I loved seeing a new State of Decay 3 trailer, but no release window makes me more impatient than ever

Screenshot of a State of Decya 3 trailer.
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

State of Decay 2 is genuinely one of my favorite Xbox Game Studios titles ever, as I've put hundreds of hours into the zombie-survival game alongside my partner. SoD2 may be rough around the edges in its own quirky way, but I still absolutely loved the blend of open-world survival and community management. It shouldn't come as any surprise that State of Decay 3 has been one of my most anticipated games since it was first revealed nearly four years ago.

During the Xbox Games Showcase 2024, we finally got a new, more in-depth look at Undead Labs' magnum opus, and it looks spectacular. Even lacking all the details we do, State of Decay 3 is slowly but surely shaping up to be the perfect sequel I've wanted for years. The new trailer was visually stunning and emotionally powerful, but it did inject a fresh sense of frustrated impatience in me — we've waited four years for this trailer, and we still don't have a release window, let alone a release date.

I want Undead Labs to take all the time it needs to fully realize its vision with State of Decay, but the Xbox Games Showcase 2024 trailer was a fresh reminder that Xbox's past tendency to tease games many years away from release continues to be a source of annoyance for fans.

An in-game trailer to set the tone

The initial State of Decay 3 teaser set expectations to uncertain levels given the incredibly early nature of the CGI-filled video, but the new trailer shown at Xbox Games Showcase realigns those expectations in a very positive way. Made entirely in-game, the latest SoD 3 trailer shows the results of Undead Labs' work with The Coalition to squeeze the most potential out of Unreal Engine 5.

Frankly, the visuals are stunning. Models are detailed and full of character, lighting is realistically gorgeous, and the splatter of blood and gore from the impact of bullets or an open car door send shivers down your spine. These advancements in graphics help set a newly darkened tone for the franchise, which has never been known for its happy endings.

The zombie apocalypse has not abetted since the events of State of Decay 2, and has instead evolved in grotesque and abnormal ways. The zombies may have slowly decomposed over the years, but they're no less dangerous to the dwindling number of survivors attempting to make their way in this brutal, morbid world. From the start, the new State of Decay 3 trailer highlights how the importance of community will be even more of a focus in the new game.

They may have been human once, but now there's only one way to survive. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

In the trailer, various survivors convene on a single location with a unified goal: one of them is in danger and needs to be saved. The survivors work together to mow down hordes of zombies, but one is unfortunately overwhelmed by the sheer numbers after saving their companion's life. The remaining survivors take a moment to mourn and collect a memento by which to remember their fallen friend, but then have to move or risk sharing their fate.

Of course, as is expected from State of Decay, you can always expect newfound challenges around every corner. The three remaining survivors crowd into a custom car, only to come across a bridge that has been ravaged by the new, more aggressive Plague Hearts at the source of the zombie infestation. Defending the bridge? A hulking mass of stench of flesh, otherwise known as a Juggernaut. The trailer ends here, but I can't imagine things went great for our unfortunate survivors.

It's a short trailer, but showcases everything I adore about State of Decay — community, resourcefulness, determination, and unwavering courage in the face of ceaseless adversity. The context around the trailer also gives us some much-needed information about how Undead Labs is taking State of Decay to a new level.

Working with the best to make the best

Each community member is bound to be unique. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

In an Xbox Wire interview published shortly after the Xbox Games Showcase, Undead Labs revealed a few more details about State of Decay 3 that weren't shown in the trailer. For one, Undead's staggering elevation to a true AAA games studio is due in large part to the studio's partnership with other talented teams. I already mentioned how The Coalition, of Gears of War fame, is bringing its Unreal Engine expertise to the table.

However, that's not all. Undead Labs is also working with Blind Squirrel Entertainment and Wushu Studios for technical support, the latter of which having experience taking over State of Decay 2 content updates from Undead. None of this is particularly exciting, though. What most caught my attention is the new information that Undead Labs is working with Obsidian Entertainment — and more specifically the Grounded team.

Why? Well, it turns out that Undead Labs provided the foundation for Grounded's online multiplayer servers, which Obsidian evolved and expanded to fit the ambitions of the critically acclaimed co-op survival game. Now, the studio is returning the favor, lending a hand to remove the troublesome (and oft criticized) "tether" that prevented you and your co-op partner from wandering too far from each other in State of Decay 2.

A brief flash of gameplay? Perhaps. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

This culmination of talent should (hopefully) lead to a State of Decay 3 that is more polished, has better performance and visual fidelity, is more technically sound, and has a far superior online co-op experience than its predecessor. It also gives Undead Labs more room to think about the design and scope of its most ambitious game yet; we don't know many of the details on this front, but there is a little we've learned.

We know that SoD 3's open world will be much larger than previous entries in the franchise, and that the detail, environmental storytelling, and dynamism of that world will be greatly increased. Undead Labs is investing in community management, resource scavenging, and exploration to make surviving in its zombie-infested world more engaging and freeing. A new level of detail also means expanding the lore of the world, as the progression of the zombie apocalypse means that resources are scarcer than ever.

To showcase this, Undead Labs is making it so that players will be unlikely to discover whole and untouched weaponry or clothing in the wild; instead, players will need to scavenge components and materials to craft their own clothing, armor, weapons, and even vehicles. More than just a narrative-driven decision, this means players will have far more room than ever before to customize the gear their survivors use. There's still so much we've yet to learn, too, and I'm already on the edge of my seat waiting for this game to release.

More impatient than ever to play the game

This was an amazing trailer. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

It has been nearly four years since State of Decay 3 was originally teased to the Xbox community. I'm not kidding; State of Decay 3 made its first appearance at the Xbox Games Showcase 2020 during the exciting lead-up to the Xbox Series X launch. There has been almost complete silence on the project since that teaser, apart from the unmissable rumblings at Undead Labs that big changes were underfoot.

Four years is a long time to wait for a second glimpse at a game you're incredibly excited to play, and that was a reoccurring theme of that Xbox event. Fans criticized the company for teasing and announcing projects years in advance to disguise the fact that Xbox had little to show for the near future, and there are still multiple projects announced there that have yet to actually release (such as Avowed, Fable, and Everwild). Since then, Xbox is more careful to only announce new games that are a reasonable amount of time away from release.

In the aftermath of the Xbox Games Showcase 2024, which many across the community seem to be agreeing is among Xbox's absolute best shows, I'm reminded again of how bittersweet that 2020 show was in comparison. I'm glad Xbox has rescinded its earlier tendencies to tease games no one would be able to play for a long time, because we're still dealing with the consequences now. I waited four years for a new State of Decay 3 trailer, and I still don't know when I'll be able to play the game.

I can't wait to play the full game. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

The State of Decay franchise is incredibly important to me, and State of Decay 3 has been at the top of my wish list since I knew it was in the works. The fact that a four-year-long wait resulted in a (admittedly gorgeous) trailer that still doesn't boast any release window is a little annoying. Many other games at the showcase are arriving in 2024 or 2025, but we could be waiting until 2026 or even longer before State of Decay 3 is actually in our hands. I'm looking forward to it, genuinely, but I just want to know around how far forward I'm supposed to be looking.

The little I've seen and heard about State of Decay 3 makes me optimistic that it'll end up being one of the best Xbox games, but it's hard to keep my impatience in check when I'm so excited for it. That being said (and even if it sounds contradictory), I do want Undead Labs to take its time to get the game right — it's better to wait and release a finished product than rush into a flawed launch. Could you maybe tell me how long I still have to wait, though?

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.