After the massive success of Minecraft, which is already celebrating ten years in 2021, ‘blocky games’ (how I call games voxel-like graphics that include building and exploration) have only grown in popularity throughout the last decade. Names like Roblox, Cube World, Lego World, Trove, and even Dragon Quest Builders carry some resemblance with it – some with more emphasis on the RPG elements, others that highlight the survival aspects, and so on. Some of these titles managed to create an exciting mix of these aspects, like Unturned, the game from Smartly Dressed Games we are about to review today.
First released in 2014 for PCs, the game now finds its way into consoles by the hand of Fun Labs and 505 Games. Playing as a survivor in the ruins of modern society, you will need to work with other players to survive in this challenging open-world sandbox. Hunt, fish, or search for food, build a place for shelter against the zombie infestation and other threats, and above all, survive in this vast – and cubic –world!
Raf spent more than 8 hours gathering resources, killing zombies, and trying to survive in this game.
What we liked!
- World scale: Survival games often have large maps where dozens of players will combine their efforts to endure the challenges or fight to the death in search of resources. In Unturned, it is no different – but still impressive. The scenarios you can venture into have two sizes (medium and large), and even the smaller ones are HUGE. Sometimes, it may take about an hour-long to traverse from one corner to the other on foot – especially if you encounter hostiles or zombies on your way. Larger maps like Greece, Russia, or Germany have small urban centers representing important cities like Atenas, Moscow, Berlin, and many others (on a smaller scale, of course), with roads interconnecting each one. When inside cities (usually overrun by zombies), you will find houses, apartments, restaurants, hospitals, churches, police stations, and many other buildings you can explore. If games with vast worlds are a thing for you, here’s a title that you might enjoy.
- Customization without extortion: Unturned offers plenty of options to customize your character. Clothes, accessories, hairstyle, weapon skins… you have many options at your disposal in the in-game store. It may sound weird to mention it in the What we liked session, but the fact that you can only purchase these items with your in-game money instead of real money is something worth mentioning. Now, if only I could discover where to find money inside the game…
- RPG elements: By eliminating enemies or doing errands like building things or gather supplies, your character gain experience points that can be used to upgrade his statuses. The statuses are divided into three branches: offense, defense, and support. On the offense branch, you have skills that enhance your abilities to deal with opponents (namely, to eliminate them) like sharpshooter, overkill, and dexterity. You have skills that help you survive for longer like vitality, immunity, and survival on the defense. Finally, on the support branch, you have skills that improve your usefulness in the game world like crafting, cooking, and agriculture. A nice touch to the game, if I must say.
- Multiplayer mayhem: Servers in this game can support up to 24 players online in the same session, which will increase the fun exponentially you will have with this title. For those who prefer playing it offline, you are covered as well: Unturned offers the possibility for two-players split screen. Although I didn’t have a second player with me during my time reviewing this title, I must say that the idea of exploring the world of Unturned with a couch partner sounds even better than playing with random people on the internet.
- Combat: To dispatch zombies and fend off enemy players, your survivor counts with a good selection of guns, weapons, and things that can be used to deal damage like rakes and handsaws. But whenever possible, you will prefer using firearms because it’s tough to hit your enemies with those weapons (not to mention with your bare hands) – especially when in 3rd person view. My advice here is always to carry a fair amount of ammo when venturing in cities and switch to your first-person view when in combat.
- Sound: Except for the lovely song played while in the game menu, Unturned has no music whatsoever. I understand it as an option to simulate the loneliness of the world. Still, as the world feels… empty, it doesn’t help at all. I must say, though, that the game has some nice sound effects for the environment and annoying – but essential – sounds when close to zombies. The sound effects for your guns and tools are only regular and could have a more significant impact on the gaming experience. Not today, unfortunately.
- Graphics: Considering what we have already seen in the vast majority of blocky games, I wasn’t expecting too much from the graphics department of Unturned. Nonetheless, the simplicity of its world, the poor textures and visual effects were still under my expectations. Still, the day and night cycle in this game in this game is something beautiful to observe. Light also got a lot of attention from the development team, which can be seen through the dimming lights as the night advances.
- Gameplay: The gameplay in Unturned revolves around (guess what?) surviving in a zombie-infested world. To do so, you will need to gather many different resources. Let’s start with clothes, which can increase how much weight your character can carry. Next, food and water which, like in real life, are necessary for survival. As finding food isn’t all that easy, you will need to resort to hunting, fishing, and agriculture. Weapons to protect you against zombies and players. And finally, resources to build a shelter. To do so, you count on an extensive crafting system that allows you to create tools, gears, structures, and many more options. Although complicated and full of things to do, its gameplay felt very unpolished. The collision detection is very problematic (not to say frustrating). It’s challenging to pick up items. Enemies can see you through walls. Managing your inventory is annoying. Recreating mechanics that work flawlessly with keyboard and mouse on consoles didn’t go so well after all.
What we disliked
- Quo vadis? Despite the short tutorial of the game that overlooks the commands, Untuned lacks any direction or instruction about what to do, where to do it, or even why to do it. You start your adventure naked and unprotected in a random spot on the map and start exploring the world, searching for supplies. Only after many (I repeat, MANY) respawns, I found in one of the maps a safe area with NPCs that gave me quests to accomplish. I can’t even confirm if there are quests to do in other maps because I couldn’t find any sort of directions.
- Free on Steam, expensive on Xbox: I understand all the work involved in porting and optimizing a game from one platform to another. But it’s hard to swallow when a game that’s free on another platform (Steam) comes charged to Xbox. And even though 25 USD/EUR isn’t all that expensive (at least for players from the US and EU, because for players in Brazil the more than 100 BRL asked for it feels too much!), players interested in the game will opt for its free version on PCs. And it reflects on our next point…
- Empty servers: I tried it on different days and times of the day (especially on weekends) in one of its many regions, but it was tough to find sessions of this game with active players. I was luckier in Canadian servers, where I could play the game with some other players (more specifically, kids. It looks like this game has a more significant appeal for them) in two different sessions. But for a game that figures between the top 100 games played on Steam with an average of more than 20.000 players, seeing its servers on Xbox One with a higher count of 15 players was… depressing, at least.
I tried to enjoy Unturned. I really tried. It has interesting mechanics scattered through an empty and world that entirely depends on players’ interaction to become interesting. And due to the low player count, enjoying it isn’t going to be an easy task for those who venture into this world. Maybe if you have a group of friends to enjoy this game along, you will have fun with it. I just wonder why you would play it on your Xbox when there’s a free version of the game with a lot more content on Steam?
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.