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State of Decay: Lifeline Expansion Review
Picture the typical Hollywood movie scenario: a zombie apocalypse, a military hero comes barging in, her radio barks about finding a doctor who may hold the cure to the zombie plague.
Picture the scenario in Lifeline: the same military hero, running out of bullets shooting zombies off the safe haven’s fence, turning to see the “last hope” doctor being torn in half by a giant mutated zombie. Literally torn in half: the zombie with one hand on head, one hand on foot, yanking the good doctor apart.
Lifeline is part of the original State of Decay release; that is to say, it’s still the stuttery, mediocrely voice-acted, at times PS2-game-looking beast which graced our consoles more than a year ago (we know these issues are mostly due to Microsoft’s arbitrary 2GB game size for downloadable games). Yet for all of Lifeline’s disappointing aspects, the core experience of being a group of survivors under tense, genuinely life threatening pressure holds the thing together. This is something you literally cannot get from any other zombie game.
A big disappointment for me, despite the wealth of the stressful zombie experience, was the map size.
Lifeline promises a new map for State of Decay, something the fans have been demanding since they first announced expansions for the game. Not only does Lifeline promise a new map, but it promises an entire city, which sounds exciting when you consider the original’s smattering of towns and countryside.
However, Lifeline’s city is simply not enough. Indeed, you cannot enter the city in question: gameplay is relegated to the bypass and suburbs which circle the dense urban area. Stray too close to the city center and you will be accosted by hordes of zombies, and once you get into the square mile of the map’s middle, you’ll find you can no longer proceed thanks to unopenable gates and high walls.
The same issue pervades the entire map, all the way to the local area around your homebase. Several warehouses right next to the base are totally locked off, undermining what UndeadLabs achieved so perfectly in State of Decay and making the experience feel more like a PS2 game than ever. In the vanilla game, every building is explorable, every space traversable, the whole map one open, continuous area.
In Lifeline, you’re relegated to disappointing, broadly similar looking sub-urban and industrial ‘hoods.
Which is a pity, because in terms of core gameplay stuff, Lifeline fixes many of State of Decay‘s original problems.
The new expansion is harder: moments like my opener above are fairly frequent in the brilliant Siege events. You really have to plan for a Siege to happen at any time, though they are fairly regular. While they’ve made surivival appropriately more difficult, general gameplay has been made more straightforward and smooth. Players can now load trucks and cars with goods, which prevents immersion breaking “why the heck can’t I load the flatbed” moments. Lifeline also features a new cross-character progression system where friendly survivors only become playable once they have accompanied you (or you them) on a couple of missions.
In essence, Lifeline makes several strong steps forward for the series, but the lack of a good map or good story progression holds the carnivorous lunatic from getting it’s teeth right into your soft, slimy brain.