The focus of recent zombie games is one of desperation and survival, placing you in a zombie infested world with little else but the clothes on your back. You then have to survive by crafting weapons, finding other survivors and banding together to escape your current predicament. Enter the latest zombie game, How to Survive, an XBLA title developed by EKO Software and published by 505 Games.

The game plays out as an isometric zombie romp over four islands which you have found yourself stranded upon. If you’ve recently played Diablo III on the Xbox then you’ll be right at home with H2S’s style of gameplay, although whereas Diablo III allowed buildings and the environment to fade in and out, H2S makes you fumble around using your mind’s eye to navigate areas blocked by buildings or trees.

Hordes can overwhelm you pretty quickly if you don't have a game plan worked out

Hordes can overwhelm you pretty quickly if you don’t have a game plan worked out

Choosing to play as one of three survivors, each with their own uniques skills, H2S includes several RPG elements including an experience tree and a set of core skills that increase as you level up. You’ll also need to eat, sleep and drink to keep yourself in tip-top condition – you’re given adequate warning when your character is hungry, tired or thirsty but funnily enough eating to satiate your hunger won’t fill your health bar, you’ll need to rest, use a Medikit or medicinal plants to replenish your health.

There are plenty of enemies to tackle, shuffling corpses, armoured soldier zombies, faster (what can only be described as) strange creatures and the overused Boomer zombie type. There are even some zombies that only come out at night when things can get quite intense. You are left to your own naming conventions for each zombie, unless Kovac points out what they are called. Kovac? Who is Kovac? Well, you aren’t the only one stranded! There’s a strange man called Kovac who’s written a survival guide called…you guessed it, How to Survive. The guide has been conveniently left for you to discover so that you might learn the secrets of surviving among zombies, but is there more to Kovac than meets the eye? Each chapter of the guide plays out as an amusing video warning you about an upcoming peril or teaching you a survival technique; the video shorts are similar to the tutorials of Bioshock and Fallout, and equally amusing.

Combat is simple, the Right Stick is your aim and the Right Bumper is the attack button. You may equip melee or ranged weapons which can be cycled with the Y button although you’ll need to go into your inventory to select one of the two types first; it’s annoying that you can’t just cycle through all your weapons instead of having to choose which set to equip.

Anyone up for a spot of fishing while there's a zombie infestation going on?

Anyone up for a spot of fishing while there’s a zombie infestation going on?

Apart from a machete, you must craft your weapons by scavenging parts – which at times can be quite a burden on your inventory slots. Luckily each weapon can be crafted in parts so you don’t have to carry several elements before you can craft the final weapon. Items can be crafted at any time, with the bulk of the crafting focused on weapons. Apparently there are over 100 that can be crafted, some of which are quite inventive. Once crafted, you can improve items by adding to them later and even dismantle them back down to their raw materials, ideal for creating more room in your inventory by temporarily crafting items together. You don’t need a blueprint to be able to craft an item either, although they are strewn about the islands detailing exactly what you need, sometimes common sense is all that’s needed.

Although it’s a bit iffy and lacking in depth, the story unfolds at a reasonable pace with some good voice acting and ‘colourful’ characters, it’s just a shame that interacting with them feels rather flat because your character doesn’t have a voice.

Through your travels around the maze-like islands you’ll find all manner of resource from mission items to useful pieces of equipment, it’s a shame that the inventory is a chore to manage mainly because resources are just far too plentiful. With so much for you to scavenge there’s no real feeling of desperation to your survival. Most items will respawn and although zombies also respawn you won’t find yourself low on ammunition or food supplies. It does mean you’ll quickly fill up your inventory and item juggling becomes annoying, especially when you have to make room for mission items. What’s needed is a safe box where you can store items, each area has a makeshift camp so it seems obvious to include a place that you can store supplies.

Things can get real interesting at night!

Things can get real interesting at night!

The night cycle is certainly the creepiest part of the game especially as tougher enemies come out to play, don’t go thinking you can just sleep it off either! You can only sleep when you’re tired and quite often you’ll need to sleep when it’s daytime, meaning you’ll wake at night – make sure you’re well equipped with decent weapons and plenty of Medikits. Similar to the gameplay of Alan Wake, creepy crawling enemies are afraid of the light so shining your trusty flashlight at them will stop them from charging at you and give you some room to thin out the other zombies as the creepers retreat back in to the darkness.

Another tricky enemy you’ll come across are boss zombies, these only appear a few times in the game (thankfully) and can be a real pain in the backside, especially if you aren’t heavily armed. They can also prove tricky because a swarm of zombies backs them up making things slightly hectic – which is possibly the best way to describe H2S. It may start off like a leisurely stroll in the park, but H2S’s pace can get overwhelming at times when multiple zombie types are thrown at you and don’t forget to watch your step in the swamps! There are piranhas that lurk in the water devouring everything in their path. With all this going on while you run about trying to reload and thin out the hordes of the undead who, of course respawn in areas you’ve already cleared, you can see why things can get a little hectic at times especially as you have to manage your stamina bar as you run about.

Online challenges are all that's available – campaign is only available locally

Online challenges are all that’s available – campaign is only available locally

H2S includes an online multiplayer so you can team up with a friend to survive through 8 challenges, that’s right challenges! There is local co-op so you can take on the campaign with a friend but to only have online challenges isn’t good enough when you have a game like H2S that is just begging to be played over Xbox Live.

Online aside, 505 really are knocking it out of the park at the minute with some top digital releases (who was it that said digital would never work?) How to Survive continues this fine form and is sure to be a winner among all types of zombie fans even with its diluted feeling of survival – besides if you want a tougher survival experience then dive straight in to Iron Man mode!

Review: How to Survive
The good
  • Easy yet tough in places
  • Fun, lighthearted zombie survival
  • Extremely playable
The bad
  • No online campaign
  • Main character has no voice
  • Far too many resources to scavenge
82%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
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About The Author

Rich has reviewed over 50 games for the site covering everything from the top titles to the not so top titles *cough Ride to Hell. Rich is passionate about gaming and loves to tell everyone what he thinks about the platform and the games he's played.

  • mutator

    is it possible to breach a barricade?