I've always loved the idea of survival games but have yet to find one that's had me hooked. The thought of being plonked in a dangerous world and having to explore to survive is one that really hits home with my sense of adventure, but so many survival games make surviving more of an irritation than something you're constantly battling against.
How to Survive 2
tries to combat that by stripping this side of things right down to a minimum. Get too hungry and an image will flash on the top left of the screen telling you to eat. Carry too much in your backpack and you'll move slower and use up more stamina. Simple rule sets that you need to keep your eye on while you continue on your merry way.
Everything you need to do to survive in the game is evident from the start and on paper that's a good way of not forcing the player to stop doing what they want to do and go on a hunt just to stay alive. At first the concept seemed to work as I went exploring while slaughtering zombies and levelling up my camp. But, slowly, I started to question why this aspect was even in there.
It's not like I had a lack of supplies at any point. Every mission I went on was jam packed with items that I needed to stay fed, hydrated and full of health so whenever a notification flashed up on the screen it was a simple button press from disappearing for a bit.
Your main task is to slowly build your camp with the help of survival eccentric Novac, a friendly Russian who wants to help you in any way he can apart from sharing his living space with you. He'll send you on missions to teach you the basics and introduce you to new characters who'll also ask tasks of you.
You push forward, you build and you continue. Everything works well enough from the levelling system and the mission structure that forces you to progress towards becoming a modern day Bear Grylls but without the piss drinking.
Enemies get tougher, and as different infected zombies are introduced they force you to think about how you're approaching combat, but nothing feels like the game is really asking questions of you. In many ways when playing it felt more like a mobile game than a fully-formed console release. I was playing on auto-pilot, not really considering what I was doing.
I'd head back to camp, spend my XP points on levelling up my character and camp then hop into another mission. Nothing holds your attention and rarely are there moments that stick out other than some of the characters you meet along the way.
The moments that made me snap out of a haze were when I stumbled across the NPCs that populate the rather drab world. They'll often have something interesting enough about them to distinguish from one another and had they been more of a focus in How to Survive 2
there might be more here to recommend.
Instead the majority of your time is spent wondering the woods, or visiting towns in order to tap away at the X button to knock down the next mindless enemy, and it's back to the state of disinterest you dragged yourself out of for a brief moment.
That's the most criminal thing here. It's not as though How to Survive 2
is a bad game. It looks decent enough and plays well enough but does nothing to set itself apart from all of the other zombie survival games out on the market.
When you're tackling the saturated genre of zombie games you need to have something about you that makes sure that you're not going to sink into obscurity. You need a fresh take, or a mechanic we haven't seen before. Instead we have another game that is a bit like some other games and has enemies and a setting that we're all ready to move on from. It says nothing and it asks nothing. It just exists.
My final hope was for the online play. Co-operative zombie hunting is a good idea in anyone's book, but unfortunately there are problems here too. No doubt the best way to play How to Survive 2
is by playing along at the same pace with friends. But when going in alone you'll often find yourself being left behind.
I tried a few times to team up with strangers but they'd tend to go into missions that I was under-levelled for, leaving me to just go and do my thing. There was no sense of a community coming together, more a group of friends who were wondering who the weirdo was who's just logged into their server.
A shame then, because I'm still on the hunt for a survival game that can get it's claws into me and although you won't hear me tearing into this game, you won't hear me recommending it either.
+ Looks good enough
+ Plays well enough
- But that simply isn't enough
SPOnG Score: 5/10