Lone Survivor – Director’s Cut Review
There's been a recent resurgence in compelling horror games, with most coming from the now-thriving indie gaming scene. Released on the PC last year, Lone Survivor has finally come to the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, and with even more content to boot. Does combining old school survival horror with the intrigue of a David Lynch film make Lone Survivor - Director's Cut a mystery worth solving?
At its simplest, Lone Survivor is the story of a man trying to escape an apartment building full of horrors after some sort of terrible disaster. The clues to the events that transpired to lead to there being just one person left alive in this world come slow and steady throughout the four-hour narrative, along with the space for open interpretation. All of your choices in Lone Survivor can affect the outcome of the story, and it's not just a matter of key moral moments. Literally every single thing you do or don't do will have an impact on the ending.
Though Lone Survivor's approach to story is minimalist, there's still plenty to like about the way that story is told. The influences of David Lynch and Silent Hill on creator Jasper Byrne are almost immediately obvious. From the faceless monsters lurking around every corner, to the surprising appearances of other survivors stranded in the same hopeless wastes, Lone Survivor is able to keep you guessing and keep you on your toes. You never know what's going to be behind that next door. You never know what or who may be lurking down that darkened hall. All you do you know is that you must press on, or you'll be stuck in this nightmare forever. It's exciting and thought-provoking all at once.
The real key to Lone Survivor's appeal comes from its adventure game trappings. You'll have an inventory to manage, and items you find are typically used to solve puzzles along the way. Combining that aesthetic with a 2D side-scroller may not seem like the best formula for success, but Lone Survivor makes it work, and is almost more exciting and terrifying as a result. There is a bit of gun combat at play, should you decided to go that route (you can opt to not fire a shot, too), but it's rather simple. Using the gun is almost always a last resort.
Surprisingly, eating and sleeping play a role, too. Keeping your character in good health is an important part of ensuring your survival. Dreams can also help shed a bit of light on the situation you're in, but saying much more would ruin your own experience. There's nary an aspect of your life that isn't important to the overall scheme, but you shouldn't worry about micromanagement being an issue. Though there are elements of Lone Survivor you could choose to manage very closely, you can also ignore those aspects almost entirely if you want. But like we said before, everything you do or don't do will affect the outcome of your experience.
Lone Survivor looks and sounds great, too. The 16-bit aesthetic might seem a bit much at first, as that presentation style has been adopted seemingly ad nauseum for a number of recent indie titles (with no signs of stopping any time soon). However, after just a short while in the world, the graphics become second nature, and you can't imagine Lone Survivor any other way. Monsters are actually more disgusting thanks to how little detail they have, leaving only the most outrageous elements in play. The score is on point, and delivers hauntingly quiet moments when need be, but continually keeps your heart racing when things get intense. Playing Lone Survivor in the dark with the volume cranked isn't just a good recommendation, it's the best way to enjoy the game.
There are doubtless going to be some people disappointed with the ambiguity Lone Survivor's final moments present, but we are always happy when games can provoke discussion and introspection. It certainly doesn't hurt when those same titles are actually fun to play. Lone Survivor - Director's Cut is yet another gem in the PlayStation 3's growing library of impressive indie titles. If these are the types of titles we can continue to expect to find on the PlayStation Network in the future, Sony's platforms should be in good shape.
This review was based on a digital copy of Lone Survivor - Director's Cut for PlayStation 3 that was purchased for review.