How To Survive did little to impress us the first time around, so we were intrigued to see how well an improved version on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One would fare. Also available on Steam, How To Survive: Storm Warning Edition is actually more of a content bundle than a top-to-bottom rework. Instead of ironing out previously-flagged issues and building on the core game experience, players are given a cluster of new modes and other add-ons to explore and experiment with.
For those completely new to the game, How To Survive is a top-down action RPG; a sort of mix between Diablo and Dead Island. Either alone, online, or with a friend sat next to you, each scenario starts with you being shipwrecked on a zombie-infested archipelago. As the name implies, your main objective is stay alive for as long as you can while also meeting other missions criteria.
These missions depend solely on which game mode you select. In one mode, you are thrown into the untamed wilds with nothing but a few resources, tasked with finding and repairing an escape vehicle. Another, more creative mode sees players scavenge the islands by day and fend off the zombie hordes by night, barricading themselves in makeshift forts. The meatiest mode on offer though is How To Survive’s story-driven campaign. Much like a role-playing game, players will find themselves roaming the environment, crafting goods, and accepting quests from various NPCs. The biggest difference here, however, is that progress can be saved, allowing you return and pick up where you left off.
There may be some new game modes thrown into the mix but, ultimately, How To Survive, remains the same at its core. No matter which scenario you find yourself in, you’ll always follow the same routine of acquiring weapons, killing enemies, and topping up your survival gauges. Luckily, as it stands, this existing gameplay model isn’t completely unappealing.
Though combat is somewhat bland and repetitive, there’s a sense of cohesion that brings the whole package together. Killing enemies or scouting sections of the island will uncover resources that are then crafted into items, creating a tangible sense of progression and achievement. It’s also a relief to see that any experience, skills, or armour gained will carry over between save slots and game modes, offering up at least some replay incentive.
If you already own How To Survive on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, or PC, there’s little point in forking out for the upgraded version. Though it definitely runs well on the latest home consoles, its top-down perspective and rehashed environments do little to show off their computing prowess. On top of that, the new game modes aren’t anything ground-breaking, only serving as substantive albeit familiar distractions.
Even for those who’ve yet to try the game at all, How To Survive is a risky sixteen-pound investment. Unless you have friends online or someone to play with locally, it’s hard not to feel short-changed as co-operative play is where the game shines brightest. It’s a lot easier to overlook the its mundane combat mechanics and sluggish grind when you’re swinging your machete alongside other survivors.
If developer EKO were to focus more on the actual survival elements of the game, they could have produced something fun and inventive. However, even in its slightly-enhanced glory, How To Survive feels like a half measure or, at it’s very worst, a generic action RPG re-skin.