How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition Reviews

  • GeoffistophelesGeoffistopheles1,068,324
    16 Oct 2015
    19 3 7
    How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition is the full DLC ultimate edition of How to Survive on the 360. A top down twin stick shooter with a focus on the titular survival, this was frequently downloaded as a Games with Gold title in August 2015. While there are many improvements over the base game, there are some areas where that improvement is questionable.

    The place where the improvement is necessary and much needed: the controls. Gone are the unintuitive controls of the original, largely flipping the bumpers and triggers. Move with LS, aim with RS, attack with cn_RT. Sprint with cn_LT, use items with cn_LB, cycle between weapon types with cn_RB, and cycle between similar weapons with cn_Y.

    Combat throws in a few helpers. With melee, an attack can be charged by holding cn_RT before releasing to swing. If an attack staggers, you can press cn_A to do an instant kill. With ranged combat, aim with cn_RS and a circle will display over the target's head. Hold it until a red crosshair shows up for a guaranteed headshot.

    While there's different variants of zombies, most won't alter your play style any. Standard zombies can come with helmets to require additional headshots or body armor so that only headshots are effective. Lurkers are afraid of light and only come out at night, but can be scared off with a torch or a flashlight. Bombers explode upon death and require ranged attacks. Zombified animals will run and attack you. The major El Diablo DLC adds electric zombies, which can be reanimated by lightning, and volcanologists, which are heavily armored mini-bosses best killed with electricity. Finally, there are the occasional bosses in the form of giant abominations, but each time you face them, they get progressively easier.

    The second enemy is survival. You need to take care of hunger, thirst, and energy gauges in addition to your health. Letting any of these lapse to 50% saddle you with debuffs of less melee damage, longer aiming times, and shorter sprints, respectively. There will always be dedicated inventory space to keeping these gauges topped off. For energy, you will largely need to rest at a secure shelter... but opening one for the first time triggers a swarm of zombies, so be prepared.

    The game also includes a crafting menu, which really adds some life to the game. You can make incremental upgrades to bows, adding stabilizers and pulleys to improve aim and power. You can upgrade healing and survival items to completely max out a gauge instead of barely staving it off. Throw together some armor from regular junk, then reinforce that armor.

    However, where it clearly put some thought into it is the handmade gun crafting. Once you have a grip and some tools, the rest is up to you. There are six basic guns to make through different air pressurizers and barrels. Even better, if you decide you didn't really like your gun, you can always uncombine and break it down into its constituent parts and try a different setup.

    This isn't always the case, though. You will eventually find redstone that upgrades your weapons damage, but once you've applied it and made it a golden weapon, you cannot uncombine it.

    Challenge Mode is the big one, since it's the only one that offers achievements. Eight different scenarios, available in solo or co-op. You start with nothing but supplies scattered around you, and your goal is to get off the island. You are graded after a success, with those points culminating in a title. One Shot is a randomized game in which you have one life to get off the islands with very scarce resources. Barricade is the opposite, setting up shop around survivors and lasting as long as possible.

    There are four characters to choose from here, Kenji, Abby, Jack, and Nina, and selection is important here, both for stats and perks. Kenji is focused on guns, Abby on bows, Jack on melee, and Nina on fueled melee. Each character can also craft something specific to them; Kenji has crossbows, Abby has special booster potions, Jack has scopes, and Nina has flamethrowers and elite chainsaws. Each character can choose 15 of 19 perks available to them, with four skill respecs before needing to start over.

    The three main characters have an additional bonus in Fireman DLC. They all have an alternate firefighter outfit that renders them immune to fire damage and gives a free perk to craft incendiary ammo. Nina does not have this advantage, though incendiary ammo is one of her perks further down the line.

    Nina is more about crafting, making up for disparate stats and a lack of fire immunity with even bigger weapons. Most useful as a co-op partner or a side character who can just make the items for everyone and give them back.

    If you're playing for story, prepare for disappointment. You're stranded on an archipelago and your goal is to survive long enough to get out. Occasionally, you'll meet some monkeys with parrots who give you sidequests. You'll meet other survivors, most of which you only see a handful of times before you're on your own again. For the most part, this is a blessing, since these characters are voiced in such a lifeless way that you can't bother caring about them. The El Diablo DLC doesn't improve matters any.

    The exception to this rule is Survivor Savior Kovac. The only character with some life to him, Kovac has written the How to Survive guidebooks, Kovac's Rules, that you find as a new game mechanic sets in. These guidebooks are short and entertaining, one of the more memorable things from this game.

    Outside of Kovac, no one would fault you for muting the game. There's simply not enough going on to care. The occasional zombie growl, the waves hitting the shores, the parrot squawking incessantly if you're within a hundred meters of a monkey... supposedly these things will help give you clues as to what you're about to run into, but not especially.

