The Best of PSN, XBLA and eShop: Dead Nation

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chris-littlechild - May 9, 2012

In another attempt to remedy the fact that blockbuster titles get all the media coverage, (like the voracious attention-devouring bastards they are) I'm going to introduce some games from the download services of the consoles. These tantalising hors d'oeuvres are just as worthy as the latest retail title. (You know how it is, the weird little shrimp cracker things and rolls and whatnot taste so good, you eat about thirty thousand of the damn things. You're then too much of a fatass for the now rendered entirely moot main meal. Like contended big cats at the zoo, you've been glutted and don't need to bother getting off your ass. I know this to be actual fact, because I've been several times and the bastards didn't so much as scratch their balls. I fear a taxidermist had been at them, ramming reams of papier maché up their asses or whatever it is they do.) Before this metaphor gets extended further than a pained prisoner on the rack, let's get to PSN's 2010 release, Dead Nation.

You follow the story of Jack McReady or Scarlett Blake (or indeed both if you've got some co-op shenanigans going on). The narrative begins one year into a catastrophic virus outbreak, which has left much of the population lumbering moronically around as our ubiquitous gaming friends, the zombies. (Great to see you guys! It must've beenalmost four secondssince you showed up in a game. I was getting worried for a moment there.) Via the less-than-sexy strategic move of letting one of these rotting bastards chew on a finger or two, they find that they seem to be immune to the infection. By this point, food supplies have diminished and the last barricade has been torn down. It's not made clear just what constitutes a barricade here. Had they constructed a rather fine fortified castle, complete with moat and drawbridge? Finally falling, after a month-long stakeout, with the aid of zombie siege towers constructed by remarkably deft zombie builders? I zombie doubt it. My guess would be more a door wedged sideways in an alley that reeks of piss. The important thing is, the undead are now on the threshold. And they aren't knocking politely, asking to borrow sugar, or inquiring after a misdelivered parcel. Balls to those neighbourly pursuits, they want to eat your face. Having heard a mysterious transmission from a doctor in a secret laboratory, they set out in hope of the vague chance of a cure. Grabbing a cake or two as they go, naturally. Forget the ravening hordes, you just ate the last biscuit.

So, an admirable attempt at a storyline, if a little half-assed. It's all fairly conventional, to be frank. The whole setup is as you'd expect from the myriad of arcade shooters with a undead twist available. ( I'll concede, a twist with the impact of the Incredible Hulk opening a water bottle this in not.) Right down to the weaponry on offer. A machine gun, a shotgun and a flamethrower are all present and correct. These seem to be the standard issue for anyone seeking to bring these leprous fiends to a more lasting end. If there's a checklist of such tedious clichéd crap, you may consider it completed. Indeed, the teacher has marked it with a smiley face, and awarded the developers a gold star. The Blade Cannon aside, I must hastily stress. This abomination is quite a sight. Imagine, if you will, one of those shell-launching bastards you see in horrific World War One documentaries. Further, imagine it propelling about a tonne of pure decapitation at your assailants. (by blade, they're seemingly referring to the sort of metallic monstrosity Arnold Schwarzenegger might use to cut his table-sized steak. Not that he'd need to bother with the rigmarole of steak. Simply skewering the cow on the end of the bigass pointy thing in question, then swallowing it whole, would be more his style.)

In sum, one rather funky wtf a sword just flew towards me! Damn you laws of physics, why have you forsaken me? gun, everything else looking like a tiresome miasma of old ideas. What elevates Dead Nation from the sucktacular sewer where so many such titles are festering is the sheer balls-out panache it's festooned with. The production values involved are astronomical (Avert your eyes, hyperbole-averse!). It greets you with a menu screen set up to resemble one of those scrolling dealies they have on news shows. From here, there's a statistics screen revealing all kinds of titbits. A breakdown of which country has wiped out the most infected, and the most prolific individuals therein. It's created as though the outbreak is real, resembling a remarkably professional internet hoax. (The effect, then, is something like: spaghetti grows from trees, and is harvested by hairy farmers with rampant body odour issues? That's clearly balls. But the photos look so damn real, I'll believe this hokum regardless.) The game is just put together so assuredly. The fantastic lighting effects contribute magnificently to the atmosphere of isolation. It's the perfect aesthetic for this tenebrous title, combined with a wonderful scoring and upgrade system for your arsenal and armour alike. A definitive mocking anything you can do, I can doso muchbetter (and accompanying obscene hand gesture) from creator Housemarque.

Fans of great gaming experiences and/or utterly shit music will be sure to revel in this introduction to Dead Nation:

Article by Chris Littlechild

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