I forgot I wrote this review a while ago when I played the game Lone Survivor. So, here’s what I had to say about it.
Lone Survivor is one of the only games that I thought I understood, but was frequently proven wrong. On the surface, it is simply another zombie game. But there is so much more underneath that I don’t quite understand yet. Often I found myself saying “What’s going on?” out loud. The confusion I had mirrored the confusion of You, the main character. You hallucinate. You meet other characters who don’t seem quite right. I’ll need to play it again in order to understand it further, but here’s what I took from my first playthrough:
Your choices end up mattering, and affect how the game goes. I unfortunately didn’t realize this until late in my playthrough. Your choices boil down to two things: avoid violence and hide, or confront the enemies by shooting them. I chose the latter option—the “Blue” ending. You can take pills to help you, which are mysteriously restocked every day. Blue pills give you more ammo. Green pills give you batteries for your flashlight. Red pills wake you up. When you take a blue pill, it makes you drowsy, and when you go to sleep, you dream you are on stage, sitting in a chair next to a man. You never learn his name, but I believe that he is a part of you, and his name is Draco, which I inferred from diary entries scattered about. He is the violent side of you. When you take the green pill, you dream of The Man with a Box on his Head, who is shown in a better light and presumably wears the box to hide from the world, as you do when you hide from enemies. The game seems to favor the Green path as more morally acceptable. However, both ways require you to rely on drugs to advance. They are easy to obtain and easy to fall back on, since they help so much. Take enough of them and you begin to develop a need for them, and the hallucinations start. I didn’t realize there would be any consequences, so I took as many as I wanted, since they were so helpful.
There are several side quests and supporting characters whom you meet, who either help you with items or advice—or nothing at all. Most of them are just weird and out of place. It makes me wonder how alone You actually are, and whether the zombie apocalypse is real. There are several scenes where You remember Her, or at least, feel like someone is missing. Her is presumably your girlfriend…I’m not sure. But it seems like she died, and You don’t remember Her. There are scenes in the game where you come across what appear to be relics of the past and signs of some sort of tragic event. However, your observations of them make them seem unrelated to the apocalypse, and out of place.
That’s how I would describe most scenes in this game: out of place. This is not just another zombie game. There are things at work here, layers and layers of meaning. You come across a crashed bus, which I believe might have been what killed Her. You survived, and were sent to the hospital, which explains why You were on the clipboard. And the monster you fight, with the sword things for arms? Apparently that’s your mother, according to the end stats screen. It tells you how many times you shot your mother in the legs. What the fuck.
In my ending, I finally got to control myself on the stage in my dreams. I walked over to Draco, and he was being a dick as usual, and dared me to shoot him, so You did. But it didn’t kill him—“You’ll have to do better than that!” It was incredibly weird. But everything went blank, and it cut to scenes of destruction and a desert and the tree and cliff overlooking it all, with You sitting next to Her, talking and holding hands. I think when I shot Draco, I shot myself, and then I died so I could be with Her. What happens when you get the Green ending? Do you just pretend everything is okay by hiding from your problems? And what happens if I don’t take any drugs at all and have a playthrough with both hiding and shooting? Will I not hallucinate, and see things more clearly? Would the story make more sense? There is a lot of room for interpretation here, and it probably requires multiple playthroughs. I enjoyed my one playthrough, but I don’t think I’ll be playing it again. It would be interesting to see how things could pan out differently, however.