Review: Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition (PS4)

Mar 12, 2014

When Dead Nation originally released for the PlayStation 3 back in late 2010, I didn’t play it.  Later, when it went free on PlayStation Plus, I downloaded it and gave it a try.  I loved the premise, but just couldn’t get into it.  Something about the controls and having a bit of difficulty seeing what was happening on my 23″ monitor (I was living in South Korea and my apartment wouldn’t accommodate a screen any larger).  I promptly deleted it.

Fast forward three years and Housemarque’s top-down shoot ’em up is announced to release on the PlayStation 4 with a fresh coat of paint and all of the DLC bundled-in.  Not only is it getting touched-up and slightly beefier, but it also was announced that the title would be free to PlayStation Plus members day one.  Even for a three-year-old game that I didn’t really get into the first time, it would be really difficult for me to pass this one up.

I’m so damn glad that I didn’t.

The biggest difference, for me at least, are the visuals.  The resolution seems to have been increased and the colors appear to pop more.  The game also runs better on the next generation console.  This is all great since the attention to detail throughout the various environments and the amount of zombies onscreen is impressive.  One of the things that really impressed me was each zombie’s reaction to being hit by your bullets and losing limbs or chunks before finally falling to your onslaught.  Another little detail that I loved was watching the bodies pile up as you wreaked havoc in an open parking lot or funneling your enemies into alleyways before mowing them down.  In case you hadn’t picked up on this yet: this game is rated M for violence and gore, which it displays frequently but quite impressively.

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Not only does the game look much better (especially on my much larger television in my American-sized gaming area) but it controls like a dream.  Those controls are what make this game.  Moving with the left stick and aiming with the right feels obviously natural and the DualShock 4 feels leaps and bounds better than its cramped predecessor.  You know what else feels good?  The firepower…

You play as either Jack McReady or Scarlett Blake (or both if you pair up with a friend online or on the couch), who are seemingly the only two people immune to the recent zombie virus breakout.  The weapons that Jack and Scarlett have at their disposal (for a slight fee at a frequent store) feel varied and all are a blast to use.  While there are some more exotic weapons that are unlockable mid- to late-game, my favorites were the usual suspects in zombie media: a rifle, a SMG, a shotgun, and a flamethrower.  While you start with the rifle (which has infinite ammo, by the way) you are quickly able to buy new weapons during mission checkpoints with money that you can loot from the trunks of cars and chests.  Your money is also used to upgrade your weapons and items such as grenades, flares, and landmines.  Strategy must be utilized late-game when you have to allocate funds rather than just beef up your armory.

Also scattered throughout the environment are chests containing different armor pieces.  You can collect several versions of armor for your character’s arms, torso, and legs.  The armors modify three different attributes of your character: strength, endurance, and speed.  My preferred armor configuration stressed endurance and speed.


While on the subject of speed, I completed the twelve varied stages on Normal difficulty in five hours and twenty minutes.  Still, there are a plethora of different difficulty levels that will keep me challenged and coming back to slaughter more zombies for many more hours.

Along with the twelve solo or co-op campaign levels, there are also Arcade mode and Endless mode.  Arcade mode challenges you or you and a friend to survive 6 stages of increasing difficulty.  Endless mode is, essentially, Arcade mode but the stages continue until you are killed.  These modes, just like the campaign, are all scored and the game does a great job of encouraging you to better the scores that you or your friends post.  There is also an option to send a challenge to a friend after completing a run.

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Of course there’s also the option to play any of the game modes cooperatively online or couch co-op.  I only played a few times online, but the times that I did play I noticed a bit of a slowdown (perhaps due to my shoddy internet speeds) and I didn’t notice an increase in zombies on screen.  Since you are able to choose difficulty at the outset, adding another player doesn’t seem to increase the difficulty by default either.  Still, I can’t help but feel like playing with a friend and watching each other mow down impressive waves of zombies is still great fun.  I was not able to try out couch co-op, which I would certainly prefer over online play.

Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition on PS4 is well worth your time.  Currently, the title is being given away to PlayStation Plus members for free which is a great bargain and perhaps reason enough to subscribe if you already don’t.  My disinterest in the original release for PS3 almost kept me from giving this updated version a shot.  But once I did I didn’t look back until I had completed the campaign at which point I realized what a good time I was having.  If you own a PS4, this is exactly the thing that can keep you occupied on your next generation console until MGS V: Ground Zeroes or inFamous: Second Son.  And when those long-anticipated titles come and go, it very well might be a fun game to go back to.  I highly recommend it.

(Please note that, while I experienced no technological issues while playing solo and was only disconnected from multiplayer once, there were a few people on Twitter who told me that the PS4 version was unplayable for them.  If I encounter any such issues I will update the review to reflect this at a later time. -Kenney)