Tuesday, November 5, 2013

'How To Survive' (Game Review)

 Kovac's rules!

It seems a lot of recent survival horror games are pretty heavy on gore and action, but a bit lacking in the "survival" department. Eko Software and 505 Games aim to change that with their new zombie murder fiesta How To Survive.

Hit the jump to find out more!

The premise is a familiar one. You choose one of three characters who have been stranded on an island after a boating accident. The tropical paradise also happens to be infested with the undead caused by a virus outbreak. You meet a few other random survivors and begin your journey across the archipelago to make a great escape. To do this you're gonna need to figure out how to survive.

What makes How to Survive immediately awesome is the feeling of vulnerability it instills in the player. Unlike the typical survival horror game that tasks you with simply scrounging ammo and killing your way from Point A to point B, How to Survive will force you to find all the basic necessities like food, clean water, and a safe place to sleep. Neglecting any of these will incur significant penalties like poor aim, lower stamina, or blurred vision. You'll need to stay in peak condition if you want to fend off or avoid the zombie hordes.

Supplementing the search for sustenance is the crafting system that will let you combine myriad raw materials into weapons, armor, and equipment. You'll learn how to build an impressive number of items by finding manuals from the eccentric survivalist Kovac. He has written a survival guide that will show you the ropes and hopefully keep you alive a bit longer. The tongue-in-cheek delivery of the survival guide chapters is definitely a highlight.

Action takes place in an isometric overhead view, and while controls are tight, you're absolutely going to need a gamepad for this.  This shouldn't be an issue if you pick it up on Xbox Live Arcade or PSN, but you'll definitely want to skip the mouse and keyboard if you download it off of Steam. Button layout is well thought out with easy to navigate menus and bold icons. The graphics are equally colorful with varied environments (as much as can be expected in an island setting). Zombies and other creatures are varied, but slightly unoriginal. You've already seen a lot of the "boss" ghouls if you played Left4Dead or Dead Island. Unoriginality aside, hordes of the undead are still terrifying, especially at night when your visibility is limited to a flashlight or torchlight. Add a moody score into the mix and you have a recipe for tense moments.

With hours of game play including multiple side quests, online and local co-op, and a ridiculously deep crafting system, How to Survive is a fantastic survival horror game. Any recycled ideas in the story or character design are quickly forgiven by the addictive action. I spent hours just scouring every corner of the game world hunting for scrap and then tinkering with it back in my camp's safe house. Even if you feel burnt out by zombie games at this point, I would still suggest you give How to Survive a try. At $15 it's a bargain and a fresh take on the genre.

Grade: A-

Reviewed on PC via Steam.

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