7 Days to Die has been on my radar for quite some time now, but given the death of my gaming pc and the confirmation of a console port I decided to bide my time and wait for the console version rather than investing heavily in a future proof gaming PC.
Zombie themed games have always been a particular consistent guilty pleasure, as I must have purchased or played a fairly large collection of titles that utilises survival and zombies, no matter how large or small the production involved; Zombi, DayZ, State of Decay, How to Survive, Dead Island, Deadlight, Dead Rising, Dead State, H1Z1, Project Zomboid, all successfully scratched that undead itch that I always find myself craving.
Seven Days to Die can be best described is how Minecraft would play if combined with H1Z1 and Project Zomboid, utilising the first person open world survival of the first and the in depth crafting system employed in the latter. Like most Survival games of this type, there is no “real” story, relying on emergent gameplay from the interaction with friends and strangers as you try to navigate the hostile environment of the post-apocalyptic world.
When you begin, you select a character from one of the several on offer, although I have yet to see a major impact this choice actually has on the gameplay, and you are dropped into the world naked, unarmed and alone. The tutorial takes you through the basics; clothing, arming, feeding and sheltering yourself. This is achieved by scavenging your surrounding area and crafting and hunting from your environment.
Once you feel comfortable with your preparedness, you can venture forth to explore the world. Nearly every item you see in the world is classified as a container from the trash heap lying by the road, the hollow stump at the rear of a house, the derelict cars littering the road, to the humble toilet in someone’s house (you can actually recover faeces that can be thrown to distract zombies or even thrown at friends in the worst variant of a snow ball fight that the apocalypse has spawned). All of these items can be used in some way or another allowing you to quite quickly build, if you are cautious and frugal, weapons and armour far superior to the basic bow and weave armour you are presented with in the beginning.
As your inventory is limited it is worth planning your trips, ensuring you have sufficient day light to make it to your destination and back before the sun sets. You see the zombies in Seven Days to Die are not only remarkably resilient to damage, but during the day they are a slow shambling and easily avoidable threat. But, once the night arrives they undergo a transformation, actively hunting for prey, (ie you), with litheness that belies their state of “unlife”.
The title itself gives away one of the key factors in the game, and it is one that we have seen utilised to a similar extent in other titles to varying degrees of success, and that is the fact that once seven days have elapsed in game, you will have to endure an onslaught of attacks from a zombie horde. This horde will actively seek your evisceration without remorse, pity or fear, and you must scavenge intelligently in order to best create a defence worthy of surviving the zombie tsunami that persistently shadows you each week.
As you survive for longer and longer, you also gain experience and level up allowing you to spend points on an extremely complex and comprehensive list of skills that could mean the difference between life and death. Do you spend another point increasing your bow skills, or do you increase your harvesting or crafting speed? Maybe you want to increase your movement speed in the hope that you can outrun the undead and give you more time to scavenge. All of these options are viable and ultimately it depends on your play style how you wish to approach the game.
Combat itself is a mixed bag. Enemies and game, especially our necrotic pals, take an inordinate amount of bullets or arrows to incapacitate, soaking up shot after shot as they stumble persistently towards you. Trying my luck against a lone stag that happened to wander nearby also managed to take headshots from half of my six rifle bullets before finally shuffling off the mortal coil and allowing me to harvest his body for sustenance. Although the ranged combat or hit detection is lacking, (I would expect a headshot to down a zombie as lore dictates), the melee combat does not have sufficient feedback to feel satisfying. Whether swinging a wooden club, stone axe or a machete, the impact of each feels identical and taking out an encroaching zombie can leave you extremely disadvantaged, especially considering the costliness of using a firearm to engage these foes.
Graphically Seven days to die is average at best, but then I don’t personally hold this as much of a negative in the open world survival genre. A lot of the environment blends together well. Trees, bushes, grass and some of the buildings all match the environment well and look good against one another, but certain buildings, vehicles, detritus and wild life all look slightly out of place when viewed with the rest of the world. There is also a few instances where audio cues seem to be misplaced, with tense musical overtures accompanying banal activities that tend to break the immersion of the title. That said, for the most part the audio is spot on, with environmental and fauna noises perfectly balanced, especially the night time low rumbling growl of a nearby zombie as it searches for its next meal.
Sadly, another issue that plagues the title is the lacklustre draw distance. A semi-permanent fog that falls over the world appears to be an attempt to disguise this issue, but all it does really is highlight exactly how short the view distance represented actually presents. This 30 – 40 m distance slows the game down to a crawl at night, when speed and maneuverability is an necessary requirement to avoid being eaten by the unaffected undead who do not suffer from the same limitations that we lucky humans do.
Finally, this brings me to my biggest bug bear about this game, or at least the version I played. With a limitation on hardware, it was my hope that at least some baseline would have been set when looking at the frame rate presented, especially given the limitation in graphics and draw distance, but Seven Days to Die suffers from frame stutters and frame drops on a far too regular basis to be overlooked. The game regularly auto-saves, and when it does there is a distinctly noticeable stutter which is extremely distracting given how often it occurs. When venturing into the more environmentally populated areas this becomes more obvious and more severe.
Sadly, there is a competent and enjoyable title lurking beneath the lacklustre and imperfect surface here that utilises and incorporates a lot of disparate mechanics together well in a zombie survival game, my personal favourite being the Oblivion/Skyrim-esque skill leveling where utilising the skill gives you some experience and improvements within that area.
It is my firm belief that this console port was not quite ready to go before the public and it may suffer from inadequate play testing with the respective hardware. These issues are fixable in the most part, but I have to review the game based on the code I have, not the code it “could” have.
As such, 7 Days to Die falls short of my expectation, and until it is patched and fixed I would find it hard to recommend this title at this time. Maybe, should changes be made I will revisit this review but as it stands it is a title to only approach if you are happy to accept its shortcomings in order to experience its unique style and well implemented mechanics.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 6/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of 7 Days To Die by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 5 days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.