    Graphically, the game hasn't undergone much of an improvement. Zombies look like zombies, players appearance changes depending on armor. Some of the instant kills look strange, especially if you activate one from too far away and you just start sliding towards your target while performing the animation, which can finish before you even get there.

    To begin, while there are three difficulty modes in Easy, Normal, and Ironman, the story completion achievement for the base game is assuming you're playing on Normal. Furthermore, Ironman is not a one life persistent save, die and its over deal, just Hard.

    This can be a difficult game, both before and after you get powerful weapons. The game is about withstanding swarms of zombies at once, and they move just as fast, if not occasionally faster, than you. Fighting is the standard option, and flight can just as often run you into a second swarm and leave you surrounded. Even with powerful weapons, you can still find yourself simply overwhelmed at times.

    However, once you get going, the game can get much easier. By the time you're coming down the final stretch, it's not unheard of to have giant stacks of cooked meat, lemonade, and soda in your inventory, trivializing the survival aspect. Similarly, the only time you'll run low on ammo is after scripted gigantic swarms or simply spraying and praying with a shotgun or machine gun.

    To those who played the original, this game is significantly harder because of the now mandatory Kovac's Way DLC. This adds a lot of survival aspects that, especially early, can be frustrating to deal with. Batteries on flashlights now die. Campfires require a piece of flint to light the fire. Bone and wooden weapons break unless you put redstone on them. Wells dry up. Weather effects are added, so no visibility in fog, and no fire when it rains. Lightning strikes cause minor damage and can find you anywhere, including safe houses. While this difficulty evaporates much like other survival aspects late in the game, in the beginning, you might find yourself wondering why you can't just disable it.

    37 achievements, up from the previous 12, and a fairly varied list. A handful of story achievements before the game gets stingy, keeping them to killing zombies, killing zombies fast, killing zombies in unique ways, and making zombie deer kill zombies.

    How to Survive: Storm Warning EditionCollateral damageThe Collateral damage achievement in How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition worth 223 pointsGet zombies deer to kill 20 Zombies.

    Completing the sidequests of monkeys can be confusing, since it only counts the base 12 and doesn't count DLC things like the golden egg or the hidden monkeys, but in this version it's hard to tell which counts. The El Diablo achievements largely revolve around using the new electric crafting materials.

    Finally, there are some frustrating challenge mode achievements, including the only one that requires a co-op partner. Finishing without healing is one challenge, but finishing without ever taking damage is an exceedingly frustrating one relying on a bit of luck.

    It's not a bad list, but this game rewards achievements in bursts, not streams.

    Storm Warning comes as a much needed overhaul to the base game, but not enough to truly elevate it to excellent status. It's competent and fun for what it is, stumbling occasionally on delivery, but altogether a fun game both solo and co-op.
    Showing all 7 comments.
    Mr GranstaffGood review. Sheds some more light on the game than I was able to dig up elsewhere.

    I do have questions: which challenge requires a co-op partner?

    Without proper achievement flagging, I'm unsure if anything is online only.

    Also, is there local co-op or just online?
    Posted by Mr Granstaff on 16 Oct 15 at 20:37
    GeoffistophelesThe achievement is to complete any challenge with a co-op partner.

    There is local and online co-op. Same restrictions apply to both, have to stay on the same screen, can't get too far away.
    Posted by Geoffistopheles on 16 Oct 15 at 20:41
    Mr GranstaffWhoops.. It appears I misread your review initially because you clearly said that "...challenge mode achievements, including the only one that requires a co-op partner."

    That's good that there is local play too. Won't need to worry about depending on a server should I feel the need for co-op play.
    Posted by Mr Granstaff on 16 Oct 15 at 20:49
    WookieKiller247Good review. I played about half an hour and put it down to play DA:I. I should pick it up again soon.
    Posted by WookieKiller247 on 16 Oct 15 at 23:41
    C64 MatI was surprised to see four stars at the end of the review! Great read, very insightful. Extremely thorough coverage :)
    Posted by C64 Mat on 21 Oct 15 at 05:26
    GeoffistophelesTo address why all the negatives still result in four stars, I generally don't believe in slashing a game down due to difficulty. It's one thing if I game is hard, challenging, but fair, and another if the game is being overly punishing simply because it can. How to Survive falls into the former.

    Similarly, the majority of the difficulty complaints came in comparison to the base game. Assuming everyone who started the base game on TA has also started Storm Warning, they account for 8% of the game's population at time of writing. Especially as it's only really touch and go in the first half while you learn to deal with everything the game throws at you, it's similarly unfair to slam the game for being more immersive compared to something over 90% of players won't experience.
    Posted by Geoffistopheles on 21 Oct 15 at 14:50
    Nog89I have recently started playing this game (trying to work through my backlog) and tbf i'm quite enjoying it! I agree with this review - shame that it's now 2017 and you cannot find a server anymore!! Gutted.
    Posted by Nog89 on 13 Jul 17 at 13:40