System: Playstation 3
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Dead Nation is a top-down shoot ’em up game in which you play as one of two survivors in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Your goal is to survive through ten different levels while slaughtering countless zombies along the way. Early on, you are given basic weapons – a rifle with unlimited ammo, an SMG and a shotgun, to name a few. As you progress, you can obtain new weapons and also upgrade anything you get your hands on, including grenades and armor. This upgrading system is a great addition and adds some depth to what is otherwise standard shooting fare.
The game uses the analog sticks as its primary controls — the left stick is used to move, the right is used to aim. Unfortunately, where Dead Nation differs from other similar titles (Zombie Apocalypse immediately comes to mind) is that it requires the use of another button, R1, to shoot. This takes a little bit of time to get used to, and it never really feels natural. I’m not sure why the developers didn’t just allow the right stick to control aiming AND shooting.
Dead Nation is a challenging game, and it has a tendency to get absurdly frustrating. Housemarque made bold claims before the game’s release date that this would have more on-screen zombies than any game ever made. While it is true that an impressive number of zombie hordes come out of nowhere (and the variety in enemies is equally strong), the game’s top-down view is sometimes too high up and distant to get a good view of all of them. There are occasional problems with straggler zombies coming out of nowhere and getting in cheap hits. The extended camera angles and generally dark atmosphere make it hard to see these loners. On higher difficulty levels, getting hit with these cheap shots can be a major problem.
Although Dead Nation is a solid single player game, it is best played co-op, especially on the higher difficulties. Housemarque put together a well-made zombie shooter, but the odd controls and occasional frustrating gameplay hold it back from being a step above the rest. I got the game on sale for $7.50, and that’s not a bad price. If you can find a similar deal, go for it, but otherwise I would hold off unless you are a big fan of all things zombie.