If past horror video games have taught us anything, it’s that surviving a zombie apocalypse can be pretty demanding, depressing and overall, a lot of hard work. Mankind’s very existence tilters on the edge of obscurity, our home planet lies in a state of ruin, decay sets in, and those fortunate or unfortunate enough to remain as part of the living must fight tooth and nail to keep from turning.
How To Survive 2: PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4
Developer: Eko Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: 13 February 2016
Price: £11.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Humanity is forever changed. No longer is there a dissipation of vital resources such as the squandering of cash, water or power. Lone survivors or groups band together to scavenge through what’s left of the land to craft weapons and ammunition, kill animals to feed and forage the earth for plants to heal wounds, all in a bid to stave off death.
It’s certainly the way of life through most games to come out of the genre and How To Survive 2, the follow-up to Eko Software’s 2013 hit PC and console survival game is no different. Ported to Xbox One and PS4 after a release on PC, How To Survive 2 takes place 15 years after the first game, its setting this time around is the deep south of Louisiana.
In the time that’s passed since the first game, the world has gone to hell in a hand basket. Flesh eaters heavily outnumber the living now, and it’s up to you alone or with 3 friends as survivors to keep mankind’s heartbeat pumping. You’ll have help amidst the madness in the familiar form of Kovac, a crazed eastern-European who enlists you to join his community, only when you arrive there appears to be no community, only Kovac, and he isn’t even above land! but instead hiding out below ground in a bunker.
When I arrived to speak with the nutty Russian I half expected to be greeted by your typical Walking Dead community – a few survivors tending to crops of corn with an outpost set up nearby to fend off attacks – what I stumbled across was the lonely sight of a hatch door, pylon and speaker.
With nothing but the threads on my back, a backpack, and the charismatic words of Kovac bellowing in my ear from the speaker above, I set off on my first few missions, which act as your typical tutorial based missions to surviving this unforgiving land. How To Survive 2 looks to build on its predecessor in almost every conceivable way, offering players a rich assortment of items to craft, a lot dependant on current level and progression of basecamp, some craftable on the fly.
How To Survive 2 boasts an expansion of craftable objects, providing an enjoyable facet to delve into but a lot of what you want or need to survive the harsh environments won’t come easily. Medicinal Herbs can be collected and used along with cloth to construct bandages, rabbits can be trapped, snared and cooked to keep your hunger levels down, and wood and metal combine to make a crossbow that’ll make you feel as cool as the greased locks of Daryl Dixon, however, most upper range products require the player to complete specific missions to gather the right resources.
Although basic health and ammo items are easily crafted How To Survive 2 introduces building structures to the series for the first time. Most craftable items require the player to have a statutory basecamp, armoury and kitchen to create bullets and cook food or boil drink, a storage unit is also a must to prevent you from becoming as slow as those who chase you. Nearly everything can be upgraded including the unnamed protagonist, who, with points gained from slaughtering endless waves of zombies and zombified animals can inflict far greater damage, pick locks, gain extra stamina and keep hunger or thirst at bay for longer periods of time, all of which are pivotal to staying alive.
Frustratingly, though, the more you build and upgrade a better homestead, the bigger the threat of being attacked looms. With enemies becoming increasingly harder to take down with experience gained, getting a basecamp set up just right proves to be a daunting balancing act that will most likely see your camp come under frequent attack from a whole manner of frightful beings while you struggle to adjust.
Taking damage to sections of your camp will also require repair work which can be a huge drain on your acquired experience points. However, if you can live with the continuous threat of attack, levelling up each section with EXP opens up a new avenue of fresh items for you to craft.
Being fundamentally a sandbox game How To Survive 2 offers little by the way of a narrative driven story. If you jump in looking for a meaningful story you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Although the sequel builds on the previous title in many ways, some for the better, its lack of cohesive story is somewhat of a real letdown. If you pay attention to certain conversations between character and survivors you might find an inkling of a story or breadcrumbs of what could be one, but it’s simply too far and in-between to flesh out a compelling story worth worrying about.
How To Survive 2 holds more in its locker than just a mediocre story, providing the player with a meaningful cooperative experience that will have you and up to 3 friends scrapping for your lives as you foray into its many quests. Set in the dirty south of America, you’ll come across all that Louisiana’s wildlife has to offer. Expect zombified snapping Alligators, acid spitting Pelicans and hard-shelled violent Turtles to all make an attempt on your life on many occasions as you explore.
How to Survive 2 also throws a few variants of zombie your way, with your run-of-the-mill zombies, nocturnal’s that stalk your camp at night; prowling Gollum-like then there’s large fat volatile zombies that line the brush dense forests, tight streets and open plains, capable of exploding a mixture of blood and flesh in your face if you come to close, How To Survive pushes true haunting figures in your face, whenever and whereever it can.
Aside from the wonderful environments and appropriately chilling soundtrack that will have you on edge as you cross treacherous swamps or walk the streets of what remains of Mardi Gras, How To Survive 2 as a PC port, introduces typical mouse and cursor like movement outside of combat, which could alarm certain console players when navigating its long-winded and deep crafting menu system. It can often be a time-consuming and chaotic process to drag and move items from a bulging inventory to lighten your load, create arrows in a quick manner while cornered by a swarm or change your weapon loadout in frantic fights with zombies after running low on ammo.
Although it doesn’t truly innovate the genre or raise it to new and exciting heights, How To Survive 2 does offer great co-operative fun with friends, online or locally with up to four players able to jump in. The addition of camps and structure building introduces a brand new dimension to the survival series, and a fresh bounty of craftable items will no doubt keep survivors entertained for hours. In 2013 How To Survive gave players the chance to survive a zombie apocolypse, its successor expands on that sadly without ever really bringing something new to the genre. With a great soundtrack and nervewrecking locale, How To Survive 2 is worth the asking price, but with a lack of innovation, never really fufills its potential.