im­pact win­ter

No way are we go­ing out in that

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Martin Kitts

With the world plunged into eter­nal win­ter fol­low­ing an as­ter­oid strike, there’s no hope for Ja­cob and his small band of sur­vivors. Un­til, that is, they find a strange lit­tle ro­bot drone that trig­gers a mes­sage: in 30 days, help is com­ing.

As the timer ticks down, so the group’s health, stamina and morale de­pletes. Holed up in a half-buried church, they watch as the fire burns out and their mea­gre sup­plies dwin­dle to noth­ing. The only way to en­sure the res­cuers aren’t just col­lect­ing corpses is for Ja­cob to ven­ture out alone into the frozen waste­land and find sus­te­nance in the ru­ined old world.

It takes a hardy soul to sur­vive out there, and Ja­cob is so tough he doesn’t even bother wear­ing trousers to pro­tect him from the waist-deep snow. An over­coat and a pair of walk­ing boots will do him fine. Hard as nails he may be, but his quest for sur­vival is con­stantly un­der­mined by the four help­less sim­ple­tons back home, who won’t even re­mem­ber to feed them­selves un­less he takes food and wa­ter from the store and dis­trib­utes it among their in­di­vid­u­ally named ra­tion crates. It’s like leav­ing food out for the cat be­fore you go away for a week­end (and yes, they come straight over and eat it all as soon as you put it on the floor).

They do have some abil­i­ties but it re­quires a lot of levelling up be­fore they’ll do any­thing on their own. So for the first few hours army vet­eran Blane can only talk about how good he is at hunt­ing, and home­maker Wendy can’t quite re­call the recipes and reme­dies she spent her en­tire life col­lect­ing. Maggie’s skill as a me­chanic doesn’t amount to any­thing un­less you bring her the count­less bits of junk she needs for craft­ing, while hacker Christophe will even­tu­ally learn how to up­grade your ro­bot buddy.

Un­til you’re al­most at the end of the up­grade path they’ll hap­pily let the fire go out and freeze to death if you’re not there to man­u­ally add fuel. And de­spite the church be­ing pos­i­tively lined with flammable ma­te­rial, you have to trek miles to lug back planks and old cloth­ing to burn. Maybe that’s what hap­pened to Ja­cob’s trousers.

House of fools

Any time Ja­cob isn’t at home you just have to cross your fin­gers and pray that the hope­less house­mates don’t do any­thing fa­tally stupid. At the start of our play-through they kept get­ting beaten up by lone raiders, so we left them a ri­fle in the hope that maybe one of them might de­fend the place. It made no dif­fer­ence so we un­locked the Ne­go­tia­tor perk, which sounded like it could save all those ex­tra trips for medicine and ban­dages. How­ever, next time a scav­enger came call­ing, the mo­rons ‘ne­go­ti­ated’ a set­tle­ment that in­volved

hand­ing over half of our food plus the ri­fle and all the bul­lets, in ex­change for not get­ting punched in the face. Shoot­ing them all would surely im­prove Ja­cob’s chances, but alas it was not an op­tion.

Each mem­ber of the feck­less four has a se­ries of mis­sions that will un­lock new abil­i­ties and give you some­thing other than end­less sup­ply runs to do, but there isn’t time to fin­ish them all be­fore the 30 days are up. A tourist in­for­ma­tion pam­phlet serves as a rudi­men­tary map, but most of the points of in­ter­est are buried un­der the snow any­way. Some build­ings can be en­tered through their pro­trud­ing roofs, and in places the snow has in­ex­pli­ca­bly formed huge un­der­ground cav­erns, pre­serv­ing en­tire streets where wolves guard some of the more use­ful sal­vage. There’s plenty to ex­plore, if you can man­age your time.

The game does a fan­tas­tic job of look­ing op­pres­sively cold. As the weather wors­ens, the screen becomes ob­scured by ice and Ja­cob looks like he’s hav­ing a re­ally mis­er­able time strug­gling through the snow. At night you only get a lim­ited view­ing range by torch­light, which also looks ex­cel­lent, although you’re ba­si­cally just press­ing in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of an area and trav­el­ling blind no mat­ter what the time of day.

Stut­ter rap

It’s tech­ni­cally a bit ropey, though. The fram­er­ate lurches from shud­der­ing in­con­sis­tency, at best, to a stut­ter­ing slideshow when­ever it’s load­ing some­thing. Menus re­spond slowly, key in­for­ma­tion al­ways seems to be buried sev­eral pages away, and we blame the poorly de­signed, laggy controls for mak­ing us throw away an item we needed for a quest while we were try­ing to pick it up. Se­ri­ously, when you search a closet, desk or stor­age con­tainer there’s an op­tion to per­ma­nently dis­card the things you find rather than pick them up. What use is that?

While it’s some­what lack­ing in pol­ish and the daily rou­tine soon becomes repet­i­tive, there’s a cer­tain shabby charm about it. It re­minds us very much of State Of Decay, without the zom­bies or the shoot­ing, and find­ing a new loot-stuffed build­ing is al­ways a thrill, al­beit one that’s damp­ened by the constant nag­ging worry about get­ting home in time to feed the kids. Next time there’s an ice age, we’re go­ing it alone. OXM VER DICT A great con­cept for a game, but prob­a­bly some­what lack­ing in longterm ap­peal.

“While it’s lack­ing in pol­ish, there’s a cer­tain shabby charm about it”

far left This is as about as scenic as it ever gets above ground.

above With all those stats to worry about, no won­der Ja­cob has no time for trousers. LEFT Lights do shine through the sty­gian gloom.

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