October 25, 2013

How to Survive

Lasting First Impressions

In all of the zombie survival games I’ve played, none have taken the actual ‘survival’ aspects to the level that 505 Games and developer EKO Software has in How to Survive, now available on XBLA. When I first saw the screenshots for this game before it released, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It looked like it was going to be a fairly simple third person zombie shooter. I was wrong. How to Survive is anything but simple. Far from easy too.

How to Survive is a third person zombie action adventure that teaches and equips players to stay alive in a world where the outbreak of an unknown virus has turned most of the population into zombies. Sounds pretty standard faire, doesn’t it? Except that’s where the standard end and How to Survive begins. This isn’t just a zombie shooter. Stranded on an unknown series of islands, players must learn to take care of themselves first and foremost if they hope to successfully find their way home. In order to make it through the day and the night, players must learn to take care of their most basic needs, such as Health, Hunger, Tiredness, and Thirst. Each of these needs are not always easy to take care of, either. When the player gets tired, secure shelter must be found and, believe me, it’s not always easy to find. Thirsty? You’ll need to find a watering hole. Hungry? Gather food, find a fire to cook it, and then eat it. But be careful because carrying around raw meat from an animal hunt will attract the very hungry flesh eating zombies.

How to Survive Screen (15)
How to Survive equips players with a robust crafting system to combine items found on the islands into unique weapons and armor. Want to create a basic gun? You’ll need to find at least 5 separate items before you can craft it. The crafting system in the game, while at first seems like it may be confusing, is really quite easy. When viewing the inventory screen, if an item can be combined with something, only the items that can be combined will be highlighted. For example, a bottle filled with gasoline can only be combined with a scrap piece of cloth to create a Molotov cocktail. When selecting the bottle to combine with something, only the cloth will be shown so there is no need for experimentation and waste of resources. Creating simple armor is a matter of finding a rubber tire, cutting it with a knife into scraps and combining the scraps with twine.

The game really eases players into all the elements of the game through wonderful collectible pages from “Kovac’s Survival Tips”. Once found, each page introduces another aspect of the game in wonderful mock animations reminiscent of the Fallout franchise, narrated by the wonderfully Russian Kovac.

How to Survive Screen (8)
How to Survive offers the choice of three different characters, each with different strengths and weaknesses. The game can also be played in either solo mode, or in online or offline co-op play. I really wasn’t expecting much from this game when I began playing it, but I was surprised at how well it played and how much fun it was to craft weapons and items. The superb audio and beautiful visuals meld perfectly into an eerie atmosphere that instils tension in the player as zombies approach. Music become more upbeat and ominous as zombies begin to approach and calms the player as the danger has been dispatched. The game began to get quite difficult as I progressed to new islands on my quest for a way home. Some areas of the island are so overrun with zombies that a careful and slow progress is warranted. Once the zombies surround you, you’re pretty much done for.

How to Survive is a wonderfully detailed look at actual deserted island survival, all the while surrounded by the undead. It’s not just about killing the zombies to survive, you much actually take care of your personal, living, human needs. Well, okay, not ALL of your needs.

505 Games, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.

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About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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