How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition Review

By Marc Caccamise, 2 years ago
Undoubtedly the year of 2014 will come to be known by many as the year of remakes. That is the case for both the games where it seems to make sense for such a treatment, and those where it seems a little strange. How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition is an example of the latter. The 360 version of the game was not very well received amongst critics, and even on TrueAchievements, the game has only been started by just over 2,800 members of the community. Nonetheless, the game did make the journey from console to console, and as of right now, is really the only game of its kind available on the Xbox One.

The biggest notable about the game's journey to the One is that it brought all of its DLC with it. This packed-in DLC includes a new outfit for the three original playable characters, a new character, Nina, who can craft flamethrowers and advanced chainsaws, and new islands, game modes, and difficulties. For those who may have found the original version to be a little skimpy on replay value, the additional content is a nice bonus.

Review 1

For those who are unfamiliar with How to Survive, think of zombie survival games like Dead Island and Dead Rising but in a top-down, twin-stick format. As the name suggests, the game is all about battling to survive against your undead foes, but it goes much deeper than that. Basic human necessities, such as food, water, and sleep are as much of a big deal as hacking a machete into the head of the nearest zombie. Fall behind on maintaining one of the three, and you'll find your chances of survival begin to be hindered by the effects. Starting off on a beach with next to nothing, scavenging the world around you and using those items to create weapons and useful items, is essential.

Gameplay is king of this experience, with any sort of story or dialogue falling by the wayside. The three original playable characters, with the aforementioned Nina providing a fourth, are only really differentiated by the unique weapons they can craft, and the individual skill levels they are preset at. While your character remains mute for the entirety of the game, you'll encounter other humans, monkeys, and parrots (yes, monkeys and parrots) who will give you quests to complete. The real star of the show, or at least the only star of the show, is Kovac, a master survivalist who is your guide to surviving the apocalypse. His tutorial guides that are scattered around the islands are titled "How to Survive", hence the tie-in to the game's title. Kovac provides an individual flair of his own, which makes him a standout amongst every other character; it's just a shame he didn't play a larger part in the game.

Review 3

The weapons, equipment, and other aid that you'll need to survive on the island are rarely found already completed. Instead an assortment of random objects can be collected and crafted together to create different varieties of useful items. For example, a flexible branch combined with a spool of wire will create a very useful bow, and combining sticks with the use of your machete will craft arrows. Killing an ostrich and collecting its feathers to then combine with your arrows creates even more powerful arrows, which you can then combine with gasoline to create incendiary and explosive arrows. This tree of expanding possibilities is just one example of how creative you can get with your weapons. An even better example of the elasticity of these crafting outcomes is with the standard guns, where a simple swap of one part can be the difference in creating a precision rifle, pistol, shotgun, or machine gun. The only real downside is that there seems to be times when resources are in short supply, and that creates a hesitancy to get too creative due to not knowing when you'll be seeing more items you may need.

The dependability of providing for basic human needs creates an even bigger importance on resource management. Eating food, drinking water, and getting some rest are all essential tasks that must be kept in check throughout the game. Not eating enough results in a decrease in strength and less damage done to zombies, while not drinking enough causes your aim to take longer to lock on for a precision shot. Staying on top of these basic needs can prove to be challenging. Meat and fish gained from hunting and fishing must first be cooked over a fire to eat, and only water taken from a well can be drunk. Entire wells seem to dry up after only three water bottles are filled, so you'll have to constantly keep an eye out for wells for refills, and in the meantime becoming dehydrated is not uncommon. Meanwhile, not getting enough sleep will lower your stamina and decrease the availability to sprint. Sleeping can only take place inside the secure shacks that are scattered throughout the islands. First they must be cleared of a zombie horde, however, and when in vital need of some rest, it can become a pretty hectic situation.

Review 4

The hordes of enemies in How to Survive are as intense as games with larger scopes and budgets. Whether it's clearing one of the secure shacks or just proceeding down a path, it isn't uncommon for the screen to be completely filled by the undead. The relative ease of dealing with a scattered zombie here and there only lasts for the first island. As soon as you reach your next destination, encounters and zombies rev up. Your standard slow-moving zombie is the easiest to deal with, but as time goes on, you'll encounter armored zombies, "boomer" zombies which explode when in close proximity, and tall, lanky zombies that do significantly more damage. Standard zombies are not the only thing to worry about, however, as undead wildlife also take an aggressive stance against you. As ridiculous as it may sound, it was more worrisome when a deer, alligator, bear, ostrich, or beach crabs appeared than most zombies to be encountered. It also added to the game's occaisional ridiculous and frustrating scenarios, as a successful victory over a zombie horde can be quickly wiped out by being run down by one of these animals.

These so-called ridiculous situations can, at times, cause concern about progressing through the game. One such occurrence took place as I was running from a pursuing brute (the boss zombies you sometimes encounter), and took a boat to a different island. However, on that island a mob of zombies awaited me right in the spawn, and with such little health it quickly turned into an impossible situation, no matter how many times I traveled from island to island. I was able to eventually progress through the situation, but these types of dilemmas happened several other times on much smaller scales. A combination of at times ineffective weapons, lack of resources, and swarming enemies can cause overwhelming moments.

Review 2

The inclusion of all of How to Survive's DLC introduces new game modes to accompany the main story, all of which complement it nicely. "One Shot Escape" affords you a single life to try and escape from the island. Starting off with practically nothing and adopting what has been learned in the story is essential to make it through the long journey. "Barricade!" on the other hand is the exact opposite of "One Shot Escape". Instead of trying to get off the island, the aim is to create an effective barricade around two other survivors and hold out as long as possible. The process of crafting weapons seamlessly transfers into the process of crafting defenses. Additionally there are eight challenge levels which contain a variety of objectives to complete. All of these modes can be played solo or with a co-op friend.

The achievement list contains a pretty standard array to complete, with 37 in total. The story was plenty difficult to complete on Normal, meaning that the achievement for completing the game on Iron Man difficulty will probably be quite the challenge. There is an achievement to visit each of the islands, and difficulty completion achievements for the "El Diablo" chapter which was added thanks to the DLC. Collectible, killing so many zombies in a specified time, and challenge mode achievements make up a bulk of those remaining. Perhaps the best on the list is to use a zombie deer to kill 20 zombies.

Summary

How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition may not have been the most expected game to come across to the Xbox One, but it's one that fans of this genre type should enjoy. While the story is mostly brushed over, and some frustrating encounters with the enemies can occur, the crafting and survival system that the game is based around is very strong and expansive. The inclusion of all of the game's previous DLCs will also give players a reason to come back, whether on their own or with a friend.
3.5 / 5
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Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent nearly twelve hours playing through the game's story on Normal difficulty, as well as portions of the other game modes. 10 of the game's 37 achievements were unlocked along the way. This review is based off an Xbox One digital copy provided courtesy of the publisher.
Marc Caccamise
Written by Marc Caccamise
Writer of news, features, and reviews for TrueAchievements since June 2013. Discovered the incredible world of video games at a young age with Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf, and haven't looked back since. Outside of gaming, I'm usually found reading up on various history topics or rooting for the lowly Buffalo Bills and Sabres.