Dead Nation Hands-On Preview
Dead Nation box art
System: PS3
Dev: Housemarque
Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: November 30 2010
Players: 1-2
Screen Resolution: 720p - 1080p Blood and Gore, Violence
The only good zombie is a dead zombie
by James Trujillo

With zombie games being all the rage these days, it was only a matter of time before another one was added to the ranks. This time it was Finnish developers Housemarque who have been infected. With a history stemming from the Stardust franchise, a popular arcade-style shooter from back in the Amiga days, it was only natural they stick to their roots with their newest IP, Dead Nation.

Dead Nation screenshot

You might be thinking that another plot about a zombie apocalypse is redundant. Well, you’re right. During my play time through the demo, I didn’t see much you probably can’t already guess at. It’s been over a year since the outbreak; the main character is immune from the disease; and everyone he knows and loves is dead. Throw in some blood and gore, and there you have it. But, when was the last time you played an arcade game for its story? Those quarter-guzzlers were all about gameplay, and there is certainly no difference here.

This dual-stick shooter may not seem like it at first, but it can give you plenty of hectic moments when fending off its sneaky AI. Not only are the zombies plentiful in number, but they can launch surprise attacks from rooftops or charge from nowhere out of shadowy corners. It can get especially frantic when these ambushes happen during an oncoming zombie rush.


There are also ways to counteract these moments of impending doom. You can cause distractions that will keep zombies occupied at a moment’s notice, and even set a few traps. Setting off car alarms is one such way, and you can cause cars to explode if you unload enough bullets. Vending machines are also good for drawing away some unwanted attention, but destroying them also sacrifices the important health packs within. There seems to be quite a few strategies when surviving the zombie apocalypse, and snatching up some weapon upgrades will only increase your chances.

Dead Nation screenshot

Each zombie kill grants you a bit of cash to spend at your local weapon shops. These shops not only serve as a place to buy and upgrade weapons, but they also double as checkpoints for each level. You can purchase anything from shotguns and grenades to flame throwers and flares, along with various stat boosts like power, rate of fire, and clip size. You can also find large crates scattered throughout levels that contain armor upgrades. These armor pieces can be applied at shops to boost your strength, endurance, and agility. Depending on your play style, you can equip any number of armor combinations to suit your ever-changing needs.

I did get to spend a decent amount of time with the demo, but unfortunately none of it was with the game’s multiplayer features. Being that it’s an arcade-style shooter, this has to be where the game really shines. It fully supports both online and localized co-op for the campaign, but for some reason is absent of any other game types. It’s a shame, because this game is ripe with potential when it comes to multiplayer and seems to be begging for just a few more options.

Dead Nation screenshot

The graphics look decent, and the game has an isometric viewpoint that lends itself to more detailed backdrops. Cutscenes come in the form of voiced-over artwork panels, very similar to a comic-themed narrative, and the audio feels solid. The music doesn’t do much to add to the suspense, but it’s definitely not something that will hinder the experience either.

Dead Nation has the potential to be a very solid PSN release. The gameplay is fun, and the addition of a co-op partner (I would assume) can only make things that much better. If its success can warrant more additions to the multiplayer component, then the overall experience could be even stronger. Besides, no one wants to go through a zombie apocalypse alone, right?

If you’re the kind of person that latches onto story as the main draw for a game, then you should definitely look elsewhere. Even though I didn’t get to see many plot details, I can’t imagine that it would be worthy of a movie remake in the distant future. Also, if you’re not already a fan of dual-stick shooters, then the controls might take some adapting at the start. However, once you get through the initial adjustment stages, there are plenty of good times ahead. The release window is set for Q4 2010, so if this game isn’t already on your radar, then now is as good a time as any to take notice.

By James Trujillo
CCC Freelance Writer

Game Features:

  • Track your zombie kills with the daily online world map. This map aggregates the scores of players all around the globe and ranks you among the top zombie-killers in the world!
  • Face-off against the “smartest” zombies you’ve ever encountered. These zombies lurk in the shadows and perform surprise attacks, drop down from higher surroundings (buildings, balconies, etc.), and even try to grab you behind or through fences.
  • Experience the most on-screen zombies in a video game to date. If you spot one wandering zombie, it’s more than likely that thirty or more zombies are sure to follow.
  • Upgrade and expand your arsenal with the latest in zombie eradicating paraphernalia! Create a path of destruction with your devastating shotgun, or burn them to a crisp with a douse of your flame thrower!

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