If you’re reading this, then congratulations! You made it through the exhausting year that was 2020! As bleak as things may have seemed at times, at least there weren’t any zombies. We can gladly say that zombies remain, for the time being, consigned to the world of fiction. After a tumultuous year like this last one, killing some zombies may be just what you need. If that’s the case, I urge you to seek your undead-pummeling therapy session in any game that isn’t the absolute mess known as Unturned.
Developed by the poorly named FunLabs, Unturned is an, “open-world survival sandbox where you assume the role of a survivor in the zombie-infested ruins of modern-day society.” That’s a direct quote from the Microsoft Store description of the game, and it is there so that we can laugh at it. That description has the exact same level of personality, charm, and inventiveness that the game itself has: none. Zero. Zilch. Bupkis. Unturned is what would remain if you destroyed every ounce of humanity, zest, and creativity that existed. I can hear you beginning to type, “Isn’t that, like, a main part of a zombie apocalypse?” Yes, but shush. I’ll tell you what I mean, but allow me to first point out the game’s largest flaw.
Unturned is one the ugliest games that I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to sound too mean, but it’s bad. Uglier than the most vile of sins, ugly. Dr. Jekyll doesn’t turn into the horrifying monster Hyde anymore, he turns into this game. Ever wonder what Michael Myers is afraid of? It’s this game. Now you know. The entirety of the game looks like it was made as an amateur student project. Character models, vehicles, houses, the environment, weapons, backpacks, skins, clothing, everything looks like an ugly placeholder for a game that is leagues away from completion. There isn’t a single shred of art direction or cohesion to any of the game’s visual elements.
Going back to the earlier paragraph, Unturned’s exceptionally plain aesthetic could best be summed up as the template for a game described as “the zombie-infested ruins of modern-day society.” It’s the template. As I wandered the world, I eventually stumbled upon a building that simply said, “HOSPITAL” in large red letters. Other than that and the entire building being white, there was nothing else to it. It feels like a game that was created by a computer program. There’s no sense of story, life, or anything even remotely descriptive. It’s not a farm that was worked by a small family, it’s Placeholder Farm #2. It’s not a firehouse where people used to live, it’s Red Square Building #5. Perhaps the game was modeled after an assortment of a six-year-old’s LEGO creations. Those LEGO creations probably look better than the game, however, since they wouldn’t be affected by various forms of ugly lighting all at once.
Now, allow me to say that I’m one of the first people who will defend a game’s art style. Games like Undertale, Thomas Was Alone, and Minecraft don’t have the shiniest, fanciest graphics of all time, but they have direction. They have artistic effort behind them, and each one aims for a specific, aesthetic style. Unturned does not do that with its visuals or with its gameplay.
As a survival game, your goal is to do just that – survive. Make it through the nights and days, eat food, drink water, build a fort, and so on. However, doing these activities is an absolute slog. Everything takes way too long to do. Healing yourself takes ages, opening the menu to grab a piece of clothing, exiting the menu to physically hold the clothing and press a button to put it on, and killing zombies all take too much time. Even on the easiest difficulty and with pretty good gear it takes an exorbitant amount of damage to kill a zombie. Don’t even get me started on walking from place to place. I understand that, for some odd reason, every single video game has to be an open-world game in order to be a video game, but the open-world here is way too big. Perhaps it makes vehicles more appealing, but that’s like saying two flies in your soup is better than one since every vehicle is buggy to the point of unusable.
What’s the point of the game? I wish I could tell you, reader. After what felt like hours of wandering around and finding only bullets, clothing, and bandages, finding a gun made me think, “Ah-ha! Maybe the shooting will actually be pretty fun.” I was a fool to believe. Unturned’s gunplay is stiff, clunky, and tedious. There is no joy to be had in dispatching zombies, and I found that, in most situations, it was somehow less work to lead zombies far from the objects I was attempting to loot than to kill them. As one could easily guess, a zombie survival game where it isn’t fun to kill the zombies does not make for a very compelling zombie survival game.
Again, I don’t want to be a bully, but this game is simply unfinished. I should point out that there is no end goal either. The game expects you to run around, loot, kill zombies, and build a base forever. Perhaps you and a friend or two could have a bit of fun playing with one another, but that just means you have fun friends. With such a mindlessly repetitive, uninspired, and predictable gameplay loop and my now go-to example of horrible visuals, Unturned is, like a zombie, better off dead.