Review: Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut (PS4)

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Title: Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut
Format: PlayStation Network Download (207 MB)
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: Jasper Byrne, Superflat Games/Curve Studios
Original MSRP: $9.99 (US),€9.99 (EU), £7.99 (UK) *This is NOT a Cross-Buy title.
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut is available for Wii U, PlayStation Network and PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation 4 downloadable version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

This game was released as a downloadable title on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. It is a Cross-Buy title on those systems but at a higher price. This version does not feature Cross-Buy but still has the Cross-Save feature.

I want to keep this review of Jasper Byrne’s game, Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut completely spoiler-free as one of the biggest selling points in this psychological survival adventure is that it’s your experience.

Editor’s Note:
Portions of this review also appear in our PS3/PS Vita coverage of Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut.

Gameplay:

I woke up in my bedroom, it was still dark outside. For a split second I had forgotten about the terrifying things outside, the diseases, the monsters. I hadn’t left the apartment in ages but my food was running out, so I would have to leave soon. But I could hear those things outside and worse still in the hallway, the only thing stopping them from coming into my apartment was a flimsy door and my unwillingness to open it.

Am I the only one left? I thought to myself as I made my way to that flimsy door. I passed a dusty mirror on the way, a starving and exhausted version of myself looked back at me. How long has it been, I couldn’t remember. I have to get out, otherwise I think I may go mad. Slowly I opened the door.

That was the first few minutes of the game as I remember it, and the rest of the game plays out the same way. My character doesn’t become an unstoppable killing machine, I need to continually scavenge for supplies and listen to the sounds emanating from the darkness ahead. Caution is key, otherwise I won’t last long. It becomes my own adventure.

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Jasper Byrne wants you to play this game alone, preferably in a dark room with no distractions and I can see from the very start of this game why he would want that. He even went to Sony and after some lengthy discussions, they allowed the game to not show any trophies during gameplay. They will be displayed only when the player goes to sleep, or on the completion of the game.

Horror is an underused genre in gaming, probably because it never quite works in most games, but I found Lone Survivor accomplishes more by simply doing less. Clever alterations to the screen during play, unnerving descriptive text, extremely fitting audio and surprisingly the old school pixelated graphics make the game as unnerving as it is.

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Lone Survivor is largely about choice. You can try to sneak through the game without firing a single shot, or kill everything in your path if you manage to scrounge enough ammo. You’ll get hungry and need to eat or instead just swallow one of those pills you found. Do you risk killing one of those things to see if there is anything worthwhile at the other end of the room? So many choices. Then there are the extras that Jasper himself added like new items and locations, alternate endings, a new enemy type and loads more dialogue. Even if you’ve played the standard PC or MAC version, this is worth checking out.

Sleeping in game is the only time your game saves, which means you’ll want to keep an eye on your physical and mental state whilst you’re exploring, which brings me to my only frustration with the game. When you die, you’ll effectively restart from when you awoke from your slumber, having to retread all those steps. So, do you explore at a good pace or just be so cautious snails could pass you by?

It also seems controls in a horror game have to be unnecessarily awkward, and this one is no exception. Although, after a time, I managed to get used to them with only a very rare mistake here and there.

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Visuals:
To describe the visuals as simple old school graphics is doing this game an injustice. The best way I can explain the brilliant use of this almost 16-bit, old-school look is to briefly mention my early years of gaming decades ago, when you were lucky to have a character made up of forty or so pixels and no-one had ever heard of polygons and high-definition. You had to concentrate on the image glaring back at you on the tiny monitor, making those seven pixels your blocky character is holding into a pistol and the lone pixel falling to the floor a shell casing.

Even if Jasper Byrne did not intend it, the visuals are a marvelous achievement, making your subconscious do half the work, therefore making you feel more involved without realizing it. But it’s not exactly like a game from my childhood, it has far too many fancy graphical effects and subtle uses of shadow and darkness layered on top of those pixels which make the whole experience look great.

Visually Lone Survivor is best suited to the small PlayStation Vita screen, as the old-school look loses a tiny amount of its charm when blown up on the big screen. It still looks great regardless of what you play it on. With excellent lighting and eerie locations horror fans will love it.

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Audio:
The title music sets the quality level for which the rest of the game easily follows. A moody and chilling score helps set the scene and builds just at the right times. I would definitely recommend the use of headphones as it not only significantly adds to the game, but also helps you know where the gruesome creatures are lurking.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

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Conclusion:
Was it a horrific waste of time or brilliant post-apocalyptic survival horror? I would have to go with the latter. It’s a brilliantly entertaining adventure which will have you hooked from the very start. Lone Survivor creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere which I could easily play several times over. Sadly the graphical style may put some people off, but they’ll be missing out on a brilliant game.

I’m very happy to see Lone Survivor made the jump onto the PlayStation 4 as even more people now get a chance to try this excellent game.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

If you send a friend request please add ‘PS Nation’ in the subject area.

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  • D.j. Burr

    Ive been curious to try this out. I just finally played through unfinished swan. That was really good too.

    • ChazzH69

      Let us know what you think when you get a chance to play it.