How to Survive is destined to be underappreciated. It’s a videogame that looks pretty basic in screenshots, as if it were a lukewarm Diablo III wannabe. In motion it looks smooth, but hardly state-of-the-art. On first play it feels comfortable but far from essential. All of these factors belie what is an engrossing, humorous survival escapade unlike any other currently available on consoles.
The plot of How to Survive is paperthin, as in reality the real gem is working out how to survive. Elementary, you may think, and yet there has to be some kind of hook to keep players going this far. The couple of hours of gameplay punctuated by the lovably eccentric Kovac’s Rules guide (which acts as a tutorial) that construct the campaign are really in place for no other reason than to provide a way in: How to Survive is far better when the player is left to their own devices.
There are many disparate mechanics in How to Survive that build to a series of well implemented representations of survival. The first are your skills, which function entirely as expected: earn experience points and spend them buying new skills along a tree, with later skills having much greater impact on the way you play the videogame. Making weapons is performed by combining items that you have collected and medicinal items are found throughout the levels. But it’s not just ammo and health you need to be wary of; How to Survive is about staying alive, and that requires food and water also.
The campaign gameplay is punctuated by a number of objectives of course, and these see you travelling between locations in order to pursue the means necessary for your survival. Outside of this the player can partake in a series of challenges in a separate gameplay mode, unsurprisingly called ‘Challenge Mode.’ These additional missions simply see you fighting across the island to find an aeroplane. You start in a random location with no equipment and must make it out alive. These challenges begin difficult and work up to nigh-on impossible, but as with the rest of the videogame, bringing in a second player can really make the difference.
How to Survive is playable co-operatively either on a single system or online, and while its fun alone it really becomes something special when playing with a friend. This is a videogame that was clearly built for co-operative play, especially given the fact that success is not simply a case of progressing through the story, but rather progressing your character. You are able to take your established character (any of the three included) into any mode you choose, on- or offline, resulting in every moment of gameplay having an affect on your overall progress.
The visual quality of How to Survive is a little tired, but far from disastrous. The fact that it’s buoyed by a great deal or humour and some very nice touches in everything from its menus to the personalities you’ll meet works greatly to its advantage. The sound quality isn’t quite as well met, but the voice acting still rates very highly for the most part.
How to Survive is a very surprising videogame. Having sprung up almost from nowhere one could be forgiven for thinking that it was just another zombie videogame trying to make a quick buck by riding on the wave of the current trend. However, this simply isn’t the case. How to Survive is a unique, engrossing experience that sets itself apart from the crowd simply by layering mechanics upon solid gameplay and removing much of what normally provides impetus. Your mission is to survive, and how you intend to do this a matter becoming an expert at all things anti-death, fast.