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State of Decay is a zombie apocalypse simulator that mercilessly pits players against the zombie infestation of Trumbull County. As expected managing life in the zombie apocalypse is not easy.

 The white knuckled fear of the apocalypse is captured by the constant threat of dwindling supplies and a needed errand run including a face off with a feral zombie.

State of Decay uses gaming conventions to relay the harrowing life of living alongside belligerent zombies. Character death is permanent and time travel via reloaded saves is not possible due to the auto save feature. Rather than playing one hero , who suddenly becomes a melee fighting expert and a sharpshooter nearly all of the characters are playable with individual strengths, weaknesses, and descriptive traits that make the character human without impacting their chance of survival.

 

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The game’s inhabitants are vulnerable to the human frailties of becoming tired and weak without rest. Sleeping is not a quick health restoration but is necessary because chugging coffee and popping pills for staying awake is a short lasting fix. But the zombies are not limited to human weaknesses and do not sleep, the player trades out one character for another who may or may not be ready to continue fighting. Early in the game, the player has few supplies and no influence (which is a currency needed for asking for help) to ask a character to assist in a mission or help scavenging for supplies. However, the player has a multitude of requests for help from killing special zombie types to finding medicine to rescuing strangers. Not all missions await the player’s arrival. While time passes and the player is engaged elsewhere, the other survivors either succeed without the player’s assistance…or don’t.

Personality traits for each character translates into attributes accompanied with consequences such as “Natural Athlete (physical powerhouse)” and “Total Lush (improves wits slowly).” While characters have preset personalities, the player controls their well-being. The story is not the game’s highlight, its missions are not particularly engrossing. The emotional pull is that you, the player, is caring for their world and meeting their needs. I am reminded of my Oregon Trail playing days when I apologized to my little sister when the character that I named after her became sick from starvation.

 

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In video game accessibility, we discuss our access into the gameplay but the other component is disability representation in gaming. Most often, video games are set in fantasy worlds where disabilities are transformed into superpowers with technology or magic. State of Decay is set in the real world, albeit with zombies. Small details such as handicap accessible parking spaces in the parking lots of buildings, the presence of crutches (granted for use as a weapon) and character traits including “Asthma Attacks – running sucks (improves cardio slowly)” reference the disabled survivors that are also contending with zombies as neighbors. When your friends plot their zombie apocalypse plans do you wonder about your disability’s impact on your role? On your need for ongoing supplies for disability related equipment? The periphery of the story addresses these thoughts and as a disabled gamer, after the story finished, I remembered the game.

Combat is satisfying when it works well but State of Decay has its bugs. Characters walk through doors, buildings are not cleared until the zombie half submerged in the floor is dead, and zombies phase into seemingly secure areas such as fenced areas that are topped with barbed wire.

 

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Nevertheless, State of Decay made me a believer for mowing down zombies with vehicles. Vehicles are the game’s secret weapon and car driving is essential. My initial driving experience led to me careening off of the road with slight analog stick movements. Cars breakdown to the point of becoming unusable after too many collisions and I abandoned smoking vehicles in quick succession during my early car rides.

Note that this review is based on the Xbox 360 edition of State of Decay. The game is also released on PC which was patched to include remappable keys. On the Xbox 360 controller, the analog stick controls are sensitive. Overall, under settings, the controller options are “Invert X-Axis,” “Invert the Y-Axis,” on or off for “Controller Vibration” and for adjusting the “Controller Sensitivity.” While Controller Sensitivity may be turned down, the vehicle controls and character movement requires finesse.

Combat is straightforward. For hand to hand combat, the face buttons are for melee attacks, dodges, pushing enemies away, and jumping. Special combat moves include the left bumper and the Y face button for a finishing move on a downed enemy and when grabbed by a zombie pressing B repeatedly is required to shove the zombie away. For ranged combat, shooting requires holding in the left trigger, aiming with the right analog stick, and firing with pressing the right trigger. There is no in-game pause. Perusing the map or cycling through inventory is in a living world. During combat, weapons break which requires navigating menus quickly to equip a new weapon while zombies attack.

Overall, for fine motor disabilities the game is largely inaccessible on the Xbox 360 due to the complex controls with no ability to remap controls to meet disability related needs.

 

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For visual disabilities, State of Decay presents obstacles. In State of Decay the day/night cycle is a critical component of gameplay that requires gameplay with dark lighting coupled with bugs such as the late pop up of objects and difficulty with precise controls. For addressing the nighttime gaming, the player turns on a flashlight or a vehicle’s headlights without a corresponding draining battery and the glowing eyes of zombies is a usual giveaway to their presence.

The in-game menu’s text and icons are often small and a cramped font. Another byproduct of no in-game pause is difficulty reading the text while the zombies are closing in whether checking the map while driving or selecting equipment during combat. The player surveys the map by climbing to a high point and centering a reticle on question marks which transforms the question mark into a label on the map such as “Pharmacy” or “House.” If the player is not carrying a firearm, the reticle is a single white dot that is difficult to see against a detailed environment. On the map, icons and text are dense and zooming in is limited. Differentiating between icons and reading needed text is often problematic.

 

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For deaf and hard of hearing gamers, the game includes subtitles. There are no rendered cut scenes resulting in all dialogue occurring with in-game assets and during gameplay. Even without an opaque black background for the text, the subtitles remain readable while simultaneously engaged in gameplay which is a unique feat. The only concern is that achievement notifications appear nearly instantaneously while the dialogue continues. Multiple times an achievement notification appeared directly on top of the subtitles obscuring the view with no ability to replay the text.

State of Decay presents accessibility barriers for fine motor and visual disabilities while being mostly accessible for deaf and hard of hearing gamers. On Xbox Live Arcade a free demo allows disabled gamers hands on experience. Undead Labs, the developer, remains open to feedback for disabled gamers who have suggestions for more accessible gameplay on either Xbox 360 or PC platform.

 

Overall Rating: Partially Accessible

Visual Rating: Partially Accessible

Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible 

Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Released For: Xbox 360, PC

ESRB Rating: M

GameInformer Score: 7.00

 

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The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: State of Decay

Disability Pros Cons
Visual

– Typical zombies’ eyes glow to identify zombies when hidden in environment.

– Flashlight or headlights have unlimited power. 

Nighttime environments difficult to see.

– Text and icons for the menus and maps are small and cramped.

 

 

Fine Motor

General combat strategy of push and a finisher sufficient for battles against typical zombies.

– Controls sensitive for directing characters and steering cars.
– Minimal controller customization on Xbox 360.
– Menu navigation during combat requires quick input because zombies continue attacking while in menus.

Auditory

– Subtitles are included and are remain readable against a wide variety of environments.
– Some auditory cues shown visually such as all characters become incapcitated when Screamer screams.

No audio cues in subtitles to communicate during combat the sounds of approaching zombies such as growls, screams, and broken glass.

– Subtitles sometimes blocked by achievement notification on Xbox 360.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall Rating: Partially Accessible

Visual Rating: Partially Accessible

Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible 

Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Released For: Xbox 360, PC

ESRB Rating: M

GameInformer Score: 7.00

 

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @dagersystem. 

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