Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut Review
There are no games on PS Vita that make you feel as uncomfortable as Lone Survivor.
It’s clear from the instant you boot up that not everything is as it seems, and from that moment onward Lone Survivor continues to throw tidbits of clues that either help or hinder your ability to piece together the mystery.
Lone Survivor has you playing ‘You’, an assumed representation of yourself in this derelict world.
A nasty cough has spread throughout the unnamed region, an illness that instead of forcing you to take a day off work or school in fact causes peoples insides to invert – their skin on the inside.
If that sounds horrible, imagine being caught in the dark with nothing but rotting flesh to distract the beasties that fill the halls of your apartment block.
How Lone Survivor Plays
At its core Lone Survivor is a 2D exploratory game, requiring you to search the varying rooms and corridors to escape the horror of this diseased world and – perhaps – find other survivors. You are so lonely, after all.
Exploration is handled from left to right with a series of doors leading you through various locations. Though the ‘camera’ angle changes, it’s fairly simple to get your bearings after a short amount of time within these environments.
It can still get confusing, however, especially in later, more open locales – a problem solved by the constant rechecking of your map, but not quite removing the complaint all together.
Surviving comes in two forms – well, technically three, but we’ll get to that later. At a basic level you must sleep and eat; there’s fast travel back to your bedroom at fair checkpoints throughout the world, but food is a little trickier.
If you sleep while hungry the benefit you gain will be lessened, and stocks are limited so you had better be careful you don’t stuff yourself. Life or death is choosing between a tin of rice pudding or a couple of crackers and cheese.
The Horrors Of Lone Survivor
Saying that, life or death is actually whether or not you get mauled by a beastie. There isn’t a wide variety of enemies in Lone Survivor, but the ones that are there provide a necessary threat.
Part of this comes down to the limited ammunition for your handgun, a classic fear that Resident Evil fans would appreciate.
This means you need to be smart about picking your battles – at times it’s possible to hide in the shadows and shimmy by these gangly monsters, or terrify large groups of them with similarly limited supplied of flares.
The real fear comes from the atmosphere of Lone Survivor, however. A combination of darkness, eerie sounds and the sudden and unexpected horrors you’ll encounter – gaping maws, beating hearts or skin-covered openings you need to cut through – create a tangible sense of discomfort.
Then there are the numerous mysteries thrown your way. Who is the girl in the blue dress, or Chie, or that guy with a cardboard box on his head? All these answers come with time, but these moments nonetheless put you on edge.
But How Is It On PS Vita?
If you’ve played it on PC there likely isn’t much to tempt you over again, but nonetheless Lone Survivor is a perfect fit for Sony’s PS Vita.
Part of this is the closeness that comes from playing on the PS Vita; by holding the console closer to your face – when compared to console or PC gaming – you’re all the more absorbed in the on-screen actions.
It’s surprisingly adept at portable play, too. It’s not long until in-game You becomes tired, so the days themselves don’t last very long; though perhaps soiling yourself on the bus isn’t the most ideal way of playing anyway.
Sitting at home with the lights off and headphones in, however, will create a surprisingly intimate – and well-suited – environment for experiencing the fear.
Trophies, too, are very well handled. They likely won’t disturb you while playing through the first time, and that’s all for the better.
If you really get involved with Lone Survivor then you’ll find as many reasons to play through again – pacifist playthroughs were popular on the PC version, for example.
Lone Survivor Review
Because truth be told your first attempts through Lone Survivor will be scrubby at best: you’ll die often, you’ll run out of ammo and food and you’ll likely rely on the mentally-draining Blue Pills more often than you’d care to.
And your increasingly degraded mental health is the third means of surviving. Give in to the drugs a little too much and you may never solve the secrets of Lone Survivor.
Once the mechanics of the game have been learned, however, Lone Survivor does present itself as a fairly linear and, dare we say, a repetitive experience.
For all the exploration required, more corridors are blocked off than not, leading you down certain paths and providing little in the way of freedom.
And there are clearly defined ‘stages’ that you’ll have to explore, following very similar patterns of exploration and monster evasion.
Nonetheless there is a degree of longevity for a game so reliant on the overarching mystery as its hook, and if you are eager to see everything Lone Survivor has to offer you’ll need to become an expert at surviving the darkness.
Version tested: PS Vita