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State of Decay 2 looks like it will be a lot of fun to play when it debuts on May 22. But it’s going to be easy to get lost in the open world of the zombie apocalypse.

It isn’t an easy game to write a preview for. I played it at a Microsoft event recently, where I just dropped into the Xbox One version and started fending for myself.

State of Decay 2 is a zombie apocalypse open world from Seattle-based developer Undead Labs, which is building it as an exclusive for Microsoft on the Windows PC and the Xbox One.

Above: Some of the zombies are quite dangerous.

Image Credit: Microsoft

I started out as a lone player inside human camp barricaded with wire fences and wooden defenses. I had a mission pop up on my interface that suggested I should go check out a report of a survivor in need of some help. I looked through my inventory and saw that I had a baseball bat and a pistol. I equipped the bat and ran out of the protected cage into the open.

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I went to the spot on my map that was marked with a question mark. But as I passed by a zombie, it heard me running and chased me. I had to stop and swing the baseball bat. That drew the attention of another zombie, who also charged. They were pretty fast, and I had to run out of there before that baseball bat party got too big. I found that I could outrun the zombies, or at least run until they exceeded the limits of their attention spans. So long as I didn’t run into a group of undead, I was OK.

I showed up at the storage building where a stranded person was hiding out. I gave her some ammo and she thanked me, and then I recruited her to join my group. I looked up my fellow survivors and found that I already had a bunch of people in it. As I took off back toward camp, my new follower joined me. She helped me take out the zombies along the way, but wasn’t very discreet about noise. That drew more zombies to us, as you attract more undead whenever you get noisy.

Above: Stalled cars can really put an end to your driving plans.

Image Credit: Microsoft

We made it back to the camp OK. I went on another mission and got another follower. We had to go to a safe house across the river. I was loaded up on supplies. I had an assault rifle, pistol, and baseball bat, and I picked up a backpack along the way.

This time, the mission was across the river. So we got into a pickup truck that was sitting outside our encampment. We hopped in and I drove. I ran over a bunch of zombies. One of the most enjoyable things about State of Decay 2 is running over zombies with your car.

The only trouble is that you can damage your car if you run over too many of them. This became a bit of a problem for me. But if you just brush past them, either you or your passenger will open the door at just the right moment, and the door will slam into the zombie. That protects the front of your car from getting any damage.

Still, I had  some trouble, as there were a lot of abandoned cars on the road, especially near the bridge. I had to back up and maneuver to get through them, and that drew a bunch of zombies who grabbed onto our car. I had to drive erratically to throw them from the car, and that damaged my vehicle. I also had to watch out for zombies that exploded and damaged by car or immersed me in a fog of green gas. If enough of these annoyances catch up with you, you can die.

Eventually, I made it to the mission location, which had a cache for storing stuff but not much loot of its own. It sort of made me wonder what the whole point was. I would have been better off staying at home and building up my base. This is, after all, a survival fantasy where it pays to harden your base against the hordes that will inevitably come attack you.

That is, in fact, what the horde did. While I was busy doing outside missions, the zombies came and attacked and quickly figured out how to get through the chain-link fence. They started attacking each of my comrades from multiple directions, but we fought them off by having a couple of people attacking at once. The zombies weren’t great at team tactics.

Four-person co-op play

Above: The consequence of failing to play in co-op mode.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Next, I played some co-op action. Four of us got together and piled into a car. We drove over zombies and moved from place to place. We stopped at a target home and collected a bunch of loot. We piled in the car and moved to the next one. We fought off groups of zombies but never encountered so many that we couldn’t take them out.

All was well until I stayed in a house too long and emerged to find that he car had taken off without me. I had to run to catch up to the car, dodging groups of zombies along the way. Fortunately, they stopped at the next loot spot and I got into the car so I could drive. It was quite enjoyable to drive, as, sadly, as passengers we couldn’t poke our heads out of the car and shoot zombies.

The car was merely a means to deliver our team to the next loot drop and zombie gathering place. When you’re really playing the game, you’ll have to engage in a lot more cooperation, like just how many risks to take as you head out into the wilderness, before you return to the safety of your camp.

Conclusion

Above: Defending your camp isn’t easy.

Image Credit: Microsoft

It’s no doubt going to be a very deep role-playing game. But I didn’t really get to experience the collecting and fostering part of that in my brief preview. Rather, I was fully loaded with weapons and stuff, and I could go out wandering and killing.

But I had to make sure I got back in time to replenish and gain the safety from the horde. I think the key will be how fast you can build up friends and defenses, so that you stay ahead of or out of the way of the gathering horde. If you don’t, your stay in the zombie wilderness will be short-lived. I would encourage you to spend a lot of time with the game before you decide it’s for you, as there is so much more to this world than just combat.

State of Decay 2 will be available for $30 on May 22 for a standard edition, and $50 for the Ultimate Edition. Early access for the Ultimate Edition begins on May 17.

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