Hands-on: Dead Nation for PS3

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I’m a pathological fan of zombie movies. Night of the Living Dead. Return of the Living Dead. 28 Days Later, [REC], Dawn of the Dead — I count these films among my all-time favorites.

So I was obviously itching to get my mitts on Dead Nation, the upcoming PSN shooter from the creators of Super Stardust HD. Luckily, I got some extensive play time from last week’s NYC PlayStation media day. Here’s what I learned.

Dead Nation for PS3 (PSN) Dead Nation for PS3 (PSN)

You can upgrade your guns…a lot. Dead Nation’s environments are dotted with fenced-in “safe zones” that give you a chance to catch your breath and buy supplies from a nearby gun shop. In addition to buying health and ammo, you can purchase mods that will enhance your various weapons in different ways, depending on the gun. The mods upgrade stats such as damage, ammo capacity, firing rate, reload time, and range. While the most potent weapon upgrades are expensive, you can pop open car trunks and chests found through the environments in order to collect cash and other useful items.

The Shotgun is devastating. The Dead Nation build I played featured three weapons — the Shotgun, SMG, and Rifle — with more to come in the final version. Early on, I decided to pour my money into repeatedly upgrading the Shotgun’s damage and spread capability. The results were impressive: My buckshot blasts became massive cones of death, ripping through the ghoul hordes like a wet sneeze through a store-brand tissue. Sometimes I swapped to the SMG for its rapid firing rate, or the Rifle for its long-range capabilities. But come Dead Nation’s release date later this fall, I know what my go-to gun will be.

Dead Nation for PS3 (PSN)

There are many zombie types. After you shake off the initial shock of battling dozens and dozens of zombies, you’ll quickly learn that not every zombie is created equal. You’ll see fast, gangly zombies that rush up close but fall quickly to melee attacks. You’ll see big, tough zombies that take a licking but move more slowly. I even spotted a few zombie cops that wildly fired their service revolvers while they lunged at me.

Mobility = life. Housemarque’s previous game, twinstick PSN shooter Super Stardust HD, is clearly an influence on Dead Nation’s fast-paced gameplay. For example, rapid kills fill up your combo meter, which in turn sends your score into the stratosphere. As in Super Stardust HD, you’ll also realize the importance of staying mobile to avoid incoming enemies — to get cornered is to die. Luckily, you can throw mines and grenades to clear some temporary space, or use the “rush” move to push your way through a line of hungry flesh eaters.

Dead Nation will be released on PSN later this fall. Have any questions about its core gameplay, or zombies in general? Ask away in the comments!

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