(PlayStation 4)

Game Review

Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sammy Barker

Super blood lust

Undead shooters are dime a dozen, and sadly the original Dead Nation did little to differentiate itself from the hordes of decaying flesh already pawing the PlayStation Store. With the release of the PlayStation 4, Finnish studio Housemarque has opted to shine its shaky flashlight on the isometric escapade for a second time – but is this a successful resurrection of the Resogun developer’s middling arcade-inspired affair?

It’s still got post-apocalyptic problems, that’s for sure. The primary issue with this top-down gun-‘em-up is that its fusion of gameplay formats fit together about as sloppily as Frankenstein’s monster when assembled by blindfold. Mixing the swift dual-joystick gunplay of Super Stardust HD with the claustrophobic urban environments of Resident Evil 2, the title isn’t overly successful in its marriage of disparate styles.

The shuffling setback isn’t immediately obvious, but it becomes increasingly irritating the more corpses that you off. While the title likes to surround you with decomposing bodies, the imprecise aiming and emphasis on the single-shot default rifle – which is the only firearm to boast unlimited ammo – mean that you’ll be forced to put your DualShock 4’s questionable build quality to the test over the course of the release’s meaty campaign.

There are other weapons to blitz up your brainless pursuers with, but the title’s survival horror inspirations actively discourage you from using them, as ammo is rare within the world itself. In truth, you’ll rarely run low on shotgun shells and sub-machine gun bullets if you refresh regularly at the in-game store, but the fact that you’re only given three or four opportunities to do this per level will leave you irrationally clutching onto your resources should you need them later down the line.

In most cases, we’d be parading this as brilliant design, but the standard shooter is such a wretched weapon to use that you’ll tap R1 through the four or five hour story with a face more distorted than one of your well-placed projectile’s subjects. There are moments where the gunplay shines, as you dispatch a throng of the undead with a lightning bolt before blowing up a car with a V7 Splicer-esque sawblade, but these occasions are rarer than they arguably should be.

It doesn’t help that the title is oppressively dark either. While the pitch-black environments successfully ratchet up the tension in titles such as Outlast, it’s little more than an irritant here, as you squint at the abyss searching for any signs of movement in your torch’s narrow orange beam. It can be so hard to see at times that we reckon that the release would make a good replacement for those alphabet charts that you find in an optician’s office.

The macabre setting would be acceptable if the title wasn’t so keen to rush you with charging enemies, but this happens more and more often as you amble towards the end of the adventure. Sprinting enemies that resemble armoured iterations of Edward Scissorhands dash up towards you and lop away your health like a harrowing hairdresser, while others leap into the air and pound the ground like an athletic high-jump candidate training for Rio 2016.

Much like in the indie developer’s other games, you can boost out of the way to avoid many of these attacks, and that becomes a key strategy as you work to find space. However, if you don’t equip the right armour, the recharge time attached to this ability can be painfully slow, leaving you open to attacks as you try to negotiate some room. Adding a second player to the experience – either locally or online – negates this issue a little as you’re able to work together to dispatch the encroaching undead armies, but the core combat problems remain.

Despite these glaring issues, though, you’ll still find the release hard to put down. There’s a great progression system hidden in here that allows you to gradually upgrade your weapons as you move through its mysterious environments. Cash can be spent on new gear, which enhances the effectiveness of your artillery, while also allowing you to add new items to your armoury. You’ll still stick with the default rifle most of the time, but it’s always nice to have an enhanced rocket launcher on hand.

Toggling between these items has become easier than outwitting a dead body on the PS4, too, as a new Quick Select option has been implemented, allowing you to assign your four favourite firearms to a single button press. It still can be a bit fiddly trying to toggle through your ever increasing on-body arsenal when you’re under attack, but it at least makes things a little easier assuming that you take the time to tailor the inputs to your personal preferences.

Other more obvious improvements include a fresh lick of visual paint. The original release always had impressive lightning – well, what little there is of it – and it’s enhanced again here, with sharper textures and an overall cleaner image underlining the transition to the new machine. It’s a shame that the title doesn’t run at 60 frames-per-second, but it’s at least silky smooth, with no number of hardware hogging explosions causing the performance to sag.

You’ll be detonating plenty of dead bodies over the course of the full package as well, with the previously released ‘Road to Redemption’ add-on tossed into this ultimate compilation. Essentially a more pick-up-and-play twist on the core campaign, this is split into ‘Arcade’ and ‘Endless’ iterations, and sees you taking different Smash TV-esque routes through the post-apocalyptic world in order to augment your character with various weaponry, equipment, and points-based upgrades.

In truth, it’s a really clever addition that forces you to ponder every decision that you make. For example, taking the score path will allow you to bump up your multiplier, but if you don’t have the right armour or cash to improve your guns, then you’re going to come unstuck once the more challenging enemies arrive. As you’d expect, your choices will be reflected in the online leaderboards, but you can also now send challenges to your friends.

There’s a lot more to the title’s social aspects this time around, too. While the game still keeps track of nationwide kills, allowing you to see which region is the best at slaughtering undead enemies, it also boasts a new Broadcast+ mode which integrates streamers into the action and includes a handful of voting options for onlookers to interact with. These actually affect the difficulty of the release, and while it’s unlikely that you’ll opt to play all of the adventure this way, it’s a neat hint at the power of Sony’s streaming tools.

