Coming to an Xbox console near you (as long as the one near you is an Xbox One or newer) is a new survival game – Unturned. Now, Unturned is the brainchild of Smartly Dressed Games, which in turn appears to be a single guy; a man by the name of Nelson Sexton. Released on PC way back in 2014, and having since developed something of a cult following, it will be interesting to see what time has done to the game as it launches on Xbox. Anyway, lets see what this vision of the zombie apocalypse is all about, shall we?
There are two distinct play modes in Unturned – online and offline. Playing in offline mode loads you into the map of your choice, dumps you in the middle of a zombie outbreak, and then leaves you to it, pretty much. There are a few helpful hints, like how to run (very useful) and jump (less so!), but the hand-holding, if it can be called that, is brief and to the point. The rest of the game is up to you, and you’ll soon be sneaking up behind zombies, punching them in the head, and dying horribly as a result.
This is a survival game with the emphasis very much on the survival end of the spectrum, as the number of ways that you can be killed is numerous. For instance, if you find a firearm, it’s a good idea to leave it in your pocket for emergencies, as shooting one zombie leads to a million more popping out of the woodwork and making their (surprisingly quick) way towards you. Luckily, the zombies have inherited the Minecraft groan when you are near, so you can usually tell if you are about to walk into a building full of the undead.
As you explore, you start to find useful items, and a top tip is to try and find some kind of bag to expand your carrying capacity. At first you’ll want to grab as many weapons and as much ammo as you can, but later you will need to start to consider other things such as food and drink, which are essential in this survival experience as without them you don’t heal if a zombie attacks you. As long as your food and water meters are above 80%, just staying out of trouble for a little while will see your health climb back up to maximum, so this is absolutely something that should be at the forefront of your mind.
You can also gather crafting materials such as wood, metal, cloth, and even rolls of barbed wire, and these can be used to create a base – a home away from home if you will. Well, I say they can be used, but initially you’ll be left without a clue about how to craft shelters and things, instead trying to take cover in a pre-built structure in a town. Unfortunately, that never ends well as zombies constantly spawn in built-up areas. As you traverse the map, it’s very rare to see a zombie in the wilderness and they seem to stay close to the population centres. Maybe building a boss in the boonies might be a good idea?
Online mode is pretty much the same as the offline mode, except some friends can come along for the ride. There are a lot of options that you can choose when creating your own server, such as whether PVP is enabled (For the most part that should read as ‘no’, as surviving is hard enough without some random person killing you and stealing your stuff), whether zombies drop loot; even how much health the zombies should have. It is here, in online mode with a persistent world, that Unturned finally begins to make sense. You see, I was playing in offline mode to get a feel for the mechanics, but as I wasn’t saving the world, I always felt like I was starting from scratch. With a server that is present online, it saves the progress, it saves what has been found, and keeps record of those skills that have been unlocked. This all helps you on your way to survival. Knowing that when I start a session I have a gun in my pocket makes me happy, and this makes me feel much more kindly towards the game. Exploring the map, finding little hints and tips about the story behind Unturned, means that as you go it all makes a lot more sense when playing this way.
Graphically the game looks like someone looked at Minecraft and thought “I think I’ll just round off the landscape some”. The characters are pleasingly square, and look a lot like Steve from Minecraft. The cars and vehicles are very square, the clouds are square and the houses are square. But the landscape has a soft, natural look to it. The hills are alive with the sound of gunfire, but also look very organic and flowing; they are a pleasure to drive along in the car that has a petrol tank the size of Pepsi Max can. I also found a helicopter on one map, but try as I might I couldn’t get it off the ground. I also found an airport and jet airliner, but again, no flying seemed to be possible. The audio found within Unturned is also pretty good, especially if you like groaning zombies and meaty “thwacks” as you apply a baton to a zombie’s skull. It’s helped along nicely by echoing gunshots that seem to ring the zombie dinner bell.
So, we’ve seen that Unturned is quite good fun, and staying alive and healthy enough to be able to explore is a challenge in itself. But it’s not the only challenge you’ll face, I’m afraid. One word that couldn’t be used to describe Unturned is “polished”, as there are a number of odd glitches that mar the experience. Zombies phasing through walls to tear your face off is not uncommon, and trying to pick something up to be told “Missing space” and when you check the inventory, drop something to make room and look back, the item has vanished is a very annoying one. There’s an odd glitch when you are walking, where Unturned seems to just freeze for a second, then carry on, which is very noticeable. Further, zombies spawning behind you, falling through the world, falling through the floor of a watchtower and dying a messy death on the stones below was a particular favourite oddity of mine. The absolute best glitch however came when I tried to ride a jetski; instead I was found doing somersaults on this thing, literally sea-sky-sea-sky every time I pressed the throttle. Eventually I felt sick and had to swim back to the shore.
Thankfully, holding things together is a deep crafting system and it’s great that the levelling system relies on you killing zombies, to get EXP, to then put into various categories of skills. But they don’t seem to make a big difference to the game; for instance, I’ve maxed out the fishing skill, but have still never managed to catch a fish.
Unturned on Xbox is very much a game of two halves. If you go into it looking for a challenging survival game, and you aren’t too worried about polish, or lack thereof, there is fun to be had here. Staying alive is hard, and keeping healthy is even harder. However, it’s not going to be for everyone, as the lack of explanation about the mechanics of the game soon becomes tiresome. Maybe this is one in which only masochists need apply.