- Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: 505 Games
- Developer: Eko Software
- Players: 1-2 (online and offline)
- Site: http://howtosurvivethegame.com/
How To Survive was released last year on the last generation of consoles. With what is becoming common practice on the PS4 and Xbox One, Eko Software have brought the game to the new gen with all the DLC included and some graphical tweaks here and there, and repackaged the game as the Storm Warning Edition. So is this upgrade enough to warrant a purchase? Or should the game be left to survive the zombie apocalypse alone on its desert island?
How To Survive is, surprisingly enough, a game of survival. You are left stranded on an archipelago of inhospitable islands, and have to keep your character alive by crafting weapons and supplies, by exploring and scavenging any items you find. The island’s inhabitants are a gruesome mix of varying sizes of the undead, crab-like creatures that attach themselves to your leg like a dog in heat, and ‘normal’ hazards like crocodiles and piranhas. As night falls there is the extra danger of attacks from monsters that resemble Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
To keep your character alive you need to keep an eye on your hunger, thirst and fatigue levels. Sustaining these is crucial to avoid your stamina, strength and aim from slowly being eroded. Food can be hunted or scavenged, with animals and plants being your main source of sustenance. Water can be found in wells, and stored in bottles left lying around. There aren’t many places for a good night’s kip, but there are safe houses dotted around where you can put your head down for a short while. On your travels you will encounter other survivors who send you away on errands to fetch items you will need to escape the zombie hellhole. Your plan of escape is to repair a seaplane that you find with one of the survivors. After a short while you meet Kovac, a self-proclaimed master survivor, who is fully clad in armour, and teaches you the skills to survive through his zombie survival guidebook ‘Kovac Rules’. This is done with a fair dose of humour, which helps alleviate the glumness your character is in.
Kovac’s tips can be found lying dotted around the islands. Crafting is the main gameplay element that you use to create weapons to keep the enemy hordes at bay; everything from a fishing rod to bow and arrows and guns can be created by combining various items you find lying around. This is quite a simple process, and the game lets you know what you can combine, although the only way to tell what you are making is by collecting the blueprints dotted around the map. As well as a day and night cycle, the game also adds extra danger from weather conditions that range from rain that extinguishes fire, to fog that hampers visibility and storms that can hit you with lightning if you stay in the same area for too long. The graphics are functional rather than groundbreaking, although some of the lighting effects are quite nice. The isometric viewpoint works fairly well, although there were times we ended up fighting a horde of zombies behind the cover of some trees, which made it impossible to see what was happening.
The game includes all the DLC from the previous gen version of the game with an extra island to explore, new characters that give you new abilities (like the ability to craft flamethrowers and chainsaws), and an additional difficulty level called One Shot that only grants you one life to try and finish the game. However, we would only recommend this mode if you are a sadist or a really proficient player. There is also the addition of a new mode called Barricade!, which has you trying to protect a group of survivors by setting traps and building barricades. Barricade! is particularly entertaining, with you rushing out to scavenge items during the day to shore up your defences from an impending night time attack by all manner of nasty creatures. All these modes can be played by two players both online and offline, and it was this mode that gave us the most fun. With the new PlayStation firmware 2.0, we were able to set up a two player game no problem, and it has to be said this changed the game for the better. When you are on your own it can get really frustrating as you struggle to keep huge crowds of zombies at bay. While you can back away from the fight, when you run out of stamina or get injured your character can’t run away and inevitably you are overrun by the crowds of monsters. Having a friend along at least gives you an chance to get revived and fight on, and the extra firepower is also welcome. There was one time when our character was in dire need of a sleep, and the only way to do that was to liberate a safe house. But because our character was so tired we couldn’t run away and we died several times. The only way to do it in the end was to play with a friend who could lure some of the zombies away, giving our character a fighting chance.
How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition is a decent survival game, but there are far too many niggles that stop it being a great one. The combat lacks any real impact, and the shooting mechanics are a bit imprecise which leads to frustrating moments. The islands are also pretty bland isometric mazes with nothing to differentiate one from another. However playing cooperatively was a lot of fun, and we’d definitely recommend taking a friend along to this desert island of the undead.