Best Protect Ya Flesh: Hands-on with PSN’s Dead Nation

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Are you among the mob of folks crying “enough with the zombies already”? Don’t bother reading any further.

Sure, the shambling, reanimated corpses of reanimated loves ones scrambling for brains has become this generations bald space marines. But when, like me, you’re a long time fan of the horror genre (modern zombie flicks in particular), who cares? While applying the phrase “the more the merrier” to a “real life” zombie apocalypse situation sounds like a recipe for human extinction, when it comes to games… bring it on!

So when Sony announced that it had employed Housemarque (the Finish studio behind the wonderful Super Stardust HD) to bring an undead shooter to PlayStation Network, I perked up. It’s called Dead Nation, and I went hands on with a pre-alpha build of the game at a recent Sony Holiday event in New York City.

It’s exactly what you’re expecting… if what you’re expecting is a twin-stick shooter that has you fighting for survival as you kill thousands of zombies while racking up points. What else?

The concept for Dead Nation is nothing new, the top-down twin-stick shooter done to death this generation, particularly when you look at the downloadable space. But it’s used time and again because it’s a simple control scheme that works, and Housemarque definitely made it work with Super Stardust HD.

So here’s the best way to describe Dead Nation — it’s all of the fun of Super Stardust with more gore, more juicy headshots, and 100% more zombies. Set in a post-apocalyptic urban world, players run around blasting the shit out of hordes of the living dead; Sony claims it’s “the most on-screen zombies in a videogame to date.”

Sure, I can’t verify it (I was too busy mowing the undead fuckers down with an SMG to count), it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. There literally are zombies everywhere. They crash through the front door of an abandoned convenience store, spilling out on to the street. They burst from manhole covers. They walk aimless on sidewalks, through alleys, through streets littered with waste and rundown vehicles.

As zombies usually do, they lunge at you — some fast, some slow — their only objective to tear you to bits. So you do what you must — shoot the shit out of them with everything at your disposable. In the demo I saw a rifle (with scope attachment), an SMG, hand grenades, mines, and more. Scattered about are exploding barrels, placed precariously throughout the city… for massive zombie holocaust-level explosions.

But even with al of your fire power, you’re bound to get overwhelmed. They’ll surround you, they’ll claw over one another to get to your flesh. Good thing there’s a melee attack, which can you use to push back the mobs of murderous undead. My favorite part of the melee attack? Hitting everything but the zombies — approach a piece of trash on the ground, melee it, and send it flying through the air with your boot. It’s the little things.

Weapons can also be upgrade, at various upgrade trucks found at in-game checkpoints. Money can be found all over the level, including when you open trunks of abandoned cars using your melee button. Because when the apocalypse comes, everyone knows banks will be the first things to go as people start piling their cash (all in coins) in the trunks of their cars.


Dead Nation will feature a single-player component as well as cooperative gameplay, which wasn’t playable at Sony’s event. I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that it’s a lot like playing it alone, but with another set of guns to help you take on the endless stream of undead. Sounds fine to me.

Of the three levels on display, the environments were wide and dynamic, with battles taking place on the roofs of buildings as well as in the streets. But of what was shown off, my only concern might be that things might get too “samey”; everything I was took place on an urban landscape, with similar landmarks and environmental objects. Sure, one can make the argument that once there is no more room in hell and the dead walk the Earth everything is going to fall to pieces across the board. But here’s to hoping that as the game opens up, Housemarque works in a little variation to keep things fresh.

Dead Nation hits PSN this Fall.


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