Endless Loop Studios’ latest title doesn’t do much to enhance the zombie survival genre, and what it does present is plagued by game-ruining glitches and bugs, putting a damper on the whole experience. When a mechanic or gameplay element does work the way it should, it holds promise, but unfortunately, too much of the game doesn’t deliver enough to make this a title worth paying attention to.
Survivor Squad is essentially an RTS action game that requires players to control a team of up to four humans as they battle their way through buildings, killing hordes of infected and looting for supplies along the way. The cliche story has you and your team heading down a seemingly endless string of repetitive environments in a quest to find a scientist that has a cure, but if you’re playing this game for the narrative, you’re already off to a bad start.
You control each member of your squad in one of three ways: You can hit a corresponding number on your keyboard, left-click, or drag your mouse to form a box to encompass the character or characters to want to control. Then, by right-clicking on the map, your squad moves until they reach their destination. By holding the right mouse button down and then sliding the mouse in a direction, your selected survivors will face exactly what you tell them to. By having your squad members face different ways, each teammate can cover each others’ backs, increasing your units’ chances of survival.
Unfortunately, this mechanic doesn’t work as well as it should. In the chaos of fighting dozens of zombies while trying to move from point A to point B, it rarely pays off to do anything but select your entire squad at once and move them as a single unit. To micromanage each of the four characters as they’re being ripped apart is simply out of the question if you want your men to survive, so this mechanic quickly becomes useless in practice. In the end, I was simply moving every unit together as one, hoping their lines of sight would be good enough to protect each other from zombies trying to sneak up on them.
Another thing that made managing my squad a chore was the fact that when you tell units where to go, they will travel directly there without ceasing, even if a horde of zombies attacks them in the process. Apparently none of these skilled survivors have the ability to move and shoot at the same time, which puts quite a damper on strategy. Instead of being able to click where you want your men to go and watching them make a beeline there, destroying masses of undead minions in the process, players are forced to make short, consecutive clicks. Your squad moves ten feet, takes out any walkers that enter their line of sight, moves another ten feet, and so on. It becomes tedious pretty quickly.
Despite these annoyances, I can see promise in what Endless Loop Studios was trying to craft with this title. With randomly generated survivors and levels, an intricate crafting system, and the necessity of looting every environment you come across, it’s clear that this game could have been a cult hit. Finding more survivors to add to your squad in case one of them dies on a mission adds more strategy to the game, as does leveling up your squad and deciding who gets what weapons and gear. It’s just too bad that the actual gameplay feels like it’s working against you.
Other annoyances come at the expense of bland and repetitive level design, the blatant copying of Left 4 Dead special infected (Survivor Squad features Spitters, Jumpers, and Grabbers, direct rip-offs of Spitters, Hunters, and Smokers from Valve’s zombie franchise), and the endless amount of glitches that hinder the gameplay. Several times my squad couldn’t pick up essential items like food crates due to them being somehow caught in a wall. Other instances such as a bug that looped the same text conversation over and over until I had to actually delete my game to fix it do nothing to quell my frustrations.
Overall, Endless Loop Studios could make this a decent title if they took the time to address the glitches, the hindering controls, and the boring environments. Zombie fanatics might have a good time with this game for a bit, but they too will walk away disappointed by Survivor Squad’s persistent shortcomings in the end. In its present state, it’s hard to recommend this title to anyone other than those that wish to learn what mistakes to avoid when making a top-down zombie action game.