If I were a part of a small developer looking to make our way in the world of gaming we’d make a zombie game. Not because we’d want to, but because it’s clearly the best guarantee of success in today’s gaming world. I used to think that the Dead Island series was and still is an excellent example of a horrifically bad game selling really well just because of the simple fact of having zombies in the game, but 7 Days To Die makes the Dead Island series look like an undisputed cult classic. In fact, 7 Days To Die could possibly end up being the worst game of 2016.
I should clarify firstly, I have only briefly played the PC version of 7 Days To Die, and even though I've only played a mere few hours on PC, the PC version is clearly in a very different development position to the console versions. Despite being first launched in 2013 it’s still in Early Access as I stated earlier however the PC user reviews appear very positive. The version ported to the console systems was done by a different developer and it shows, the console version of 7 Days to Die is the very first title to be published by TellTale Games, that's not something of their own creation, and what a choice they made…
You can probably already guess what’s going on here, and asking how the game can be released on consoles if it isn’t even been finished yet on PC? The answer to that is zombies, and because they think no-one will care because it's an Alpha. Seeing the success of DayZ Standalone must of made them think, it'll do just fine, which given the game’s relative chart success is at least partially true. The idea behind 7 Days To Die is perfectly sound, and perhaps in months to come it will actually be turned into a decent game, but we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?
Much like similar games in the Survival genre such as the DayZ and Rust you start off with nothing and have to survive in a randomly-generated post-apocalyptic world. 7 Days to Die is set after World War III has broken out and there is a Zombie apocalypse, but there’s no real story. Despite what the title implies there’s also no time limit, just a regular timetable where more dangerous zombies, and other creatures, emerge at the end of every week.
Whilst playing you have to get on with creating some sort of shelter and the means to survive the elements and the undead whilst trying not to starve to death. If I'm correct the original pitch for the game was basically an adult version of Minecraft, and the crafting is certainly the most competent part of the game. Even if having to start by punching tree trunks with your bare hands looks as stupid as it sounds however if you manage to knock a tree down Chuck Norris would be proud of you!
Unfortunately the game lacks gameplay, for instance dealing with zombies is no more entertaining than fighting shrubbery and punching trees. In fact, their reaction to being hit is often exactly the same, as they just stand there taking damage and giving no indication of whether you’ve hit them or not. The combat, if you can even call it that, is utterly incompetent and the best evidence that this is simply not a game that should have been released in its current state. It’s not so much that that the combat hasn’t been finished, it feels like it’s barely been started.
The one redeeming feature in my opinion of 7 Days To Die is the possibility to play both on split screen or online co-op play, although I rarely got the latter to work properly though. But while this makes survival a little easier it doesn’t make it any more entertaining to me. Preparing and using more complex materials, to craft weapons and items, requires an enormous amount of raw materials that take an absolute eternity to accumulate the required amount. As such, working together with a friend is an absolute necessity if you even hope to get anywhere in the game, especially as the randomly generated worlds regularly dump you into somewhere with no useful resources anywhere near you and it takes time to travel the expansive game world to find the rare and complex materials.
You can eventually after many, many, many hours of farming resources with a friend build quite complex looking structures and even build complex items, and, theoretically, compete with rival teams and players online. But if you can’t find anything more interesting to do with friends than play 7 Days To Die then you really aren’t trying hard enough, are you? And speaking of not trying hard enough, if Telltale do have ambitions of becoming a major publisher and I truly believe they could be in the near future, then they should learn to tell the difference between a 100% completely finished game and a half-broken W.I.P demo. Rather than 7 Days To Die this is more like 7 Months To Finish.
In my opinion 7 Days to Die has truly appalling graphics, which genuinely look like you’re playing a PlayStation 2 game, and are astonishing in their horrific primitiveness. The sound and music score are just as bad and all are riddled with bugs and glitches that make the whole situation even worse. Textures pop in and out at random, and the frame rate is terrible; the game constantly freezes and judders about at random, as if the game engine itself is a reanimated corpse from the early 2000s.
Considering it’s half broken and patently unfinished this doesn’t deserve to be called a video game at all, just an unpromising work in progress. The idea of a more serious take on Minecraft is a perfectly good one. Split screen options are welcome (especially considering the online is broken). But if you want to play and enjoy some zombie survival game, try to find it somewhere else…