The lights are on
Zombie games are still incredibly popular. Some gamers claim they’re tired of battling the undead, which means developers have to work even harder to entice players to check out their games. How To Survive mixes dual analog-stick gameplay, a top-down perspective, and hardcore survival elements like hunger meters and permadeath. I got my hands on the downloadable title during an E3 demo, and walked away impressed with the new spin on the genre.
These are the key features that make How To Survive stand out:
Same Apocalypse, New Gameplay
Players move with the left analog stick and aim items like guns, bows, and flashlights with the right stick. Holding your aim on a zombie guarantees a deadly headshot. The increased control makes taking out small groups of foes a simple task, but the undead tend to attack in hordes so don’t think this is a cakewalk. Using the wooded environment is key to managing large groups. I like to bottleneck hordes through narrow passages or distract them with raw meat (recovered from killing local wildlife).
Weapons Of Improvised Destruction
How To Survive begins with players washing up on a beach without anything in their inventory. The first available weapon is a stick, which is used to whack zombies and bash open wooden shacks to recover the supplies within. You might find a knife, a sturdy reel, and a flexible stick while hunting around. The reel can be combined with the flexible stick to create a bow, and the arrows are crafted by using the knife on sticks. The bow can be further upgraded to a compound bow with a set of pulleys, and feathers can be added to arrows for increased damage. Players can also mix items like a scuba diving tank, harpoon handle, and metal pipe to make an uzi or sniper rifle, depending on the length of the pipe. These weapons can be reduced to their constituent parts at any time for new experimentation, but assembly requires a hardware kit. All weapons use nuts and bolts as ammunition.
Several Shades Of Walking Dead
The classic, George Romero-style shambling dead appear to be the main threat in How To Survive, but several other enemies spice up the action. Slow, obese zombies waddle after players and explode in proximity. One of my favorite tricks involves dropping a piece of meat bait near these bloated bombs, waiting for regular zombies to swarm towards it alongside him, then shooting the fatso to clear out the whole bunch. Come nightfall a new threat emerges from the shadows. Pointing your flashlight or dropping a torch keeps these photophobic creatures. Using light to manage these nocturnal enemies while simultaneously beating back zombies creates some stressful but exciting situations. Lighting bonfires (after you earn the associated skill), is the best way to keep these critters at bay.
Hanging By A Thread
The word “survive” is in the title of the game, so you can expect meters for hunger, thirst, and tiredness. The first two are quenched by eating and drinking from supplies found in the environment. Players dip their water bottles in ponds to fill their reserves or roast raw meat over campfires for food. Sleeping can only be done after clearing out a safe house. Opening up these bunkers triggers an alarm which provokes waves of undead to attack. Enduring the onslaught earns you some shuteye and a save point. These safe houses act as check points should you die in normal mode. If checkpoints sound lame to survival nuts out there, permadeath can be activated for a brutal test of your grit.
The survival genre has really picked up steam following DayZ, and popular modern games like State of Decay and The Last of Us prove gamers like a grim challenge. I like How To Survive’s mix of accessible controls, hoarding supplies, and crafting items from junk, and hope the 10-plus hour adventure shapes up to be as fun as the demo I played. How To Survive hits XBLA, PSN, the Wii U eShop, and PC this October.
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