Since this is a review of Downloadable Content (DLC), I am going to quickly define exactly what each score pertains to. Presentation will be mostly dependent on the variety of new visuals in the DLC. Gameplay is dependent on the amount of variety in combat, as well as general quality of added mechanics. Value is based on the time it takes to explore everything there is to see in the new mode, as well as replay value.
Dead Nation was one of the best PSN releases of 2010. Housemarque surprised with a top-down shooter that had a truly creepy atmosphere with its dimly lit, zombie filled corridors. For those who just can’t get enough of the game, downloadable content has released in the form of a survival mode called Road of Destruction. But does it improve on the original game’s formula and have enough value to warrant the $4 price tag?
You’re put in what seems to be a government testing facility to see how badass you are at dispatching the undead. Weapon and armor upgrades are set back to their starting conditions and your only extra weapon is the SMG. Each round consists of picking between one of three paths, each of which has its own unique bonuses. Once you've progressed a little you'll have another choice between two different paths, again each with different rewards awaiting you. There’s a bit of strategy involved with which road you choose because you can’t pick the same one two times in a row, and since your goal is to try and get as many rounds through as possible without dying you need to choose the rewards you’ll get wisely. Do you go for an armor upgrade, a new weapon, or health packs? It isn’t always so cut and dry.
The choice mechanic isn’t the only change to the Dead Nation formula. There have also been a couple changes to how scores are accumulated - you get larger bonuses for killing multiple zombies in a short space of time (a “multikill” of sorts). At the end of each round you get helpful extras like health and gold, dependent on the average number of zombies you killed per minute. The focus on high scores and quickly dispatching your enemies is an interesting change, but it also takes away from the creepy ambiance of the original title which was one of its best qualities.
There are no new weapons in this DLC but there are a couple of new environmental hazards as well as tools to use and enemies to abuse. New tools include an auto turret you can place down that shoots zombies for you until it runs out of ammo, and a health pack you can actually carry with you instead of just using when you pick it up. This is particularly meaningful for Road of Destruction because health packs are few and far between unless you pick the path that has it in spades, so being able to save some health for later on is a necessity. The most meaningful new enemy is a plant-based zombie that is able to travel through vegetation which blocks you and any other zombies' path.
Each round is capped off with a larger than usual horde that you have to clear before receiving your reward. The nice part about these finishing moments is that two of them include new environmental tools: electric fences and industrial saws you can activate manually, complete with conveyer belts feeding right into them. It’s nice to have something to help you in the environment other than the usual exploding cars.
Unfortunately I feel like the $4 price is a bit much for this survival mode. Each of my attempts took me about 20 minutes (the best I managed was 8 rounds before dying), and there are only six different paths, so you can easily see everything there is to see from an environment standpoint in a single attempt. Enemies get harder, more numerous, and there are more special zombies with each completed round, so there is actually a lot of variety in the different zombie situations you can come up against when retrying the mode, but the lack of new areas to explore is a let-down.
In the end whether or not you think this DLC is worth it depends on what you enjoyed about Dead Nation. If you really liked the feeling of tension as you explored each new area and tried to keep your score multiplier intact then there isn’t a lot to love in Road of Destruction, but if you’re the type who just loves to slaughter zombies regardless of how many times you see the same fire truck blocking the same road, then you’ll love this to undeath (sorry, I’m contractually obliged to include puns in reviews). Hopefully the next Dead Nation-related announcement will be a sequel, so I can get back to the type of zombie killing I really enjoy.