How to Survive video review – more zombie less survival

How to Survive is available now via Steam (for a discounted introductory price of £8.39)  the XBLA , PSN and offers some zombie filled survival antics to sink your teeth into. Before you take the plunge, take a look at our How to Survive video review.

How to Survive review text version:

Today we’re taking a look at 505 Games and Eko Software’s zombie survival game How to Survive which is available now via Steam, Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network. Coming in at under ten pounds, the game offers quite enough bang for your buck as your transport crashes on a remote zombie filled island, with tasks a plenty at hand before you can escape.

From the offset, there are several modes of play on offer including the singleplayer, co-op offline and online co-op. There are also several challenges thrown in to add a bit of focused gameplay to proceedings.

Looking  at the single player, it’s here where players can choose from three characters who each possess varying skills which should suit your playing style. They are as generic as they come, don’t utter a word, and generally are the good Samaritan characters you’d expect given the situation they are in. Choosing here really doesn’t have too much of an impact in how the game plays, although there are unique weapons and skills on offer to suit.

Once thrust into the game players are given no real option other than to follow the story which is essential for learning how to survive. In fact, beyond the story there’s little else to live for, and so escape rather than pure survival is the order of the day here. What the game does do is provide a living environment where there’s a day and night cycle and characters get thirsty, need food and have to sleep. So this is essentially the survival part in which players must forage for the necessary elements to stay alive.  However, one huge misstep right from the beginning of the game is an option to select a skill which slows the need for food and water making the basic survival element less impacting on the game, in fact, bar the odd moments here and there and with an abundance of items available, it’s quite easy to not think about these aspects even though what’s neat are visible impacts on the character as a reminder that food or water is required.

So, the survival element relies solely on the onslaught of various zombie types which come at you from all sides night and day. Whilst it is possible to clear areas, the zombies do tend to respawn in to keep you fresh on your toes. What is a shame is not really being able to run away from the infected hordes, and pretty much are resigned to fight once engaged. There are some moments where players can sneak by groups of zombies, but then these can add to other groups of zombies which you’ve no choice but to fight. Players are therefore locked into moments of exploration for items or people as per the story which consists of fetch quests, and the constant need to shoot or maim zombies. Which is fine, but does get a bit repetitive after so many hours. As an incentive to keep killing, each kill does net  an XP reward which can then be used to purchase additional skills, and as players level up, so do their base attributes. What’s neat is being able to jump in to any mode with the same character and keep their levelled up stats. A minor gripe with the easy to master gameplay is the aiming which is handled via the right thumbstick or mouse. The game seems to have problems tracking targets on a higher or lower elevation to the player which is shame and can cause problems when being mobbed.

Probably the most intriguing part of the experience is being able to craft melee , ranged weapons, armour and items from various inanimate objects.  This is very simple to accomplish via the limited inventory space you have and blueprints are easily spotted amongst all the carnage offering advice on how to make stuff. After a few hours play, the better gear  becomes available and it is quite rewarding making new items, or completing optional monkey side quests to get super upgrade items for your guns. There’s quite a few weapons to mess around with, which suits the ranged or up close playing styles well, although swapping between the two is a bit fiddly.

In terms of looks, How to Survive does a grand job of presenting a not so deserted island, although it’s not the most diverse landscape for a zombie game and in putting things in perspective  feels quite lacking across its “varied” islands. However, there’s some good lighting effects when night falls and the general look of the game is quite polished; although some minor bugs do make appearances.

The audio is quite relaxing at times, and during other moments becomes grating as some ear splitting music or sounds are used to exemplify the tension. However, the voice performances are only hampered by an awful script, and as mentioned, the lead characters do not talk! Maybe that’s a bonus, but in terms of ambience, there’s a fair amount of aural colour keeping the island vibe well alive without quips from the lead character every few minutes.

In terms of longevity, players will get their monies worth if they stay for the full duration, as there are lots of side extras to do involving monkey quests and finding all the plants, weapons and such like. Even simply following the main story will rack up the hours, and then there’s the numerous challenges to tackle as well. So, for lone players there’s a decent amount of gaming to be had here, and an extra difficulty in case you want more. Beyond this, players can play local co-op or online, although at present online is limited to the challenges only with an update on its way to add the story.

How to Survive is a cool little game that well worth the price of entry but loses out on top marks due to various niggles and perhaps not enough variation on the survival theme – especially within the very loose story. As it stands, there’s a competent game here that’s fun to play, somewhat addicting with some neat ideas.  It’s well worth looking at if you’re into action adventure and just so happen to love killing zombies over and over.


Score 8/10 – Review by Robert Cram



Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.