Note: This review focuses specifically on the “upgraded” elements of the State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition. While the article still takes the fundamental gameplay qualities in consideration, the score primarily reflects developer Undead Labs’ additions and refinements to the base game. You can read our original State of Decay Xbox 360 review here.
When I reviewed the original State of Decay back in 2013, I praised it for its immersive world, creative gameplay mechanics and tremendous replay value. Despite the horrendous performance, State of Decay’s superb RPG elements overshadowed its technical shortcomings. While the PC port was a “slight” improvement, the announcement of a true next-gen HD update seemed like the developers were finally giving fans the definitive zombie sandbox experience. Sadly, State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition is one of the sloppiest HD remakes to date. If you thought the Xbox 360 version ran poorly, you have yet to experience the brokenness that is the Year-One Survival Edition. As with the original release, the FPS drops make the game barely playable. It’s a mess, and a technical embarrassment.
"Sadly, State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition is one of the sloppiest HD remakes to date."
And yet, the unparalleled RPG gameplay reigns supreme. Even when the FPS plummets to a mere slideshow, State of Decay is difficult to walk away from. In a way, I find myself re-experiencing the same combination of anger, frustration and utter joy as with the original. The Year-One Survival Editions comes with the base game, the Breakdown DLC, the Lifeline DLC, subtle cosmetic upgrades, new achievements, Game DVR, weapon add-ons and unlockable characters. As far as value goes, this is a fantastic package. In fact, if you’re new to the series and you own an Xbox One, State of Decay is definitely worth picking up despite its problems. Contrarily, fans hoping for a smoother experience are going to be devastated by developer Undead Labs’ inability to optimize their game.
Things look relatively promising during the opening minutes. The game performs smoothly, and the improved resolution, textures and lighting give the environments much needed depth and polish. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before the game starts falling apart. Once the first vehicle is entered, the game engine goes berserk. It’s identical to the stuttery mess of the original, and it’s mind boggling that the frame rate has not improved the slightest. Undead Labs may be a small developer, but this doesn’t excuse the amateurish programming.
"Don’t bother with the Xbox One version. If you have a halfway decent PC, it won’t take long before the Year-One Edition hits the $5 or less bin on Steam."
The unlocked frame not only results in constant jumps in performance, but the screen tearing rears its ugly head far too often. If the FPS isn’t dropping to single digits, the display fills with ugly tearing, making this “remake” hardly an improvement over the last-gen release. There are a few positives, however. The increased resolution and higher definition textures make playing during nighttime much more enjoyable. Previously, nighttime resulted in surroundings transforming into blobs of pure black, but the improved lighting portrays a notably more realistic presentation of darkness.
Everything else remains the same. This is still the exact same game that was released two years ago. Out of all the recent remakes, State of Decay is the one title that could have benefited from next-gen hardware, but instead it feels like a poorly repackaged cash-grab, only worthy of your time if you haven’t played the original release. To make matters worse, owners of the original are offered a mere 33% off until June 30th. This should have been a free update, period! Luckily, underneath all the raggedness lies one of the greatest zombie games ever made. The brilliance of the original hasn’t changed, and some may even consider the roughness part of the charm. Don’t bother with the Xbox One version, however. If you have a halfway decent PC, it won’t take long before the Year-One Edition hits the $5 or less bin on Steam. At least the PC version can be tweaked to run incomparably smoother.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox One