State of Decay: Breakdown accessibility review

Josh Straub5 minute read

State of Decay: Breakdown captures the most successful aspect of State of Decay, surviving. Breakdown is State of Decay’s first DLC and is available on both Xbox 360 and PC. 

Breakdownstrips away the story mode and tasks the player with surviving the zombie apocalypse until the inevitable death occurs. Various multipliers contribute towards a score at the end of each level that is shared on leaderboards. However, unlike a traditional horde mode, the level is not finished until the player decides to move on into the next, and harder, level.

Breakdown is based on a basic truth in zombie survival lore, survival means keep moving. The player and the chosen heroes escape the map when the area’s supplies are picked clean but the zombie attack remains unrelenting. During each level, the player must find and repair a broken down RV that is used for travelling out of the infestation when the time is right. Only a limited number of heroes and supplies fit on the RV for each move.

Throughout the game, the player unlocks heroes, 34 are available in all, who are the playable characters. Other survivors may accompany the player on missions but are not playable. Heroes are unlocked with various achievements from simply surviving into level five to 50 rifle kills to completing a Mercy Shot mission. At the end of each level, the player views a scorecard that uses the multiplier of the chosen difficulty level against statistics such as number of zombies killed, that does not include car related deaths, and research projects completed. Even in level one zombies, hordes and infestations are abundant.

Accomplishing goals results in other playable heroes willing to enter camp, after being rescued of course. With limited playable characters, the stress of maintaining only a handful of characters is tense. Without time or other characters to take the responsibility, coffee and energy bars are high commodities that keep you moving while waiting for the others to finish resting.

In State of Decay’s living world the game lives on after the player powers off the game resulting in food eaten and ammo used. The passage of time also restores exhausted characters.

The map is always the original Trumbull County map. Additional maps would be welcome for more variety. However, as the zombies set in, ranging too far from home is hard. Respawning at randomly different areas each level on the map is often a new experience.

Otherwise the gameplay is exact as State of Decay, with its pros and cons for disabled gamers.

In addition to the disability related concerns of playing the game, Breakdown focuses gameplay on the core mechanics without story missions distracting from sheer survival. In this context, the subtitles not including audio cues are a missed opportunity. A range of audio cues would assist combat such as the sound of breaking glass when zombies burst through windows or are nearby growling. Or more moments that illustrate audio cues in-game would serve the same purpose. For example, a special zombie, the screamer, has a piercing scream but when the zombie screams all characters hold their ears and are temporarily incapacitated. Whether disabled gamers hear the scream of not, the scream is evident on the screen due to the characters’ reactions.

Playing Breakdown makes me wish for a game that crosses State of Decay with the mobile title, Organ Trail, a 2D side scrolling game that uses the classic Oregon Trail experience but set in the modern day zombie apocalypse with an end goal to reach the opposite coast of the continental United States. Breakdown’s challenge is surviving into as high a level as possible. A cross with Organ Trail would anchor the story with a traveling goal to a supposed safe zone and new areas presenting unique challenges. Much like Breakdown as is but with a sense of purpose, simply surviving to the end location would be a feat much less whether the rumored haven is actually safe.

The inclusion of disability related zombie apocalypse concerns such as weaponized crutches and characteristics such as “Asthma Attacks – running sucks (improves cardio slowly).” Makes me want playable Heroes with more disability related characteristics. Maybe a deaf or hard of hearing character is slow to respond to an unseen threat but is not incapacitated by the screaming of the screamer zombie. Or a wheelchair user character’s mobility is faster but dependent on a fuel source the wheelchair is weaponized. Or a low vision character who moves slowly through environments but reacts quickly during close combat.

State of Decay opens up the possibilities of disability representation in gaming with the zombie infestation overtaking modern day society. The gameplay does present barriers to disabled gamers with fine motor and visual disabilities but Undead Labs, the developer, has displayed an intent to respond to community criticisms such as with the patch for remappable keys on the PC edition. Undead Labs recently inked a new deal with Microsoft for their upcoming game.  Now is the time for disabled gamers to leave their feedback for potential changes both in State of Decay and Breakdown for a more comprehensive accessibility overhaul in future releases.

Overall Rating: Partially Accessible 

Visual Rating: Partially Accessible

Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible

Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Release For: Xbox 360, PC

ESRB Rating: M

The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: State of Decay: Breakdown


– Typical zombies’ eyes glow to identify zombies when hidden in environment.

– Flashlight or headlights have unlimited power. 

-Nighttime environments difficult to see.

– Text and icons for the menus and maps are small and cramped.

Fine Motor

General combat strategy of push and a finisher sufficient for battles against typical zombies.

– Controls sensitive for directing characters and steering cars.
– Minimal controller customization on Xbox 360.
– Menu navigation during combat requires quick input because zombies continue attacking while in menus.


– Subtitles are included and are remain readable against a wide variety of environments.
– Some auditory cues shown visually such as all characters become incapcitated when Screamer screams.

-No audio cues in subtitles to communicate during combat the sounds of approaching zombies such as growls, screams, and broken glass.

– Subtitles sometimes blocked by achievement notification on Xbox 360.

This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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