Game Review: Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut (PS Vita)

Lone Survivor PS Vita

Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut is a psychological survival horror adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. The sub-title of the game is rather appropriate as this is an extended version of the cult indie game by Jasper Byrne, which was originally released in Europe on March 27th 2012 and America on April 23rd 2012 for the PC, Mac and Linux.

The story revolves around a mysterious survivor who has survived the outbreak of a virus that is turning people into crazed monsters and zombies, which explains why the character is always wearing a surgical mask to ensure his protection from the virus, while searching for fellow survivors of the outbreak.

The path that you take through the game is pretty much up to you as you can stealthily place meat on the ground while a zombie has their back turned before entering a crawl space to lure any nearby zombies away from your line of sight before swiftly exiting the crawl space and making your way onto the next area or alternatively you can use your gun once you have attained it to shoot the zombies. As you are only given a gun after you have made your way around some of the zombies to a friends’ apartment, you will be starting the game without any weapon of note and this provides a real sense of tension as you initially only have the choice of approaching the game stealthily, which somewhat results in the gun being a reward for the implementation of your clever tactics to slip past enemies.

As you have to survive by yourself, you are always required to be on the look out for items that are beneficial to the survival of your character, resulting in there being all manner of items hidden around the environments you are exploring within cupboards, draws, lockers and fridges to collect and add to your inventory throughout the game from very early on. There is everything from pills to help you sleep; food, tonics and drinks to supplement your health; batteries to power your flashlight; diaries, letters and notes that tell the story from the perspective of people after the virus outbreak had begun; and many more items. You will always want to ask yourself whether you really need to use any of your supplies to navigate a particular area or get past an enemy as the availability of supplies is rather scarce, so you will not want to run out of any important supplies, such as ammo, batteries or food. You do not want to have your flashlight permanently turned on as it will attract zombies to your location and as the flashlight is powered by batteries; the batteries will drain much faster, resulting in some difficulty navigating the darker areas due to having no power available for the flashlight.

You have the freedom to influence the game from the beginning through to the very end with your actions; as if you do not manage your mental health appropriately, you can quickly descend into madness, alongside the importance of sleeping and eating well or resorting to drugs to keep you from collapsing. It is this sort of feature that further differentiates Lone Survivor from the competition as the fate of the character you are controlling is totally up to you and therefore creates a customisable experience that you can approach in a multitude of ways.

There are many improvements in the Director’s Cut in comparison to the original release of the game with new locations, side quests, dialogue, two new endings, an entirely new difficulty called expert mode and hundreds of new details that you will find throughout the game, alongside a greater amount of combinations for items, such as food, tonics, drinks and much more. One of the best overall improvements to the experience between the two versions is that your second playthrough of the Director’s Cut will include alternative conversations, paths, enemies and a completely different ending, which really adds a significant amount of replayability and provides a more than suitable reason to purchase the Vita version; even if you already own the original version on PC.

Lone Survivor possesses the best atmospheric tension in a videogame harking back to the survival horror era of the original Resident Evil trilogy on the PSOne. The original Resident Evil trilogy made my heart pound as I would always feel as though there was a zombie or monster around every corner and Lone Survivor is the one of the few rare games that has successfully captured that essence.

Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut supports cross-buy and cross-save between the Vita and PS3. Cross-buy presents a superb amount of value as it means that you will be purchasing both the Vita and PS3 versions of the game with just a single purchase. The cross-save functionality allows you to sync the progression of your save file from your Vita to your PS3 and vice versa, so you can start playing the game on your Vita on the way to and from work, sync your save game when you return home and then resume were you left off by loading the save game and continuing via the PS3 version. The cross-save feature is made possible by uploading your save file to the cloud on one console and downloading it from the other console.

The controls are relatively simplistic as they are well executed and consist of a control scheme mapped to the face buttons with occasional support for the touch screen. The face button controls consist of pressing X to navigate through dialogue, selecting and navigating through your inventory and interacting with objects; triangle to enter your inventory; square to turn your flashlight on or off; O to display the map; holding L enables the quick use mode and while holding L press square to use a flare; triangle to eat meat; O to drink a health tonic; holding R enables the gun mode and while holding R, change the direction of the left analogue stick or press up or down on the d-pad to aim; press X to fire; O to reload; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or pressing left or right on the d-pad to move your character left and right and pressing up or down on the d-pad to face forwards or backwards or alternatively to navigate menus; and start to pause the game. The touch screen based controls are limited to selecting and navigating through your inventory.

