2010’s top-down zombie kill-‘em-up Dead Nation received a new lease of life as a result of the massive PSN hack that brought down the service last year. The game was offered for free as part of Sony’s ‘Welcome Back’ package and meant that the title’s user base swelled massively. Not missing a trick, developers Housemarque decided to release additional content for would-be zombie slayers to purchase – Road of Devastation.
The premise of Road of Devastation is delightfully simple. You (and your partner if co-op) escape from a laboratory and find yourself at a crossroads leading to three different roads. Each road offers different challenges, environments, perks and rewards and it’s up to you to discover which route is best to take to survive the never-ending, horde of brain eaters the longest.[drop]The crossroads form an integral part of your Road of Devastation playthrough. You’re given the option of three routes: Armour and Score, Health and Ammo and Guns and Secondary Weapons. However, this number is deceptive as each path splits again, giving you the choice of one of a possible six routes. As their namesakes suggest, each route offers a different bonus or upgrade. For example, picking the Armour route will allow you to grab a free armour upgrade from a vendor, whereas the Health route means enemies will drop health packs more frequently.
Once you select your road, you must attempt to survive hordes of the undead until you reach your goal. However there is a difference from the core game here, how many zombies you kill and how fast you take them out now holds a greater importance. You’ll notice the addition of a new skull timer in the top right of the screen, which indicates how many zombies you’ve killed per minute. When you reach the end of a round you’re given the option of opening chests with additional rewards such as health, money and score multipliers depending on what your kill-per-minute ratio is.
If you reach the end of your selected path, the game proceeds to dump you back at the laboratory you start from to repeat the process again and again until you’re finally slain. Enemies get stronger every round, so making intelligent decisions about which route to take will greatly influence your survival chances. Selecting to wander down the undead-packed Score route while low on health probably means that the zombies can make better use of your brain than you’ve managed to.
Housemarque has also added a few new bells and whistles in order to reinvigorate the zombie killing experience. Environmental tools such as electric generators and saws can be used to shock and slice up the undead horde respectively, and are satisfying to use if timed correctly. The best new addition, however, is an automated, targeting sentry-gun that may take all the hard work out of zombie-slaying, but is the essential weapon of choice in a pinch.[drop2]Dead Nation is built around high scores and Road to Devastation certainly is no different. Each of the routes can be comfortably completed in a relatively meagre 10-15 minutes, but Road of Devastation encourages you to come back and try to improve your score by rating you and your country against the world.
If high scores aren’t your cup of tea though then there’s little reason to go back once you’ve sampled the game’s six main areas. Although the environments are quite varied, once you’ve played through them the first time, very little changes on your next playthrough other than the strength and number of the undead menace.
- Addictive new high score system.
- Co-op experience as strong as ever.
- Surprising amount of depth.
- Single player lacking in fun factor.
- New areas quite short.
- More new weapons would have been welcome.
Road of Devastation provides an interesting take on the endless survival formula. It’s robust and there’s a large scope for replayability that will appeal to those continually wanting to better their score and survival rating. There’s definitely a couple of hours of fun here for everyone else, but the lack of new additions will fail to incentivise those who have already gunned-down enough zombies to last a lifetime.