How to Survive is a survival horror game, developed by Eko Software and published by 505 Games. It was initially released on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC and originally planned to be released on the Wii U around the same time, however, 505 Games went quiet until late last year when they stated it would launch on the Wii U in early 2014. Besides getting the game a good few months after its initial release, the other bad news for Wii U owners is that the online co-op aspect of the game has been completely stripped away from this version. Cubed3 finds itself trapped on a deserted island, with only one task at hand: survival. Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out.
The game begins with the player character waking up on a deserted island, forced to search for food, water and other resources in order to stand a chance against the hostile inhabitants of the island: zombies who want to feast on the brains of survivors. There are three characters to choose from in How to Survive; Kenji, Abby and Jack - each of which have a unique skill and slightly different stats to set them apart from each other.
Kenji is an all-rounder who specialises in firearms with his pinpoint accuracy. Abby is a college girl who is pretty weak, but can take out undead from afar if given a bow. She also has the best stamina out of the bunch, which comes in handy when getting out of sticky situations. Jack is the Chuck Norris in this zombie-killing group. His strengths are… well, his strength and huge size. Just don't get too caught up in the horde; he isn't exactly the most athletic survivor!
During the story mode, players will meet up with survivalist guru Kovac, whose "interactive survival guide" has been scattered around the islands in various chapters. The game uses the entries from this guidebook to serve as tutorials which steadily introduce the player to the numerous gameplay mechanics on offer. Compared to the other NPCs who are pretty lifeless, Kovac is humorous and adds a hint of character to the game.
The GamePad usage here is minimal, but effective as it houses important information about the character's current status, displays a map and is also used for inventory management. As per the norm with Wii U eShop titles, Off-TV play is also a feature, meaning one can kill hordes of the undead whilst in the comfort of their bed… or on the toilet.
There are four factors which come into play when trying to stay alive: Health, Hunger, Tiredness and Thirst. These are displayed as meters on the GamePad and will deplete over time. Food is scattered around the islands in the form of plants and wild animals, clean supplies of water are found in wells which are pretty much everywhere, and there are numerous safe houses which provide a safe night's sleep.
As quests are completed, zombies are killed and supplies are picked up, characters will gain experience points which eventually leads to levelling up. The level system in How to Survive uses the tried and true formula of providing a skill tree housing various skills to decrease the depletion time of the four meters, and give characters the ability to craft different types of arrows and potions, among other things.
Speaking of crafting, this is the main way of obtaining decent weapons for combat. Guns, bows, arrows, chainsaws and more can all be crafted using How to Survive's simple, yet robust crafting system. Experimenting with different combinations is part of the fun and can sometimes lead to interesting results, such as bows with aim stabilisers or hand guns with high rate of fire.
In addition to the story mode, there are also challenges to tackle, which can be fairly testing when played on the higher difficulty. These challenges all have something unique about them, for example: one of the challenges pits the player against a horde of "fat" zombies, which explode on impact or when they get close to the player, whilst another challenge has various zombie animals roaming around the island.
Both the story mode and challenge mode can be played through local co-op, but unfortunately there is no online co-operative play in this version of How to Survive. When browsing the menus, it's obvious that the game was robbed of its online mode, due to the descriptions of modes having "local play" in them, indicating that there was online play initially. It's not really clear as to why the online modes were removed from the Wii U version, but it certainly affects the game quite a bit, as these challenges would've been even more fun with the ability to play with friends all over the world.
How to Survive is a good survival horror game, even if it may be a little too generic. The four factors of survival - Health, Hunger, Thirst and Tiredness - are a great feature, but would work a lot better if supplies were harder to come by. The lack of online co-op and higher price point on the Wii U isn't exactly going to help justify the purchase of this version, but for those who love zombies and are curious, check this out on another platform or wait for a sale.