The graphics have an overhauled lighting system in comparison to the original, which is quite important considering how significant the lighting and darkness of a horror game must be as it is a necessity for them to be polar opposites from when your flashlight is turned on to when you are in total darkness to create the appropriate sense of tension, which is an art that Lone Survivor has certainly perfected. The graphics bring a retro inspired feel to the artistic style of the game in more than just the perspective of graphical effect, but perhaps as a throwback in the sense of how some of the best horror films were released yesteryear during the dawn of gaming, such as Halloween and The Shining.

The presentation of the game is rather minimalist with navigation supported via the left analogue stick and d-pad across the three options of the main menu including new game, continue and download from cloud, while support for the touch screen, rear touch pad and right analogue stick is lacking. The background of the main menu helps to set the tone for what is about to follow as the camera scans across the screen from left to right with a dark mist descends in the foreground with buildings in the background.

The audio consists of sudden noises and climactic music that is rather appropriate to the subject matter as it creates a feeling of dread, tension and horror of what may be lurking around the next corner or in the darkness. The sound effects and music provide even more tension when you have been spotted by a zombie as it walks towards you with shrilling background effects acting almost as a siren for you to get out of that area or draw your gun rather quickly.

The trophy list includes thirty-seven trophies with eighteen bronze trophies, fifteen silver trophies, three gold trophies and one platinum trophy. All but five of the trophies are hidden trophies as some of them are story based trophies related to the four separate endings of the game, while the rest of the trophies are hidden somewhat for the sake of making the trophy list harder to achieve that elusive platinum trophy without the use of a guide. The trophies are quite varied in their nature, ranging from eating a particular type of food that has to be found from scavenging the environment, combining it with something else from your inventory and cooking it in the appropriate manner; drinking certain drinks that you have to find from your exploration; giving some of the food, drinks and comics you have collected to other characters; talking to a character a certain number of times; experiencing various dreams a certain number of occasions during sleep; and much more besides. I would estimate depending upon your imagination and creativity in regards to your approach of combining your inventory and your exploration of the game or a detailed trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around seven to ten hours to platinum the trophy list or as high as ten hours if you get stuck without a detailed trophy guide.

The expert mode is not that much different from the normal difficulty level as you will still have the same amount of health; your enemies will still deal the same amount of damage from their attacks; your enemies will also still have the same amount of health; and you will still get hungry and sleepy after the same duration in comparison to when you play in the normal mode. The only real difference is that you will receive less guidance, such as no indicators to inform you which buttons to press to perform actions or navigate your way through dialogue and menus and you will not be able to look at your map at any given time.

There are no online multiplayer modes, although I believe that Lone Survivor is not exactly the kind of game that would lend itself to supporting online multiplayer, so that is no big loss to the gameplay. There are no online leaderboards, although I could only imagine a leaderboard for the best times for completing the game and not much else beyond that, so the lack of online leaderboards again does not detract from the gameplay.

Providing that you are brave enough to keep on playing it; the replayability of Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut is astounding with four endings and all-new improvements that genuinely build upon the foundations of the original version of the game and take it to an entirely new level. That is not to say that the original was poor, as it certainly was not, but that The Director’s Cut is generally that much better due to the nine months of effort that Jasper Byrne and the team at Curve Studios have invested in adding a huge amount of new content and refinements, while endeavouring to make a great game even superior.

Overall, Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut crosses the boundaries between survival horror and psychological horror as you will always feel as though there is a monster right around the corner that you have to stealthily navigate or kill, while you will have flashes of light and darkness upon the screen and whispers of audio that provide scares in the form of tense, psychological horror, rather than just providing some jump scares. It has been a while since a game scared me, but I can truly say that Lone Survivor certainly did! The price point of £9.99 for a cross-buy title with the quality and replayability of Lone Survivor is absolutely astounding and should be commended with a purchase.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut
  • Publisher: Curve Studios/Jasper Byrne/Superflat Games
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Cross Play: Yes (Cross-Save)
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 220Mb

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