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State of Decay: Lifeline Preview – Danger Close
In hindsight, firing the grenade launcher into the horde of zombies was maybe not such a great idea.
I’d taken a fellow officer to try and find more soldiers that had gotten separated and left for dead in this shithole. The city that was once Danforth was teeming with the dead, but we were careful to stay just outside of the red zone. We’d found a pair of hollow-eyed but still living soldiers near the old police station.
Night had fallen, quicker than I anticipated, so we took some time looting the gun racks and ammo cabinets. I heard a throaty chuckle and turned around to find Kilo hefting a god damn grenade launcher, a wild gleam in his eye. The ever present background noise of clawing and moaning was steadily getting louder, and we could see a horde of over a dozen zombies shuffling along the road just outside. I’m not sure I’ve ever fancied myself an action hero, or if I was just angry, but I grabbed the weapon, ran outside, and fired it right when they turned to face me.
The results were equal parts devastating and satisfying, and set my ears to ringing. I had a moment’s respite before I realized just how loud and bright the explosion was. The howling soon drowned out the shouts of the men and women behind me.
They came from around the building, over the fences, falling from the overpass and pouring out of the city just a few streets away like a surging wave. We had only seconds to react before the faster ones were on us. Military training let us act as a unit, grappling them for swift and efficient melee executions. I was far better with an assault rifle than any baton, however, and time seemed to slow as I whipped around in a slow circle, exploding their impossibly squishy heads.
We cleared a way to the car behind us, though half a dozen circled it, daring us to approach. I tried not to appreciate the grim irony as we fell on them with unbridled rage, heedlessly tackling, swiping and kicking. One of our hopeful new recruits had her shoulder practically ripped out, but we ‘d made it to the car. I heard a scream and turned to find Kilo fall amongst a swarm of them several yards away. The car started behind me and I heard faint yelling.
Kilo found me and looked me straight in the eyes, his face a mask of animal terror. I blinked, loaded the final shell of the damn grenade launcher, and fired.
The new DLC for State of Decay, Lifeline, introduces a whole new area in the city of Danforth. Now if there’s anything zombie fiction has taught me, it’s to STAY AWAY FROM THE CITY. The new map acknowledges this by painting the entire city in a literal red zone. Stepping foot inside triggers the new mechanic of nonstop incoming zombies. It’s not a question of establishing a foothold or clearing an area – you get in, finish the mission, and get the hell out.
To give you an idea, one of the new achievements is to simply survive for two minutes in a red zone.
Lifeline’s story takes the opposite approach of the base game; you start off as a military trained soldier and a small crew of mostly ultimate badasses, loaded with guns, ammo and supplies. Your starting base is as large as the biggest homes in the base game, and you have access to several new building types (including a latrine, which begs the startling question – what were we using before?).
Your primary task in Lifeline is rescuing key personnel and extracting them. Bringing one back to your base results in a classic zombie survival scenario called a Siege, where the hordes continually assault your base until the chopper arrives. Even with several powerful air strikes, artillery barrages and minefields at your disposal it still manages to be a harrowing event.
Whereas in the base game you start with nothing and work your way toward establishing a home, allies and supplies, in Lifeline you start with everything. The focus nicely switches to more action and gunplay as you can safely stock up on ammo (with easy access to powerful new weapons) instead of worrying about constantly making supply runs. In fact, you can spend some Influence to call in Supply Drops to instantly receive more precious construction materials or medicine.
The sense of progression in Lifeline becomes more about surviving your mission; though your soldiers are more powerful and your base highly defensible the zombie hordes are much more relentless thanks to the new Threat Level mechanic. A Threat Level of one is normal, but fail to clear out hordes and infestations (or ignore the missions to rescue people) and the level will rise, causing an overall increase in zombie activity. Being out at night with a Threat Level of three will quickly motivate you to return to base with your tail between your legs.
Because of the high-powered soldiers and easy access to resources, Lifeline feels like a natural high level expansion to an RPG, and it’s an interesting design philosophy when applied to an open-world action game. Exploring a whole new location within the still incredibly fun State of Decay engine is a blast, and the new city and surrounding highway provide a much different feel than the fields and country roads in the base game. Lifeline should be able to provide even more hours of fun when it releases on May 30 (PC and Xbox 360) – just mind those grenades near the city.
For more State of Decay: Lifeline, watch our recorded Live Stream from May 29.