Dead [on Arrival] Nation

Some games become known for their terrible launches. They’re plagued by those critical, and completely missed, first impressions and are doomed to never recover. Those following me via Twitter the evening of the US PSN release of Housemarque’s new twin stick shooter Dead Nation, a spiritual successor of sorts to their previously released and very beloved Super Stardust HD, may be wondering if it’ll have the ability to carry on in my book. Launch day brought a lot more problems than just the intended Zombie infestation. Let’s take a look at it’s two most surprising misses:

Don’t Have Too Many Friends – At the time of writing this article, I’ve been told this has been fixed via a twitter post by the official Playstation Blog twitter account. However, on launch, this was a terrible hindrance to me. One of the features of Dead Nation is to incorporate your play on or offline with the rest of the world. It makes for a meta-game of each country contributing to the overall fight against the infestation. This information is accessed and loaded after you’ve watched the opening video. To those of us which have 100 friends on our PSN list, it also meant that it would not only crash the game, but hard lock your PS3.

After several attempts and curses of Housemarque’s name on Twitter, I was informed from trusty Mark Senger (SavoryCade of ex-PSNation fame) logging out of PSN was one way to get around the problem, but it also kept me from experiencing any of the games online features. Then, I was directed from Geoff Chorney (Interactive Distractions) that the bug’s origin was in fact because I had a full friends list. I ended up booting some poor shlub that hadn’t been on his PS3 in ages, and I was up and running. But seriously, why should I need to do that?

No Voice Chat – If you were lucky enough to not be so popular, then you probably had no problems playing with your friends online. I hope you weren’t hoping to talk to them, because the capability to voice chat was omitted from the experience. In a lot of cases, I don’t suspect that would really pose that much of a problem. However, I can’t come up with a good reason to play a co-op zombie survival experience without the ability to talk to friends. Left 4 Dead’s experience is rooted in the fact that you get to hear your teammates’ reactions. Good lighting and sound design play into just how immersive a zombie experience can be, and to Housemarque’s credit, it is done very well in Dead Nation. However, that is not the only part of the experience.

The ability for voice chat is supposed to be added, and the friends list bug has reportedly been fixed. In the long run, these seem like simple headaches to an otherwise entertaining and polished game. Unfortunately though, it plays into that terrible thought process that plagues this generation of console game develoeprs and publishers: “Now that we have a readily available way to patch games, we don’t need to worry about getting it right the first time.”

We as consumers are partially to blame, as we’ve fueled their ability to do this with our acceptance and our dollars.  At what point do we start to protest these haphazard and incomplete releases?

The author Scott, spends too much time talking about games, and not enough time playing them.

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