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Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut Review: Riveting survival horror

on 3 October 2013

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut is a survival horror game ported to PlayStation Vita and PS3 by Curve Studios, the same folks responsible for the PlayStation Network gem Stealth Inc.: A Clone in the Dark. You play the last surviving human in a post-apocalyptic world full of infected, though as you play through the game, you may end up encountering several suspicious-looking people. Whether these apparitions are real is somewhat left up to the player's imagination--like the innovative Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem before it, Lone Survivor is loosely governed by the need to manage the main character's sanity. Here, the protagonist wears a surgical mask--suitably creepy, especially since, at a passing glance, the game's graphics make the surgical mask appear to be a smile. In a world so dark and horrible, it's a strange, somewhat fitting effect.

As the story begins, You--not you, the self-referential main character--are in your apartment bedroom, confused about a dream you had the night before. Resolved to explore the world and find out if you're truly the lone survivor of a cataclysmic incident, you set off to navigate two-dimensional, highly stylized areas drawn in compelling pixel art. The imagery throughout is intense and serves to keep the action utterly terrifying. There's nothing quite like seeing a wall replaced by a beating heart as you walk past in complete darkness--there's nothing so palm-sweatingly compelling on PS Vita, and few things on PS3, for that matter. A host of items to aid your survival can be picked up along the way, but a chief concern is your flashlight: a continuous supply of batteries is required to light the way through dark and flickering environments, but the infected will attack you if they spot the flashlight's beams.

You'll need to carefully balance when you should and shouldn't use your flashlight, but this creed holds true for much of the game. Returning home to sleep is necessary for saving, but pills prolong the amount of time you can go without it. The downside is that pills contribute to your ever-disconcerting madness. Spend a lot of time exploring the world beyond your apartment, and you're bound to find useful items (including things necessary for progressing the story), but there's no guarantee you'll find supplies to replace what you've lost along the way.