Released on Steam’s Early Access platform at the back-end of 2013 7 Days to Die has, despite still being in Early Access, now made its way onto consoles. The idea is simple: you’ve survived the apocalypse and, surrounded by hungry zombies you need to act fast to survive. Like the many sandbox-based crafting games out there 7 Days to Die drops you into its world with little to no fanfare and essentially tells you to have at it. That’s all well and good if you’re into the genre and have played before but to a first-timer the whole experience is rather jarring. In and of itself that’s no bad thing, however the more we played 7 Days to Die the more we just wanted one of the zombies to come along and put us out of our misery.
It’s evident from the off that 7 Days to Die is a port of its PC version as we’re treated to a user interface that, even with button shortcuts, still relies on a cursor-like interaction. This is fine if you have a mouse, but when you’re mid-zombie fight and your weapon breaks, trying to craft another one without dying is nigh on impossible. The response of the cursor is slow and rather clunky adding an unneeded hindrance. Given that crafting is one of the core tenets of the game it’s not a good sign that the system employed is a cumbersome one for console players.
The clunkiness doesn’t stop there with regards to controls as, without aim assist, trying to take out the zombie hordes with any of the ranged weapons becomes rather difficult. Sure this could be seen as an extra challenge but given the target platform it’s a strange omission. There are also inexplicable changes in speed when going up or down stairs. In either direction we often found ourselves suddenly going twice as fast before slowing to a trudge. It was odd and sometimes meant we caught ourselves in our own traps which if you’re low on first aid supplies can leave you in a rather awkward situation. Mercifully the act of actually building things is rather straightforward and the snapping of objects makes placement a breeze. In no time we found ourselves upgrading the house we were deposited near when we first spawned, adding defences and deterrents in the hope of seeing out the night.
When nighttime does descend zombies become more aggressive and are able to run rather than walk. For our first night this saw us extinguish our only source of light, a candle, and sit in an eerie silence knowing that any sounds or smells could be picked up by nearby zombies. Further on when our character had improved a bit in armour and weapons it limited our night to base reinforcement and occasional early morning sorties. Certainly the first couple of nights can be rather boring but once you’ve got some supplies and a reasonably decked out base you can craft away in preparation for the next day’s scavenge. One thing that was always in the back of our minds was the seventh night, as every seven days there is a blood moon and no matter how quiet your are or how remote your base is a horde of zombies will descend upon you and do their damnedest to kill you. This mechanic adds a focus to the crafting with us wondering whether two layers of wooden spikes around our base would be enough (turns out it wasn’t).
So daylight hours are spent scavenging and, where appropriate, making sure the undead stay dead. At least one can start to take in the world before us right? Unfortunately no and this is where things start to unravel for 7 Days to Die as things are so graphically inferior to the PC version it’s almost laughable. On PC 7 Days to Day is a rather nice-looking game and while one wouldn’t expect an exact replica on console you would hope for something approaching it. What we’re treated to instead is a game with repetitive textures, poor draw distance and graphical glitches. During our play through we had a candle that reappeared after we returned to our save despite removing it, deceased zombies appearing in the walls presumably after dying in one of our traps, and most unamusingly one that teleported through our spikes straight into our base. If that wasn’t bad enough we also had the game freeze for brief moments on a regular basis. We suspect this ties in with the game’s autosave but it’s surprising to see it have such a noticeable effect on the game.
The reduced draw distance means fog is used everywhere which in turn means zombies have the perfect cover. On more than one occasion, after checking all sightlines, we decided to stop and craft a few new items only to be blind sided by a zombie. It turns out we weren’t alone but they were beyond the fog which is barely more than thirty or forty feet from you at any one time. It’s a shame really as there are occasional moments where you can see the potential beauty in the game only to move a couple feet and lose it in the fog. Draw distances aside however, we still have a game that looks rather poor especially given the console generation we’re in. It gives the feeling of a game rushed to market to build on the buzz the PC version is still generating.
As we entered our seventh night we had done all that we could. Our base had been upgraded, our traps laid and so we waited for the madness to begin. The zombies went straight for our front door and as the night wore on we retreated further and further until we reached a choke point at the top of the stairs which we could defend. Teleporting zombies aside with some frantic crafting not helped by the clunky menus and some luck we survived. However it seemed our in-game character had had enough as, whilst walking around surveying the damage, we inadvertently stepped on our homemade hubcap mine. This ending sums up 7 Days to Die perfectly. It had the potential to be something thrilling that would provide players with stories to regale their friends with. What happens instead is that a moment of glory comes with a footnote of absolute stupidity.
7 Days to Die has a lot going for it on PC but its console counterpart is a misfit for the platform. With little to no attempt to adjust it for the alternate platform in terms of controls and graphics it makes the whole experience a bit of a chore and an ugly looking one at that. Whilst the lure of local and online co-op/PvP will no doubt add some appeal there are even problems there. Online things are host-based so are at the whim of the creator. If they decided to go offline all progress is lost so without persistence there’s really little incentive to play unless with friends. When coupled with frequent glitches and game freezes 7 Days to Die falls well short of being the game it could so easily be.