If you’re a fan of survival games, the last several years have been very kind to you. While the PC has enjoyed these types of games for a while, the PS4 is finally receiving titles like The Forest. This horror twist on the survival genre places you in the shoes of a plane crash survivor searching for his son in a forest filled with cannibalistic mutants.
It’s no walk in the park, but The Forest is hiding a lot more than just survival mechanics under the hood. Should you book a flight to this mysterious place? Read on to find out!
Reading Between The Pines
Having played many of the survival titles out now on PS4, The Forest was one of those games I had always heard about on PC, but never had the chance to play. Now that it’s finally here (and at a great price point), I am pleased to say that this is easily one of the best options you’ll find on a home console.
For the uninitiated, The Forest employs the same style of gameplay as other contemporaries in the genre, but it does so with a level of polish and smart design choices that many of the others lack. After the brief opening sequence, you watch as a man covered in red takes your unconscious son from you.
Your first steps are among the wreckage of the plane. You’ll quickly obtain a small axe from the body of a stewardess and then it’s off to the races.
The main character is an experienced survivalist, which informs your menus and the crafting design. It’s a great way to bridge the gap between the narrative and the gameplay. Instead of a boring menu, you open up an actual survival guide with tips on how to play the game and sections for each of the structures and traps you can build.
It’s intuitive and more importantly, immersive. Most survival games have complex menus with small text and unintuitive UI, but The Forest keeps everything grounded in the game’s world, which I loved.
This extends to the crafting as well. When you press the touchpad, your inventory opens up and shows all the items you have laid out on a tarp. You can add components to the center area and press the trigger to see available crafting recipes. All of it is done without every opening an overly complex menu, and equipping weapons is just as easy.
When it comes time to build shelter or a fire, The Forest employs my absolute favorite method of setting up structures and building them. You simply choose where the structure will be, and the game sets up a transparent image of it in the real world. From here, you can go off and collect sticks, chop down trees, gather stones, or anything else you need.
Once you have as many as you can carry, you come back and add them to the transparent object. This essentially allows you to craft larger structures without the need to gather the ingredients first, you can bring them in whatever intervals you’d like. Since you can only carry ten sticks at the beginning, for example, this design choice makes building a breeze.
You’ll need to manage the typical survival elements in The Forest as well, like thirst and hunger, but they are never a drag on the experience. Hunting and cooking are quite simple, and gathering water isn’t too difficult either.
Where The Forest really stands out is in its atmosphere, narrative, and the mutants that roam the landscape. While you would normally expect enemies to rush at you the first chance they get, the first mutants you encounter in The Forest keep their distance. They stalk you from the trees and watch from a distance.
They will eventually attack, of course, but that moment when you first realize you’re being watched is one of the most terrifying moments I’ve had this year in gaming. Things quickly ramp up as you get deeper into the game, but the sophistication of the enemies was a welcome surprise for me.
All of this is playable in both single player and online co-op as well for up to four players. The level of freedom you have is incredible in either case. Build a massive fortress, line it with traps, or make a treehouse if you feel like it. You can even build a floating house that sits out on the water.
What’s really interesting here is the fact that you can spend countless hours in the game and never see the narrative it has to offer. The Forest does, in fact, have a fantastic story that spans Lovecraftian elements and even has multiple endings, but if you don’t want to engage with it, you can still have a great time in this world.
Between the smart design, the immersive menus, and the sheer level of polish, The Forest has easily cemented itself in my eyes as the pinnacle of survival games on the PS4.
A Benchmark For Others in The Survival Genre
I typically expect a certain level of presentation issues from survival games, but The Forest blew me away with how polished the entire experience felt from the beginning. The frame rate is smooth, the graphics look great, and the mechanics all work extremely well.
If you’ve been burned in the past by glitchy or unpolished survival games, or you’re looking to try the genre out for the first time, The Forest is the perfect place to start. This is easily some of the best $20 you’ll spend all year.
Final Score: 9.0/10
A copy of The Forest was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 12/6/18