Since the late 2000’s, the media across the Western world has become obsessed with zombies/zombification in popular literature, film, and every other faucet you could possibly imagine that zombies could appear from. They occasionally rear their ugly, rotten heads just when everyone seems to have moved on, starting the cycle all over again. Problem is, the vast, sweeping majority of these productions are so mediocre, and similar in style that it becomes stale quickly.
How to Survive is a unique addition to the ironically seething horde that is ‘zomb’ productions as a genre. It’s an isometric, third person, that naturally throws in survival-horror, title that doesn’t take itself seriously in any capacity. A strangely refreshing sense of humour in a very narrow apocalypse-based genre is a thing of beauty. That being said, it ticks off nearly every single troupe, cliche, and narrative no-no within the first thirty minutes alone.
You awake, after selecting a specific character on the menu, on a idyllic beach with plenty of flotsam, and jetsam around your confused survivor. After arming yourself with a deadly stick, not just any stick, this is your stick, and walking up the path toward inland you realise that this game is going to be very slow. Upon reaching something close to the centre of the seemingly miniature isle the survivor is stranded on, the zombies, (or walkers, biters, shufflers, whatever your preferred PC term is) reveal themselves. These aren’t regular zombies though, these are janky zombies. Much like buying a ready-made meal rather than cooking one from scratch, you can usually see the difference in quality between the two.
This idea rings true here. Daylight zombies are slow, dumb and incredibly easy to kill, even when in groups. Nighttime zombies however, are absolutely evil. They’re fast, aggressive and deal unholy (no pun intended) amounts of damage. They only present a threat in the daytime when your survivor’s weapon breaks, or one of them gets a lucky hit in on you while healing. But even as they shamble past, you have to forge a path onward. Eventually, after a particularly awkward escape scene, other people from the boat crash are met. These people are about as useful as you’d expect them to be, with plenty of useful quests that involve just a little too much of “go get me X, so that we can X”. Aside from being useless in this infestation scenario, these characters are far too forgettable, except for one: Kovac.
As the ‘plot’ progresses and you make your way onto new islands nearby, you meet new enemies, people, and dangers. To help the player combat these dangers, Kovac, the neighbourhood lunatic, and Bear Grylls, gives a copy of his own rulebook to read. These tutorials are a little ham-fisted but they do the job of telling the player how to do certain, vague things. One of these things is crafting, because no zombie title can function these days without a crafting or gathering system. Despite the linearity of these introductions, and how the crafting system isn’t exactly revolutionary or even that impressive, custom weapon creation is one of the funniest elements of How to Survive.
Because regular melee weapons just won’t cut in sometimes, all survivors should carry their own nail launcher, or flamethrower. Even though the weapons crafting is a fun distraction, it doesn’t fill the gameplay hole that is left by not having any original features. The hunger, and water management is a staple of survival titles, and the combat is tiresome after a while. All in all How to Survive is good, but it stops there, and sadly doesn’t go any further with itself.
How to Survive – 6/10