State of Decay: Lifeline is Undead Labs’ sadistic take on popular game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Of course, with the added proviso that if you get your question wrong, rather than walk away with nothing, you get the pleasure of being savagely torn apart by a slobbering feral zombie!
I’m lying. Obviously.
Partially to highlight how this expansion pack’s subtitle conjures visions of naff television. And not the systemic, mechanical and narrative complexity hard at work in Undead Labs second seven buck DLC. But mostly to emphasize that even when armed with an automatic weapon, those feral f**king dickheads are as relentless as my bank account’s steady march toward insolvency.
Hope that's one hell of a shooter, pal... Enlarge
Seriously, over the course of State of Decay, State of Decay: Breakdown and State of Decay: Lifeline only seven of my treasured companions died. And for every single one of those murders? A jumpy f**king feral asshole. Despite my thumb’s frantic bashing, I watched in grim resignation as my avatar was lifted bodily into one of those stinking f**k’s oversized jaws and ripped in two with the same guttural satisfaction you’d save for an especially disobedient Ikea flatpack!
Lifeline is more of the same from Undead Labs. For better. For worse.
And I don’t mean more driving, more gunplay, more survival, more strategy, more community building, more awesomely ambitious and delightfully detailed gaming. Because that was never going anywhere, thank the deity of your choice. I mean that same intriguing rhetoric, that same clever spin on survival horror, that same sharpness at zeroing in on the quirks that really piss off your face, even amid a zombie apocalypse.
Lifeline smartly bases itself within the military fold. Some exhausted militarisms aside, it shines an empathetic light on State of Decay’s principal antagonizers (not antagonists, those remain the mothef**king feral crapjerks!)
Sure, you still scramble for supplies, now usefully loading them into your car’s trunk. You also grab some squadmates for added firepower and rescue the most important survivor possible. Big picture, folks. And now you can even set firework traps and dig in to fend off exhausting zombie sieges.
But you also have to reassure your soldiers that said ‘Big Picture’ remains important, even now, while simultaneously convince townsfolk that you’ve not abandoned them. Like, entirely. Additionally, you must calm the frayed nerves of the battle weary before the next onslaught.
And that’s all while making your team better at running, fighting and shooting via in-game experience.
Lifeline, then, is more of the same thoughtful, considered gaming you’ve come to expect from the rather gifted team at Undead Labs.
It’s also packed to shit with bugs! More of the same.
It’s still ugly. It’s still laggy. It’s still glitchy.
I have some sympathy reserves here. Undead Labs is small and young.
But as a gamer who shares a home with something smaller and younger you can imagine how little patience I have for a DLC pack that halts my play with buggy AI or forces me to hard reset when a highly valued asset is too preoccupied with running into a wall than GETTING IN THE GODDAMN CAR!
I admire Undead Labs tremendously. They strike a near-perfect balance between conventional story-telling and in-play narrative progression. The wealth of ambition in their systems is only matched by their steadfast refusal to mollycoddle players. Because Lifeline, despite the ready access to high velocity ballistics, is bastard hard. And I admire that. Sometimes, no matter how much you bolster the ego of your best sniper, how many townsfolk you rescue, how stealthily you scavenge for raw materials, how efficiently you deliver bullet time silenced headshots or even how clean your latrine, your people are going to die.
From their wounds.
From suicide by Z.
From those f*cking Ferals and their stupid f*cking jumpy f*ck faces!
Like State of Decay before it, Lifeline once again hammers home just how sodding stressful it would be to survive in a maniac filled post-apocalyptic wasteland. Even for the protectors. Even for the well armed. And it does this not with showy set-pieces or higher resolutions or absurdly detailed character models. But just by using the auld noggin and thinking ‘what would an actual human do in this crap-fest of a situation?’
But State of Decay: Lifeline, with its stalls and glitches also wastes my time. And no matter how ambitious the concept, how shrewd the design, how thought provoking the residual themes, it still doesn’t mean I have more than 60 minutes to myself per day.
You’re already world class.
But fix that mucky code.