Full disclosure: despite Unturned having been around for many years on PC, I’d never heard of it until a PS4 review code landed here at 60MW Towers. So it was with no preconceptions whatsoever that I sat back to play.
I love zombie movies/books/games, so Unturned instantly appealed due to its premise of dropping you into various maps (more on that in a bit) and tasking you with surviving a zombie outbreak. All of it playing out in a graphical style very similar to minecraft.
The simplistic blocky visuals have a certain to charm to them which alleviates some of the inherent terror associated with surviving in a land full of flesh (block?) eating zombies. However, the gameplay is far from simplistic and you have to have your wits about you in order to survive.
Beginning with a choice to play either online or offline (I chose offline) and with maps to choose from that vary in size and difficulty (I chose an easy medium sized map) you spawn in a random place and then it is left to your own devices as to how you want to play.
Choosing either a 1st or 3rd person view, you make your way around the map trying to find all the essentials you’ll need to survive: food, water, clothing, weapons and ammunition, shelter, etc.
None of this is immediately apparent as to how you do all of it, and I’m not embarrassed to say that it took me quite a while to figure everything out. The onscreen prompts at the start petered out very quickly after just a few basic instructions of “use L to walk” and “use R to look around” and not too much else.
Coming across my 1st zombie infested town I quietly snuck into a house (I soon learned that not sneaking around soon caught the attention of any surrounding zombies) and began to loot the place of anything I could find.
This wasn’t initially as satisfying as looting in any other game, due mostly to the facts that:
- Getting your cursor on just the right place to highlight an item was incredibly frustrating and seemed to be available in just a single pixel spot on the screen.
- It wasn’t clear exactly what I could do with the items once I’d finally managed to pick them up.
Collection and crafting is key to survival in Unturned, it is just a pity that none of it is clearly explained to newbies such as myself. The basics of finding weapons and knowing that you also needed the correct ammunition for it before you could use it was simple enough, but the expanse of everything else that you could do seemed to be an arcane art that was beyond my reach.
It can also be frustrating too when you first encounter zombies due to you being incredibly weak in all areas and need to build up your stats by acquiring skill points. These points are earned by (among other things) killing zombies…which immediately killed me at the beginning of many early gaming sessions. Rinse and repeat.
Everything is also a lot more dangerous at night too, as not only are the zombies more active, but your vision is severely impaired. This wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the overly long day/night cycle in the game, often leaving you doing as little as possible during the night hours for fear of being killed.
If you tire of walking around there are various vehicles that you can enter and use to get around the island (as well as use as an impromptu weapon to kill the zombies) but these are all incredibly weak and burst into flames very quickly…leaving you to get out of them before you once again die.
There is a lot to like about Unturned: the choice of maps, the amount of items and crafting that is available, the sense of danger while trying to survive, the ability to play how you want to play, the simple graphical style. But most of the appeal of Unturned is hidden behind frustration and clunky gameplay.
This seems almost like a Beta version that still needs a lot of kinks ironed out of it…as well as a better tutorial section at the beginning to ease in new players.
As it stands I can only recommended Unturned to hardcore survival game addicts who have a masochistic streak for dying a hell of a lot in-game. For everyone else I would advise waiting for what I hope will be a series of patches to elevate it to the game I hope it could (and should) be.
I look forward to revisiting it next year and seeing what changes have been made.
Review by Dave.