Our stomach is screaming for food as we search every inch of the abandoned house. The clock ticks ever closer to midnight, and we need to get back to base before then. There it is! A box of chilli beans was hiding itself in the bottom right drawer. But if we eat it it'll also dehydrate us 10 points, something we can't afford right now with our dysentery at full effect. We stash it in our backpack and go out through the front door.
Today has been a good day. Our pack is filled with weapons and resources. What's that noise?! A zombie?! Where is it? There's nothing to see for miles. Suddenly an Infected Nurse Zombie spawns right in front of us. We keep pushing the attack button, hoping to land a finishing blow before the thing removes our last sliver of health. Our spiked baseball bat doesn't land a single hit, the screen freezes and we find ourselves dead on the ground. Time to do this all over again.
Said scenario was fairly common during our time with 7 Days to Die. The Fun Pimps' survival/crafting game is set in a semi-realistic world where you'll have to behave as if it was real life. Eating, drinking, building shelter, crafting clothes and weapons; it's all part of the experience. An interesting concept, but one that unfortunately suffers due to outdated graphics, severe technical problems, and a lack of polish.
First things first, the graphics are horrendous. The characters and environments could easily be mistaken for a much older game. Everything is blurry with sharp edges, and there's a lot of choppy animations. As if that wasn't enough, the frame-rate on the PlayStation 4 version is questionable at best, and will straight up freeze for a few seconds every now and then. Considering that they've even tried to avoid this by having a thick layer of fog covering everything that's more than 20 yards ahead of you, it's just atrocious.
With problems like these we'd expect a very detailed and captivating world, but the procedurally generated areas are extremely bland. We can't help but compare it to Davy Jones' locker in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Get ready to see miles of flat, lifeless areas with no distinguishable features.
Fortunately things aren't that bad in terms of the gameplay loop. Your goal is simple enough; survive as long as you can. As mentioned above the zombies aren't your only concern. Pretty much every part of the environment can be harvested to be used in a multitude of ways. To avoid hunger and thirst you'll have to hunt for animals, gather vegetables or search deserted buildings for cans of meatballs and the like. The temperature also affects you, so you'll have to dress for the occasion. Too cold? Craft warmer clothing out of animal hides or cotton flowers. Too hot? Take of your armour, or build something that'll give you some shade. Fail to listen to your body's needs and your stats will drop. If you're still not listening you'll eventually die.
Diseases and injuries are also a concern. During our time with the game we've died of infections, dysentery and other nasty stuff you don't want to contract in a world where antibiotics are few and far between. This will indeed be a polarising aspect. Some will hate it, others love it; we find it enthralling. Having the time left to death represented by a meter counting down while we fight our way through zombies and looking for medicine gives an extra edge to the experience.
What's not enthralling is the combat. There's only one attack animation, and landing a blow lacks impact. This, combined with unresponsive controls, makes the combat feel clunky and repetitive. Seeing as the variation in terms of enemies is less than stellar, you'll get tired of fighting zombies after a few hours. Even your fairly extensive arsenal of weapons suffers because of this shortcoming. When you can't feel the difference between a sledgehammer and a wooden club you'll have to use the messy UI to see which one does most damage. And you'll spend far too much time in the menus even without having to check weapon stats.
A controller only has so many buttons too, so you're restricted to few shortcuts. This means that you'll have to navigate through multiple pages if you want to craft anything. To craft an item you'll first have to find it on the long list of items, select it, then go to a another menu to select "Craft". Very time consuming and very deadly as the game doesn't pause while you're doing this. It's very obvious that 7 Days to Die was developed for PC, and that they didn't find a good way of adapting the menus for consoles.
Combat is not your only means of survival, though. 7 Days to Die lets you break down pretty much anything you want for resources, and then craft anything you'll need to defend yourself. Weapons, ammunition, structures, furniture, windows, clothes, meals, and everything else has to be crafted with your precious resources. You won't be able to build anything you want, but we've seen some quite impressive fortresses. Many players have tried to survive the zombie onslaught by building "impregnable" camps, a understandable tactic with such a vast variety of craftable objects.
One of our few cons against this aspect of the game is that the placement is grid based, so you'll probably not get the exact design you wanted. The antiquated setup strikes a blow against the otherwise nice mechanic.
Giving players options is obviously a big focus for The Fun Pimps. Not only in terms of how to survive, but even in the fundamental rules of the game. You can customise how long the day/night cycle is, how aggressive the zombies are, how much loot you drop when killed, the effects of diseases and so much more. It's a nice inclusion, but that doesn't help much when our main complaints are focused on the core pillars of the game (though it'll definitely come in handy for streamers and if you want to play online or split-screen). At least we found it more entertaining to play with friends, so we'd at least get to laugh at the technical aspects of the game together.
7 Days to Die has numerous mechanics centred on staying alive in hostile environments, and most of these would have been quite entertaining if it hadn't been for the technical side of the game letting the team down. It's a survival/crafting game in every sense of the word. Fighting for survival is fun enough if you can look past the very outdated graphics and severe frame-rate issues. Unfortunately the extremely bland procedurally generated areas and lightweight combat makes it feel very repetitive and monotonous after just a couple of hours. Right now this still feels like an Early Access game (which, if you're playing on PC, it still is). If your desperate to play a new survival/crafting game and can look past these shortcomings it might be worth a look. If you're not then we'd recommend the same thing we do when actually meeting a horde of zombies: stay away.