Housemarque’s twin stick zombie shooter has already graced the PS3 and PS4, now it’s the Vita’s turn to get a slice of the undead pie. And while there are plenty of games out there that have made the console to handheld transition with relative ease, Dead Nation goes to show that it doesn’t always go according to plan.
Let’s start by saying, while not setting our world alight, the PS3 Dead Nation was a pretty decent game. Taking control of one of the two lead characters, the game played out like an isometric Left 4 Dead, but our main issue was just how dark and small everything seemed. Now if everything appeared small on a big television screen, imagine what it’s like on the Vita.
Certain zombie types are incredibly hard to spot until they’re feasting on your flesh and while you’re given a torch on the end of your gun, it doesn’t really do a great job of lighting your surrounding area. This would probably be great with a traditional survival horror game, not one where action seems to be its main focus. On top of this there seems to be a slight issue with the audio that we cannot remember being present in the original version. At times, usually when there’s a lot of action on screen the gunshot sound wouldn’t play, which led to an awful lot of confusion as to whether the gun was actually firing or not.
You could say Dead Nation is not a twin sticks shooter in the traditional sense. While the left stick is indeed used for movement and the right for aim, you’re still using the R trigger to fire, which when you’re down to the default, unlimited ammo rifle, it’s enough to make your hands seize up in pain. Best played in short bursts then, it’s good that the game has a generous checkpoint system.
It may sound like we’re being really down on Dead Nation, but there are some neat ideas in there. Collecting money to buy upgrades and finding hidden armour pieces add some depth to what is usually a shallow genre, and it is mechanically very solid, but these aren’t enough to stave off the repetition that will soon set in. New zombie types are introduced, some of which also bring comparisons to Left 4 Dead, but they don’t exactly require any strategy that isn’t used for the standard undead horde. Just grab whatever weapon you have handy whether it’s a flamethrower or SMG and just blast away until they fall down. The environment can be used to your advantage though, with exploding canisters and even car alarms (something else that reminds us of Left 4 Dead) that can be utilised to attack zombies and then explode
One thing you can’t criticise is how well presented it all is. With some nice music and one of the best opening intro movies we’ve seen. And the ability to see where your country ranks on the zombie killing scale is a nice little feature. Of course, online co-op is also present and accounted for, but really playing it with another person still doesn’t do enough to stop the boredom that sets in after about half an hour.
If you have the choice between picking up Dead Nation on PS3, PS4 or Vita, then the Vita version should be the last one to consider. What was a decent if unspectacular game on consoles becomes a frustrating experience when shrunk onto the handheld. At least if you already own it on PS3 then it’s free on Vita, which is something.