Review: How to Survive 2
Developer: Eko Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Platforms: Playstation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Yes, apparently we’re still doing zombies. Zombies, zombies, zombies. Infected and Risen and Undead, oh my. Like the walking corpses themselves, the zombie genre refuses to properly die. I just keeps on going, sinking its teeth into every kind of game, infecting everything with waves upon waves of shambling, groaning undead.
Fortunately, this game can teach you – wait for it – How to Survive.
Please hold your booing until the end of the article.
How to Survive 2 is a top-down action RPG. Drawn to post-apocalypse Louisiana by the charismatic Kovac, players must kill zombies, gain skills, and craft themselves a camp so that they can team up and survive. This takes the form of two distinct portions: building your base in the hub area and going out on missions. The more stuff you find on missions, the stronger you can build your base – and, at the same time, the tougher the undead become.
Missions themselves are varied and replayable. Difficulty can be scaled up and down against your character’s level, allowing you to more efficiently get XP or have an easier time gathering supplies. While the actual content often falls under the umbrella of ‘kill stuff/get stuff’, there’s an interesting enough variety of locations and characters to keep someone interested. It would be very easy to blow through the lot, were it not for the things you’re dumping your experience into.
You see, there are not one, not two, but three separate categories for spending experience. Your camp level allows better and stronger structures to be constructed; the higher the camp level is, the more you can boost your own character’s level. Separate from that is the various skills which you can upgrade, from melee damage to better gun handling to a hardier constitution. All three combined mean you always have a reason to actually be bashing up the zombies rather than just sprinting past them. The EXP will always be sorely needed.
There’s also character customisation. It’s honestly very lacking. Why would the only two pants choices for a lady survivor be ‘booty shorts’ and ‘booty shorts with leggings’?
It’s in this cycle that most of the game is played, and a very satisfying cycle it is. There’s always something to do: find more food and water so you don’t die, gather materials to craft better weapons or more ammo, upgrade your buildings to give them better facilities. You’ll routinely return to your camp anyway to fiddle with supplies and shore up your defences, making sure your safe haven remains exactly like that.
Even the hub itself has something to offer. Dry river beds, ridges and forests are scattered all over the surprisingly spacious hub, giving players plenty of choices for where they want to plant their flag. As your camp grows, so too does the danger of the undead in this area increase. It might be a walk in the park to go gather sticks and logs when it’s just garden-variety shamblers tottering around. Less so when the bigger, meaner ones start appearing, ever ready to sink their teeth into your flesh.
Fortunately, nobody needs to survive alone. How to Survive 2 boasts that all-too-rare feature: local and online multiplayer. Up to four people can play at once, up to 16 belonging to one ‘camp’. Sharing the load and increasing your numbers gives you a much greater chance against the zombie horde, especially in higher levels when things get really hairy.
Then there’s the flipside. While local co-op is lovely, it also brings into sharp relief all the flaws inherent in this otherwise fun little game. When you’re alone, things are okay. You generally have enough food and healing items to keep going, you can pop the map or menu open whenever you want, you can fiddle with skills to your heart’s content. When four players are going at once, this quickly turns into a frustrating tug-of-war. Everyone has to take their turns accessing the menus – which don’t pause the game, naturally, just cover the whole screen while the zombies are still advancing – and fighting over extremely limited supplies. It gets tiresome fast, no matter how well you and your co-survivors might get along.
Friendly fire quickly becomes much more damaging than any zombie. The way that upper levels of a building melt away to show the bottom floor makes navigating a nightmare if players are on separate floors. Trading is awkward and inefficient, constantly halting the flow of progress to shuffle herbs and food between players. Even the simple act of movement becomes a hassle, all leashed together on the same screen.
There’s plenty of other issues too, small but numerous. Menu text is so small as to be unreadable by anyone not right in front of the TV – another knock against local multiplayer. Loading is far, far too long for a game of this type on every occasion. Tutorials constantly pop, bringing everyone to a screeching halt, yet the actual interface remains confusing and obtuse unless you take the time you don’t have to puzzle out even simple things like trading items. The actual act of bashing zombies and making camp might be fun, but the constant roadblocks in your way are very much not.
Is How to Survive 2 still worth your time? The answer to that question is yes – but yes with a big fat asterisk next to it. Play it on your own or with one friend. Play it where you can communicate. Play it so you don’t constantly smash your friend’s head in with a baseball bat. What’s beneath the undead, stinky flesh is an enjoyable core. Once you’ve worked out how to survive, all that’s left is to see how far you can go.
|Many core issues undermine an otherwise enjoyable zombie game. Take the time to learn the ropes and fun can be pulled from within a frustrating outer shell.||3.2 3.2 ( on 5 rating)|