelfieRob aims to make light of the world around him while living the party boy lifestyle. From the Hamptons to NYC and beyond, SelfieRob lives life to the fullest.

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