reviews\ May 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

Lone Survivor review


The state of survival horror games is pretty bad right now. When you have games that are supposed to be scary failing to deliver and relying solely on jump scares, you know the genre's in trouble. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with jump scares — because any sane person loves a good one every now and then — there's something truly magnificent and beautiful about a good tension-inducing scare.

Lone Survivor is a great example of this. Developed by Jasper Byrne, the man behind Superflat Games who also brought us the splendid and damn near perfect Soul Brother, Lone Survivor is all about madness and tension. You play as the survivor of a horrible outbreak that has turned what seems like the entire population into mutant creatures. Stuck in your apartment, you must navigate the entire complex in search of survivors. Are there even other living folks near your dwelling? Are they worth seeking out? These are just two of the many questions Lone Survivor explores.

The reason the game succeeds so well is because it pays close attention to both the survival and horror aspects of the genre. Your supplies are limited, food is scarce, and you really have no indicator to help you figure out if there's anything for you to collect in any given area. Your character needs to eat and sleep regularly, and if you're not finding food or returning to your apartment for some much needed rest, you're pretty much screwing yourself over bad.

The most interesting thing about Lone Survivor's survival element is that it really makes you question how bad you want your character to survive. Should you eat that disgusting squid? Is that gross meat you found even edible? What about those pills? What could they possibly do to you if you take them? Lone Survivor makes you explore the deepest depths of your survival instinct, and when you realize how far you have to push your character, it can be truly terrifying.

That's not the only thing that's scary, though. No, Lone Survivor makes it a point to scare the crap out of you throughout its entirety. But it doesn't do it with jump scares. It does it with atmosphere, sound, and imagery. You know when some imposing mutant is nearby, and if you have a flashlight on you, you may want to think twice about turning it on, because if you do, you'll draw attention and have to run for your life.

Getting away from one mutant is OK, but when you see that there are three of the damn things following you — chasing behind you and even crawling eerily on the ceiling — you know your best bet is to find the nearest exit. Sometimes, that exit isn't very close, so if you find a hiding place, you'll have to use it to your advantage and hope that the mutants get away from you. You can actually lead these enemies to rotten pieces of meat, and when they're distracted, that's your cue to get away.

You also have a gun, but ammo is scarce, and you can't go in with guns a-blazin'. Do so and you may find yourself drawing unnecessary attention. That gun's no use to you when you've got a group of mutants clawing away at you. If you want to succeed in the world of Lone Survivor, know that your gun is an important tool, but it should by no means be your go-to item whenever you feel threatened. Oftentimes it's best to run or hide in the shadows.

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