Ever since the Welcome Back program that Sony initiated after the big PSN shutdown this year, many PS3 owners got Dead Nation for free. Most people seemed to enjoy the game despite the glut of zombie shooters on the market, giving the developers a big hit on their hands alongside Super Stardust HD. To capitalize on the game's increased user base, Housemarque decided to release some downloadable content, Dead Nation: Road of Devastation. Instead of getting either an epilogue to the main story or a new chapter, however, the DLC gives players something different and possibly polarizing.
The DLC section starts off with no real setup beyond what was told in the original game. You can choose to play as either Jack McReady or Scarlett Blake, the protagonists of the original game. Instead of starting out in the zombie-infested streets, however, you begin the game in what looks like an underground facility with nothing but some cash, guns, and an upgrade station for your weapons. Leaving the facility presents you with three different roads, each with different forks for different purposes. More cash, points, health, ammo, better armor configurations and different guns are given out depending on the route taken, but the setup remains the same. You travel through zombie-filled streets and jungles while mowing down zombies and looking for an exit. At the end of each road, you have to face off against hordes of zombies in a closed arena and once they're all defeated, you receive bonuses based on your kill streak. Once you make it back to the facility, you repeat the process until you die.
In short, the DLC adds a version of survival mode that is slightly more structured than the standard "kill everything in one big area" routine. Each round increases the strength of the zombie hordes and introduces more powerful zombies into the mix, so the decision about which route to take becomes more important as the game progresses. Would you be better off going for a new weapon for the next round, or should you go for more cash to upgrade your current weapons? Is it best to go for a different armor configuration, or are health packs the key to survival? Decisions like this make the mode a more strategic version of survival, and those who play it smart will survive longer than those who use brute force.
Those looking for a challenge will certainly find it here. Whether you're playing solo or co-op, you'll only have one life in the game. The ability to save your progress is absent, and your weapon upgrades don't carry over to another playthrough of the mode. This really makes planning essential, since you only have one shot at getting a high score. Dying means going over that plan numerous times until you get it right.
For players looking for something new offered by this pack, that's where the disappointment kicks in. Your weapon set is the same, and so are your items. The upgraded powers and ammo clip sizes are also the same as before, so don't expect any new benefits from these familiar weapons. As far as items are concerned, the first aid kit, which gives you a full bar of health when activated, is the lone addition. A new plant-based zombie rounds out the addition to the bestiary. It does nothing different from other zombies, though, so it doesn't affect the game much.
From a technical standpoint, nothing has changed. The graphics still intentionally lack light, making for a gloomy atmosphere that hides some zombies rather well. The overall look makes up for the camera angles, which still feel too zoomed out to appreciate any details provided. The sound effects and music are great, but with no story to back this up, don't expect any voice actors to return. The control scheme is still the same modified dual-stick setup where the right stick aims but you still need to hit the R1 button to fire your gun. If you hated the move away from a simpler dual-stick setup, it doesn't change with this DLC.
Dead Nation: Road of Devastation will only appeal to you if you love going for scores since this doesn't tie into the main game's plot. It also becomes an appealing piece of DLC if you crave a challenge outside of the main game's offerings. Disappointment will set in, though, if you're looking for something new. The weaponry hasn't changed, and the inclusion of a plant-based zombie doesn't alter the game very much. If you haven't tired of the universe yet, the asking price of $4 for this DLC isn't too bad, as you'll certainly be able to squeeze the most out of it while you practice getting higher scores and surviving longer. Otherwise, if you've done everything you've wanted to in the game, Road of Devastation doesn't offer much enticement.
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