Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut

A claustrophobic, tangled maze of physical and psychological threat, Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor is a great little paradox. Starting well after a plague reminiscent of Resident Evil‘s T-Virus has decimated a city, Byrne’s unnamed, surgical-masked protagonist (referred to as “You”) has holed up in an abandoned apartment longer than he remembers. Running low on supplies and faintly hopeful of encountering other people, he ventures from relative safety to face shambling humanoidsSilent Hill 2-style impossible architecture (hinting at supernatural cause), and phantoms possibly of his own imagining to maybe escape. Rendered with retro graphics, the focus is less on contemporary survival horror’s multimillion dollar sizzle and more on mechanics. Every task boils down to fight, flight, or scrounge. Every monster encounter has two solutions, equally pragmatic so long as supplies hold out–shoot them with a gun or sneak by using flares and bait–smartly weaving binary endings into gameplay, like the first three Silent Hill games, rather than contrived choices. This dynamic is reenforced with two dream beings who provide supplies if You take certain medications. Byrne keeps answers close to his vest: neither path yields many, and with an eye always on the primal need to eat, sleep, and survive, You likely won’t care. Getting over the next task always seems insurmountable and grand, obtaining new ways of surviving a joy (a gas tank for a stove so You can cook food is “the best thing ever”). That singular push is Lone Survivor‘s greatest accomplishment: getting out of the building takes half the game, but leaves you a portion of city to escape. This, too, eventually seems small and petty, despite the expanded scope. It’s as if You are trapped in a Matryoshka doll of constant, pressing need.

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