Conclusion

Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition doesn’t solve the core gunplay issues that plagued the release’s original outing, but this is still a fine upgrade for those merely looking for some rotten flesh to fire at. Once again, the survival horror aspects feel at odds with the arcade-inspired gameplay, but the new social features just about justify a return to this resurrected digital download.

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User Comments (23)

MadchesterManc

#2

MadchesterManc said:

Looking forward to playing through this again tomorrow. Always knew it was gonna be basically a visual upgrade with a couple of minor additions, but that's good enough for me to try it via PS+

BarrettJChris

#3

BarrettJChris said:

I've been checking the playstation stor e every 30 minutes since 5am this morning!! Put it on the servers already!!!

Bad-MuthaAdebis

#4

Bad-MuthaAdebis said:

Yeah, I'm not impressed when a game is released late afternoon. Shame about this game, I was expecting a little more

Shellybird27

#5

Shellybird27 said:

I don't understand, how could it get a lower score, just because they released it onPS4? Didn't people want this?

banacheck

#6

banacheck said:

Dead Nation for me is easily an 8/10 it's a top down survival horror game, hence the limited supplies & limited flashlight over a twin stick shooter like Super Stardust HD.

BetweenTheTrees

#7

BetweenTheTrees said:

It's just a review. His opinion. it came from past gen to current, he was expecting more, it didn't deliver that much more, that's why it got a six.

KillTheG1mp

#8

KillTheG1mp said:

Standby mode is a blessing from the gods! I started the download from my phone while I'm at work. Will be able to play it when I get home! So eager to try this as I never owned a PS3!

-CraZed-

#11

-CraZed- said:

Sammy I have to say I usually agree with your reviews but this time I think may have taken a powershot to the dome m8. This game is at least an 8/10. The core gameplay is brilliant and in no way forces you to just use the main rifle.
Sure, mastering the powershot and aiming ( it works really well for me) gives you the best weapon in the game but there are plenty of situations where using another weapon works as well or better.
It's the zombie apocalypse Sammy! Ammo would be tight and you can buy enough to get through ANY of the stages. Just few of the many nitpicks of the review. Let's just say...

I loved this game on PS3 and I am loving it on PS4 just as much. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go play my 6/10 zombie apocalypse, twin stick, survival horror, shooter game.

Shaolin

#12

Shaolin said:

Yes I'm in agreement with a lot of the other commenters - 6 out of 10 is a tad bit on the low side. I do understand that reviews are like personal opinions but Sammy's seems to be very out of step with public opinion here. I know it might sound dumb of me to say this but I really do suspect that Sammy wasn't very good at aiming or making measured use of the sprint and it evidently frustrated him. I find that completely understandable because we've all been there (particularly myself) but make no mistake Dead Nation's controls definitely reward a skilful hand and even I myself went from feeling frustrated at the start all the way to scoring in the global top 100 at one time.

It's a great, atmospheric little game that has the look and feel of an 80s John Carpenter movie (mainly because of the music) and has a solid campaign for both single player and 2-player coop (impressively including the increasingly rare local or so-called couch coop). In the realm of cheap downloadable PSN games I score this 9/10 (and that's in my humble opinion).

Wesker

#13

Wesker said:

I agree with Sammy's score, but the fact that gamers seem to have such compelling reasons to defend it heartens me. I'm going to give it a real go and play it seriously.

get2sammybAdmin

#15

get2sammyb said:

@Shaolin @-CraZed- Thanks for the long, considered responses. I'm glad you guys are enjoying it. The only thing I'd counter is that 6/10 is considered 'Not Bad' on our review scale, so I certainly didn't hate the game - I just feel that the arcade gameplay doesn't quite work with the survival horror themes. It's great to have some opposing opinions, though! :D

TasukiStaff

#16

Tasuki said:

I still want to give this game a chance. The control scheme along with the view reminds me of the arcade game Smash TV that I use to play back in the mid 90's, also I think this is something that my son will enjoy playing with me.

@get2sammyb: Great review really answered alot of my questions and it made me aware of some of the low points of this game, that way I wont be caught off guard by them.

Vorlon

#17

Vorlon said:

It's the nature of reviews, but this seems a very subjective score. This game deserves more. Plus, it's free!

kosmonaught

#18

kosmonaught said:

A great arcade without having to put quarters and supports saving to boot.

Having played through many zombie games and what not, this is one of those fun ones were you are required to pace through your weapons depending on the situation in conjunction with your defensive equipment.

This game was fantastic on the ps3 and remains just as good on the PS4.

Personal opinions are always welcomed, but reading the review I personally think this is not the kind of game for the reviewer and was judged based on the user's lack of adaptation to the game's mechanics and its offerings.

Other than that good review m8, as you voiced well your likes and dis-likes.

Squiggle55

#20

Squiggle55 said:

For me it's more like a 7 I guess. Actually very fun, especially considering it was free which is always great. And like Sammy said, the broadcast+ feature is actually a VERY cool glimpse at what the PS4 can do with interacting in games. I love that feature.

Visiblemode

#21

Visiblemode said:

@banacheck my punctuation was confusing, but I was agreeing with you: "yeah man" and disagreeing with the review being a 6: "6?....way low imo."

Gamer83

#23

Gamer83 said:

Nice review Sammy. When I'm playing this game there are times I feel like I should hate it, as it has a lot of flaws, the biggest being the controls, but there is something enjoyable and high addicting about the game that I can't stop playing it. Never really gave the game a chance on PS3 but with this being free thanks to Plus figures 'what the hell?' Glad I downloaded it, it's a nice little time waster.

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