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Dead Nation: Road to Devastation [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

Dead Nation: Road to Devastation is what more DLC add-ons should be – simple, to the point and cheap to buy.  Now focusing on a round based branching path adventure, Road to Devastation adds a wee bit of strategy to the Dead Nation experience as it allows gamers to somewhat tailor their zombie killing experience.  Even without the addition of any major new weapons or enemy types, Road to Devastation is DLC that’s worthy of forking your cash over since it’s well made and adds tremendously upon the base product.

The Pros: 

+ Branching paths add a lot to the game and offer a nice amount of variety amongst each other.

+ Multi-kill score mechanic is nice and further adds an arcade dimension to the game.

+ Level variety may not be that different compared to what Dead Nation already offered us, but there are still a lot of cool set-piece moments in the game.


 

The Cons: 

- Not being able to save in between rounds and having to restart upon dying is a pain.

- Would’ve preferred if level variety (art design, setting) was handled better.


 

ShogunGamer.com Rating : 
8

The ever continuing zombie fad may be something that is further drawing the ire of gamers and people in general, but every now and then we do get a gem out of whatever undead mayhem surfaces.  There still is definitely an easy route that video game developers can take with their undead action but for some reason Dead Nation just clicked with people. At first it seemed like the game had two strikes against itself seeing as how it’s a twin-stick shooter and a zombie game that doesn’t have the name Resident Evil bandied about anywhere. But as gamers saw nearly a year ago, Dead Nation proved to be a thrilling title that was easy to get into but at the same time required a bit of skill and strategy since taking on 60 zombies + a mutated beastie isn’t an easy thing to overcome.  The zombie battles of Dead Nation seemed to be done but now developer Housemarque has returned with Dead Nation: Road to Devastation, a new mini-adventure that is fun but at the same time may make you wish the undead would just stay dead for once.

Dead Nation: Road to Devastation is an interesting extension to the core Dead Nation adventure for a few reasons, the major of which is that it isn’t a sprawling adventure.  Compared to the core Dead Nation campaign, Road to Devastation is a mini-adventure of sorts, somewhat comparable to a quick two-part mini-series on TV – you get some goodness but it isn’t as vast as a full-fledged series.  The somewhat bite-sized direction Housemarque has taken with Road to Devastation definitely isn’t a bad thing since the campaign has a lot to offer and in some ways injects some energy into the core Dead Nation experience. So if you’re like me and haven’t slayed any zombies in the last few months to up your nation’s status on the global rankings, then prepare for something that isn’t going to feel like another retread or a mere scenario revision since Road to Devastation brings the goods.

The basic formula of Road to Devastation doesn’t differ that much from what gamers already experienced with Dead Nation. I still had the choice of playing as the sunglass wearing Jack McReady or the somewhat sultry looking Scarlet Blake. But instead of going through a journey that had me traveling to gas stations or abandoned buildings in the hopes of finding salvation or needed supplies, Road to Devastation allows gamers to choose their own path in a way.  Taking a round based approach with the game, Road of Devastation allows gamers to pick from three paths at the start of a round and then subsequently choose sub-paths to upgrade their character. Right off the bat I had to decide if my character (I always went with Jack since wearing sunglasses at night is epic) would go with the Guns and Support Items route, the Health and Money route, or the Armor and Score route. Each route in the game took me along a completely different section of Dead Nation’s apocalyptic city complete with different enemy encounters and of course bonus items.  

Having the different paths in the game may sound like a simple thing to do to spice up variety, but there is a lot to take into account when choosing the first path and what to follow it up with.  Should I go with the Guns and Support Items route to bolster my arsenal and stock up on items or should I think about the big picture and maybe stock up on cash so I can have enough to finance my dreams of having a fully upgraded assault rifle?  A quasi RPG aspect hasn’t suddenly been added to Dead Nation as the upgrade system is the same as it was in the core campaign, but having the multiple paths does deepen the experience, not only because each stage is vastly different but because it will make the overall experience a bit more manageable – or at least as manageable as fighting mass hordes of the undead can be.

A quick segment of one of them any paths that can be taken in Dead Nation: Road to Devastation.

Stocking up on XP Points or picking up additional ammo or flares doesn’t make Road to Devastation a simple collect-a-thon since the game still has the same brutal difficult challenge that made Dead Nation so much fun – except this time it’s ramped up.  While standard enemies aren’t that much of a hassle they do over time and with each round become more difficulty to put down due to sheer numbers or the addition of a beastie or two.  Having my weapons upgraded and having acquired weapons such as the shotgun from a weapons locker did lessen my immediate stress, but having an enemy drop capsule fall on top of me is something that I won’t live down for quite a while.  Just like the core Dead Nation experience, Road to Devastation doesn’t feel cheap in what it throws your way and the burden of being a zombie slayer is of course alleviated through some good old fashioned co-op action.

 The big problem I had with Road to Devastation is that if I died then that’s it – Game Over to the max since my journey was over no matter what stage I was at.  Upon dying in Road to Devastation I literally had to start from scratch and whatever stats or weapons I accumulated were all but a memory. In a way having to start from square 1 does encourage gamers to try different paths and strategies, but it does feel a bit damning at times since playing by myself and being at stage 3 only to die made me want to take a break for a while instead of delving back into things immediately.  The whole Game Over thing may sound like a pity argument since it in a way represents the core tenements of arcade gaming, which applies to Dead Nation since it’s arcade centric, but it’s something that I think may make people give up instead of trying to persevere against the zombie apocalypse.

Housemarque hasn’t done much to change the style of Dead Nation since the game still presents a dark and grim world that is detailed and moody. As much as seeing a level set in daylight would’ve been or perhaps one with weather effects (zombies in snow would’ve been epic), there is a bit of scenery changing thanks to interactive foliage.  As we all know by flicks such as “I Am Legend” once humanity is all but a memory nature will reclaim what we call home and Road of Devastation represents that through a stage almost entirely swarmed by plants.  Besides being pretty to look at, the foliage in Road to Devastation does give the game a slightly claustrophobic vibe, even if I could cut down some plants and make a path for myself. To me, there was just something eerie and cool about seeing some plants rustle and a flock of zombies suddenly come out as opposed to seeing a couple suddenly come out of a sewer.  The levels offered in Road to Devastation in general aren’t that different from what Dead Nation veterans should be familiar with but one thing worth noting is that they aren’t that long and they do feature some nice action beats, one of which involved me turning on an electrified fence to get a mass zombie multikill.

Dead Nation: Road to Devastation may not offer a mass story based campaign, but it does offer more enjoyable zombie action that’s bolstered by a nice amount of player choice.  At times Road to Devastation does feel like it’s trying to completely crush your heart since dying resets everything, but the game is still fun and new additions like improved zombie kill scoring makes the game more engaging.  Those who have already clocked in more than twenty hours with Dead Nation should check out Road to Devastation since it once again proves that killing zombies can indeed be fun even if the road to doing such a thing may be paved with difficulty.


A review copy of this game was supplied by the publisher.


 

Dead Nation: Road to Devastation
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Housemarque
Platforms: PlayStation 3 (PSN exclusive)
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Price: $3.99