At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey PS Vita Curve Studios Superflat Games (Original), Curve Studios (PlaySta 1
Requirements Also on...
None. PS3 (Cross-Buy), PC

Lone Survivor: Director's Cut review

Lone Survivor is an example of why indie games can be everything the big budget games are not. It is slow, disturbing and confidently low-fi. There's no flashy cut-scenes, the dialogue is all text-driven, it does very little in the way of hand holding, and it often leaves you in almost unwinnable situations with far too little of the essential resources. It's not fun and exciting in the way that games with multi-million pound budgets always seem to want to be; it's a survival horror game that avoids descending into a stream of battles with hundreds of zombies, a psychological thriller that makes you think carefully about your actions.

You should really be conserving your ammo

You should really be conserving your ammo

You begin in a world that has already gone to hell, playing as someone who is unsure if they are the only person to have survived the unknown event that turned the world's population into monsters. He is in his apartment and has been for some time, but with supplies running out, he needs to venture out and look for a way to get out of town to somewhere safer. When you do encounter the monsters, however, you're discouraged from engaging with them. While you do have a gun, you spend most of the game with very little ammo, and getting into a firefight - particularly one that draws in more foes - can quickly result in your demise. So you need to sink into the shadowy backgrounds in this side-scrolling adventure and avoid flashing your torch directly into the creepy beings who will chase you until you disappear into a new scene.

Survival isn't just about avoiding or killing the disturbing beings who want to end your life. Our hero only ventures out into the outside world because he has run out of supplies, so as much as you might be trying to get to somewhere safe, you also need to be on the look out for food to keep you going. You'll get hungry as you explore, and a lack of nutrition can leave you more vulnerable to death, until you eventually collapse. You can also only continue for so long before you get too tired or you will also collapse, but there are scattered mirror portals that allow you to get to your apartment and back which saves you trekking across the same locations every time you need to rest.

Things do take a rather surreal turn sometimes

Things do take a rather surreal turn sometimes

Breaking away from this flow of exploration, resource gathering, and monster encounters are surreal cutaways with dream sequences involving our protagonist and often unusual and/or disturbing scenarios. They can come as part of the flow of the story, but can also be brought about by getting too hungry or too tired, and yet they flow into the narrative so well that you're not sure whether you were meant to cause it to happen at that moment. They play well into the psychological thriller aspect of Lone Survivor, where our hero's sanity is being questioned, and you get to experience the deeper impact such a world-changing and horrifying event is having on this man.

Things do not appear to be going well

Things do not appear to be going well

As your exploration continues, though, a certain amount of monotony can kick in. The proceedings feel a bit familiar, and while there are some good twists and turns, in particular in those surreal cutaways, there is a lot of creeping along similar-looking corridors, urgently looking for food, and rushing back to the nearest mirror in order to get to bed and save. Even if you don't make it to the end, Lone Survivor is still a game worth experiencing, and certainly in the right conditions. The game recommends playing in low light and with headphones, and you should take this suggestion seriously as the suspense and disturbing elements do not come across nearly as strongly if you attempt to play on a bright summer's day (although they're hard to come by in the northern hemisphere at the time of writing). For this reason the PS Vita is probably the best platform for the game; while you can sit on the sofa and play the PS3 edition, or sit in front of a PC with the lights out, having the game shining directly into your face in a darkened room greatly increased your chances of getting a fright, and also for getting awfully suspicious that someone is lurking in the darkness.

Ratings

Overall Lone Survivor offers an interesting take on the survival horror genre that urges you to take more care in your actions and make an effort to actually stay alive. The exploration can get a bit tedious after a while, but along the way there's an interesting story with oddly surreal moments making it something that's not only worth experiencing, but worth experiencing on the PS Vita in the dark with headphones firmly in place. 8/10

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