It Takes A Dead Nation Army To Hold Me Back
Obviously if you are endlessly killing zombies, it runs the risk of getting repetitive. This is where Housemarque shines, because they did an amazing job creating a wide variety of zombies to throw at you. Not only are there seemingly dozens of variations of the basic shambler (many of which are themed to the level, like clowns in an amusement park), there are another dozen "special" zombies that range from enormous fat ones that sound like a bowl of jello when they run and explode into a shower of jelly when they die, to crafty stick-zombies that plaster themselves to walls and freak the living shit out of you when you walk by, and huge blade-handed goliaths that will reduce you to a quivering mess, among many other creative designs. The game does an excellent job of slowly introducing more of these guys, and by the final level there is an impressively diverse horde attacking you.
One thing about Dead Nation you should be aware of is that it's hard. Playing thorough solo on the default difficulty felt a little masochistic at times. Then there are three difficulty levels above that. I shudder to imagine what those play like. There is actually a trophy for completing even a single level on "Undead" difficulty. Death will bring you back to the last checkpoint, and those can be spaced between some epic fights. Quitting the game at any point in the level forces you to replay the level from the start, which is a feature that always frustrates me. Thankfully the game is a good bit easier with a friend, and Dead Nation offers both couch and on-line co-op, which is sorely lacking in certain other games. Co-op is handled really well, with Scarlett having an appropriately red-hued laser sight to Jack's green, making picking out your location a little easier when things get hectic, since it is easy to get lost with the somewhat tiny sprites and massive amount of zombies that can be onscreen. Alas, only the default rifle (which should remain your primary weapon, as it is quite potent fully upgraded and has unlimited ammo) features the laser, so switching weapons forces you to pay a bit more attention to your on-screen position. Online co-op has its flaws though. A lack of voice chat seems like an incredible oversight (though my partner and I were able to rectify it thanks to Xbox Party Chat. But really Sony, let's get on the ball so I don't fire up your competitor's machine for a feature that should be standard), and while my friend hosting the game had no issues, I found that sometimes both my score and my money didn't carry over between levels, nor did my upgraded guns. Even though I was able to get by with what I had, it was a little frustrating to see him number one in the world on the leaderboards and me stuck at number five. [Show-offs. Watch what happens once the general public gets its hands on the game... -Ed.]
In the end, Dead Nation just barely overstays its welcome. We dragged ourselves through the last level or two, and I'm not sure I see any reason to go back to it. Yet, I will still look back upon my time with it fondly, and for a budget price you get what is easily the most polished and stylish twin stick zombie game to date. Toss in some surprises Housemarque has in store for the countries that kill the most zombies, and I'd heartily recommend this, especially if you have a partner to play with.
Trophy Tips: Dead Nation features a full suite of trophies, including a platinum, which is a great deal in a PSN game. To get that Platinum, you'll probably need at least 2 playthroughs, one of which has to be co-op and one that has to be on the next to highest difficult setting (these can and should be combined into the same playthrough). You probably won't have killed enough zombies to unlock the "Genocidiary" which is the now obligatory kill 57,385 zombies (I had about 15K kills on my first run through, but that was co-op), and you'll also have to beat a single level on the hardest setting as well as scoop up every single bit of loot in the game (keep in mind, I didn't find 100% loot on a single level). Platinum difficulty level - high!