Dead Nation Preview
You may be familiar with small developer Housemarque; they’re responsible for the excellent Super Stardust HD, which was one of the first top-quality downloadable titles available for the PSN. Well, they’ve got another one on the way; it’s called Dead Nation and after seeing it revealed at GamesCom this week, we can safely say it’s a bloody, entertaining mix of the old Hunter games and titles like Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead. For those of you who are avid PSN fans, you’ve probably had a shot at Burn Zombie Burn! but while the gameplay is similar, that was more about silly, crazy, Smash TV-like fun. This is equally fast-paced and over-the-top, but Dead Nation is darker, more atmospheric, and – as it appears – features more in the way of actual content. The premise is simple: a virus has spread across the earth, leaving scores of the walking undead, and you must progress from mission to mission, eliminating this disease-spreading scourge as you go.
In this standard dual analogue shooter, you move with the left stick and aim with the right; R1 will be used to fire and R3 will let you reload. R2 is reserved for deadly melee attacks when up-close-and-personal, and L1 switches to whatever secondary weapon you have at your disposal. The face buttons let you select any weapons you have accumulated, and those are displayed at the bottom of your screen in what we assume is a permanent HUD. Oh, and let’s not forget what may be an essential option; the dash, which will happen when you press L2. The key to all this is fluidity, as the player needs to feel as if the controls are both accessible and intuitive, and you’re not fighting to understand what should be a simple and straightforward gameplay mechanic. Obviously, this adventure will be all about reflexes and timing amidst constant swarms of baddies; you really don’t have time to grapple with a control system that is either awkward or clunky. That would be annoying.
The weapons will be appropriately effective and even downright nasty. We’ll have a few rifles, a SMG, shotgun, and of course, the always-amusing flamethrower, and let’s not forget about the various accessories, like grenades and mines. The best part is that we’ll be able to upgrade such weapons – and perhaps even our character(s) – at certain points throughout the game, so at no time will we grow tired of the weapon selection. Perhaps what is most striking about this particular title, though, is the atmosphere: it’s both dark and engaging; you always feel as if you’re the one being hunted (and in a way, you are), and there’s a damn good reason why you will come equipped with a flashlight. The game will also support local multiplayer so you and a friend can tear through the roving hordes, and we’re still waiting to hear if we’ll get the option of online multiplayer (but I wouldn’t count on it). We imagine it’ll be a boatload of fun with two players, anyway; a perfect rainy day activity for those who love a good zombie-slaying bloodfest.
Lastly, we focus on a very interesting aspect: as the Network will check your geographic location, Dead Nation will start you off in your own country of residence. Now, you will tackle the undead army in your country along with other fellow residents and the game will actually keep track of everyone’s progress. Essentially, you will all – perhaps unknowingly – cooperate to destroy the entire zombie invasion in your country; the statistics will be shown at all times so you can continue to watch how you and your invisible allies are faring. Of course, this leads us to an inevitable question: what happens when all the zombies are dead? Will more just keep coming and the entire country starts over? Well, either way; it’s a bad-ass idea. And we’ve also heard good things about the AI, as evidenced by a recent IGN hands-on session; the zombies are attracted to both light and sound and you won’t be facing only one type of enemy. Also, if you think you’ll only have to deal with shuffling, uncoordinated foes, think again…some of ‘em are even gonna have firearms! There’s a lot more to this game than you thought, huh?
Dead Nation doesn’t have a release date yet, but it is indeed exclusive to the PSN. We’ll let you know when Housemarque or SCE comes forward with an estimated launch period. Feel free to check out the game's debut trailer from GamesCom, too.
8/20/2009 Ben Dutka