So this is what seasonal filler looks like.
We reviewed the original Dead Nation back in 2010, and Brendan handed out a very fair 6/10 score and made note of the fact that Housemarque's top-down Left 4 Dead rip-off was enjoyable but repetitive, made better by playing it with a chum. Zombies were enjoying something of a popular resurgence back then -- they've never fallen out of fashion, but there are pockets where the jadedness vanishes and they become hot property once more. But now, in a world four years on, the release of a super HD version of what was already a pretty derivative title, falls a little flat.
For those who missed it the first time around, Dead Nation is a fairly capable twin-stick shooter that sees players exploring a dingy, dark, post-apocalyptic urban space crawling with the undead, across ten stages of shadowy, score-attack action. Or should that be survival-horror? This was a problem that I had with the original game -- I never felt that the survival aspects married up particularly well with the rather more Housemarque-esque arcade, twin-stick action.
The game itself hasn't really changed much at all, so I won't rehash Brendan's review here. If you didn't get on with Dead Nation last time, there's little to get excited about here. But fans of the base game and PS4 owners desperate to squeeze every last drop out of that PlayStation Plus subscription will be pleased to know that the Road to Redemption DLC is thrown in here for the Apocalypse Edition, which adds in the Arcade and Endless modes for good measure, making the tradeoff between risk and reward even more important -- do you risk everything for a greater score, even if you're under-equipped? A new Challenge mode is also featured, allowing you to go head-to-head against your friends, beaming their avatars into your game for a spot of competitive action in order to boost your leaderboard position.
By far the best new addition, though, is Broadcast+. Essentially an in-game streaming service that lets you beam your gameplay across the world, Broadcast+ also allows for some meaningful interaction for spectators. There are thirty different gameplay modifiers that viewers can play with, tailoring your gaming experience to their whims and desires. It's a bit Hunger Games-esque, and it's an absolutely brilliant feature (in theory) that can see spectators removing ammo spawns, triggering horde appearances, and pulling some of the strings behind the player's experience. A good crowd can build up a cracking link between player and audience, and the more sadistic things become, the more hilarious it gets. It's a great feature, one that works really well, and I seriously hope that more games (better ones too) with variable elements take note of it.
The game doesn't look much better than it did three years ago, to be honest. You can tell that it's had a fresh coat of paint, and some of the lighting effects are a little sharper, but it's still a murky affair that goes a little too overboard with the shadows. At its best, Dead Nation succeeds in creating that sense of fear and dread, but to be honest that mainly comes from the fiddly gunplay and the appearance of two hordes at once. At its worst, you can barely see a thing, and that doesn't make things tense, it's just really annoying.
It's solid, at least, and it's pretty enjoyable with a friend (as most solid, twin-stick shooters are). The progression systems are still damn good, with power, rate-of-fire, clip size and overall capacity all upgradeable with cash. It's a game that encourages replayability and it does a good enough job of providing some pick-up-and-play entertainment.
But it's such blatant filler that I'm struggling to hold back my facepalm. The PS4 is still fresh and awesome and next-gen hype is still strong... and the best Sony can deliver to headline PlayStation Plus this month is a four year old game that's barely changed? It's a bit difficult reviewing DNAE because the freebie nature of PS+ almost seems to shield it from criticism to a certain extent, but a rehash cashgrab is what it is. Next-gen console owners are desperate for games, and this is certainly a game. On PS4. It's a PS4 game.
By rights, it ought to get a 5, but the Broadcast+ feature does elevate the game and it is a meaningful addition that changes the way you play. But it deserves a better platform than Dead Nation.
- Broadcast+ is a great idea
- It's free on PS Plus
- Good pick-up-and-play fun with a friend
- Better leaderboard integration
- Multiplayer limited to two players
- Pretty much the exact same game it was three years ago
- Defines the word "filler"
- Just because the PS4 is strapped for games doesn't make this better
The Short Version: Broadcast+ saves Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition from just being a bare bones rehash of a four year old game, but this is the first PS+ game to be attractive because it's free, not because it's a great game. Add a couple of points on if you really adored the first game, have some friends to challenge and don't have anything better to play.
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment