Around this time last year EKO software was unleashing their isometric zombie survival game on the world for the very first time, receiving moderately decent feedback without causing too much of a stir. Now, How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition makes its debut on the new consoles boasting the original game plus all the DLC from the past year all bundled in. We all love killing zombies, right?
Game: How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition
Developer: EKO Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
You won’t find too many plot surprises with this latest version of How to Survive compared to other games of a similar ilk. You’ll play one of four characters, including the DLC addition Nina, who ends up treading the shores of a particularly unfriendly group of islands full of zombies and other hostile nasties. With the help of Kovac and his humorous survival guides littered throughout the islands your one and only real task is (as you might expect) to get the hell out of there.
This type of game seems to be gathering steam as of late, with a slew of survival based indie titles landing on PC and consoles. How to Survive does set itself apart, somewhat, with its isometric view and it certainly works well from a pure visual perspective. Although, the generic, repetitive graphics themselves can only be deemed passable and there’s a serious lack of polish in several areas which really begin to create problems.
Some of those begin with a real sense of stuttering with some of the animation, followed by some awkward collision mechanics which makes killing zombies lack a little impact through melee striking and shooting. Asides from an odd glitch I encountered that saw zombies flicker and vanish when I made contact with them, there’s nothing here that makes it unplayable, but it’s a shame that it hasn’t had an extra lick of paint or two. Anyone who’s come from the original 2013 release will be disappointed by the lack of improvement graphically, especially seeing as the consoles have plenty to offer in the engine room this time round, too.
It’s not all doom and apocalypses, though. There’s plenty of engaging moments and great humour to make this definitive edition worth examining; the characters, for instance. Each one has similar talents but each has a unique ability that might make life a little easier along the way. Kenji can craft a powerful crossbow whilst the more brutish, slow-moving Jack can put together a scope for better accuracy. The skills are obtained through a simple skill tree that you can unlock by gaining XP in the usual manner and it’s nice to have that distraction and motivation other than ploughing down natives with a stick.
Combat is not as satisfying as it could be because of the lifeless impacts of striking zombies, but thanks to some pretty hairy moments when you’re being chased by a horde, it’s still wildly entertaining. It’s certainly straightforward, at least; hit a button to swipe a weapon, then press another to inflict a finish move that launches you into an impenetrable animation. There’s a good selection of weaponry to choose from, too. Bows, guns, boomerangs and of course, sticks, are all lifesavers. Although the way you slow to a crawl when aiming with the right stick can get a little frustrating – the erratic left stick rotation by itself certainly doesn’t do the job, so you’ll need to use the right one regardless.
Just as in the original the islands are littered with objects to accumulate such as feathers for arrows or rare plants for health drinks. Similarly you’ll find blueprints lying all over, but a little experimentation never hurt anyone, and can also yield some decent offerings should you get lucky enough with attempts. You’re inventory is particularly limited so you’ll need to pick and choose carefully what you want to carry out of food supplies, ammo and crafting items. One of the game’s saving graces is its genuinely good grasp of what a survival game actually is, and it’s something they’ve got totally right here.
Night time will eventually come and you’ll need sleep. Small shacks can be used to do so, but you’ll need to clear the area of hostiles first. A flashlight helps create the atmosphere and tension, along with some more powerful creatures that lurk in the shadows. Staying near a campfire will not only allow you to cook some well earned dinner, but keep those gangly undead a safe distance from fear of the flames. The whole experience can get quite engrossing at times and How to Survive does have some addictive qualities under its sleeve to drag you back for more.
However, the further you venture in game the more you’ll realise that there’s not much new to see. Even on new islands and the scattering of quests here and there, after the first hour or so you’ll already know everything you’ll probably need to about the game. It’s a survival game at it’s core with around 5-6 hours of story thrown in, so no one should go into it expecting too many revelations in that department.
Out of the main game you’ll find the challenge maps that still require the same goal as the main game but ask you to reach it only with a particular weapon or against a certain enemy. There’s also a co-op multiplayer mode which offers very little asides from a few laughs and some shared enjoyment of killing things – the challenge maps are definitely worth the time, the multiplayer can be a bit throwaway even after a short while. New modes from the DLC package include One-Shot Escape and Barricade modes. The former is a super tough one-life version of the game, whilst the other is what it sounds like; defend a camp by building traps and turrets, for instance. I quite enjoyed this mode as it offers something completely different to the rest of the game where variety isn’t How to Survive’s strongest virtue.
How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition has unfortunately brought all it’s annoyances from the original release along for the ride, but as a result still has it’s qualities. Not many games truly hit the right buttons for the survival genre, but there is a genuine sense of dread harking back to early Resident Evils when that realisation of knowing what’s in your backpack just isn’t going to cut it this time. There’s some great additions in the bundled DLCs, too. So although the lack of improvement is disappointing, there’s still a fair amount of value to playing this addictive little title – warts and all.