How to Survive, MacGyver vs. zombies

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By this time everyone is getting tired of killing zombies.  From pixelation to paradise, we’ve all smashed more brains and likewise been ripped apart more times than should really be socially acceptable.  Why is this? Well, zombies are safe enemies.  They are person-like enough to be fun to kill, but are clearly monsters, so the deranged soccer-moms of America can’t really blame zombie-slaying for the downfall of western civilization.  More safe than zapping aliens, as that would just be xenophobia and in some cases their belief systems are just echoes of our own xenophobic issues…<cough> Halo </cough>  Yes, zombies are our little squishy rage receptacles, and H2S takes the love of zombie-slaying to isometric levels.

Among the first things that I noticed when starting this game up is its insistence upon issues controls at me like I am holding an xbox controller.  Also, it’s an isometric action RPG.  Like Legend of Zelda with less magic, more zombies and gallons of blood.  Your character of choice washes up on the shore of some island with a random asshole nearby coughing and gasping for air.  Me, I would have just taken the stick he gave me and bashed his brains out with it.  One less zombie to fight later, but it seems this game is more merciful than I am.  You leave the guy to his fate.  Christ.  I would have taken the stick to the head option.

Also, after getting that guy some pain-killing plants to munch on, he gives you a stick.  He even says you won’t survive without it!  Lovely.  Now the only thing keeping me from the precipice of doom is a flimsy piece of wood.  You’ll use it initially to bash in zombie brains, then later you use sticks for crafting.  Alongside some other detritus and pickups, you will find these floating books left behind by a mystical russian sage in a welder’s mask named Kovac.  It is pretty clear that Kovac is a few screws short as he had so perfected the art of survival that he now writes manuals chapter by chapter and leaves them across the various islands you’ll explore.  All this is done for the benefit of anyone else that might end up on his zombie-infested archipelago.  O, yea, this takes place on some tropical islands, but don’t worry, there are no luxury hotels or rap-singers.  Just a russian guy and some zombies. O, and the odd survivor or two.

againstwall

She looks royally fucked. I met a couple gameover screens putting my back against a wall.

Probably the best element of this game is the crafting system.  Your character runs around grabbing items pieces of useless junk, such as harpoon grips and air tanks, and uses them to build shotguns and pistols which fire screws, nuts and bolts.  Hence why I reference the 80’s tv show MacGyver: the original “guy who could go into the woods with a q-tip and build a shopping mall”.  My personal favorite was the boomerang made of two sharpened bones you tied together.  That just screams terrible, messy death.  Especially when you meet some of the bosses in this game.  Shit, man!  I was playing solo, but you can easily play a local game (on your fucking computer) and run around with another player blasting zombies.  At some points you’ll be glad to have that other player.  Numerous times alone at night I have had to flip around while fighting off a horde of zombies with just a bow to shine my flashlight at the night zombies, which hate the light.  That stalls them long enough to kill a couple more enemies attacking your front.  Such frantic gameplay, however, is easily avoided by bringing a buddy.  Sure, there are other survivors in this game, but most of them are either content hiding on their personal island and writing manuals for everyone else or they die terribly.  There is also the off chance they are just disabled, but yea, not helpful.  One NPC that follows you around just seems to be the guy that knows where everything is.  That’s Ramon, and he is obviously someone’s latino grandfather.  A little on the stereotypical side, he calls you papa at some points and uses other spanish terms.  It gets uncomfortable after a while.

Your character progresses to meet the challenges presented by leveling up.  Each kills, direct or otherwise, gets you exp and those points get you skills, like making crossbows or better aim.  There are skills oriented toward survival, too.  Mostly oriented toward the necessity mechanics of the game.  There are three things you need to do in this game: eat, drink and sleep.  Neglecting any of them results in your demise.  You can hunt wild animals, but carrying bloody predictably makes you a zed-magnet and you have to cook it before consumption.  There are wild fruits, which replenish thirst and hunger but also give you diarrhea if you eat too many.  Then there are the roots.  You can find things like cassavas everywhere, but these are gross and replenish only hunger, but they keep you from dying and you can eat all of them with no negative effects.  For water the game places freshwater wells throughout the game and allows you to fill empty bottles with the water, for drinking on the go.

Then there is sleep.  Your character can only sleep at designated locations throughout the game.  Little safehouses built by Kovac and out fitted with beds, a savepoint and a blaring loud siren.  O, yea, this fucker goes off and attracts EVERYTHING in the vicinity.  Not to mention the safehouse starts spitting out zombies at you, too!  So you have to run around in circles zapping gut-munchers and praying you can survive.  The third safehouse you come to was truly fucking irritating, too.  I only have my little homemade pistol and a bow.  I must have missed some goodies, though so I am heading back a bit to see if I can make a shotgun at least.

If that doesn’t sound frustrating enough, some of the fucking zombies have ARMOR on.  Seriously!  You can shoot them all you want with your pistol, but that shit ain’t getting through!  For those guys you need to get out your bow, focus, woo sah woo sah and release.  Meanwhile, a ton of little brainbugs or regular zombies (which get progressively harder to kill) are munching on your spleen.  At some points the game feels more like a test of your ability to cycle through you inventory, but going into your inventory quickly became my method of choice as it pauses the game.  I use this time to address issues of near-death, hunger or thirst.  There are also zombies that explode, giant fucking run-for-your-life-and-hide-like-a-bitch zombies that take forever to die.

"You say 'woo sah' to me one more time, jack, and I shoot you in the dick."

“You say ‘woo sah’ to me one more time, Jack, and I shoot you in the dick.”

Did I mention the natural problems you might run into while living in the middle of nowhere?  You might get charged down by a wild animal defending the watering hole.  Or perhaps you take a swim in a piranha infested swamp?  Yep, the longer you stay, the more you realize this island was set up by a secret government organization to vet the pool of 80’s action hero hopefuls.  There are all kinds of neat elements, though.  You can pick plants and use them to make power potions, craft poultices for injuries and other neat shit.  I would say get this game, but only if survival amongst zombies while building flamethrowers and crossbows intrigues you.  As of this article, Steam has this game on sale for 3.74$.  The DLC’s aren’t on sale, but altogether they cost only 8.94$, so this is definitely worth your money.  The sale is only good until June 29th, 2014, though, so get on that shit!

The game itself tells you how many days you’ve survived, which is neat and all, but I cannot help but feel like this game was supposed to go in another direction.  I have been right about this sort of thing before, too.  It seems like this game was supposed to throw you into a nasty, rough environment and force you to survive on your own.  No storytime, no Kovac and no one to help you but your own gut instinct.  I also feel like they might have allowed you to build your own base at some point, but the game never gets there.  Instead you just sort of run around picking up Kovac’s breadcrumbs and helping your mexican grandfather accomplish his dream of flying a plane.

There is one thing that pisses me off about this title, too.  That being the zombie tropes.  Every game that has zombies wants the game to get tougher than just making you fight the same bland living dead all the time.  Sure, they could just make them tougher to kill, but without an external reason making them tougher to kill (ie armor or helmets) it is a little cheesy.  Thus, since Left 4 Dead every fucking zombie killing game has had the same stupid fucking exploding zombies!  Just change the fucking skin texture and hope no one notices.  Then there is this large, pain-in-the-ass-to-kill tank zombie that charges you down. Seriously, people, if someone can’t get a little more original, I might just stop buying anything with fucking zombies in it.

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