Post-apocalyptic videogames, the ultimate escape. How wonderful to venture to a strange land, so different from our own, and see what the world may look like an entire week from now. Well, today the PlayStation clan secluded themselves behind their barricades with The Last Of Us Part 2, leaving the PC tribe to suffer in the harsh elements of reality alone. But never fear, wanderer. Here are some similar games to play if you want to leave your austere existence behind, and indulge in a grim struggle instead. Pull up a plastic bucket, break open a tin of Pedigree Chum, here are the 8 bleakest post-apocalypses in PC gaming. A post-apocalyst.
Much has been written about S.T.A.L.K.E.R, whose full title is pronounced S full stop T full stop A full stop L full stop K full stop E full stop R full stop colon Shadow Of Chernobyl. It is an old game by now, yet still beloved in the cultish corners of the industry by those who value radiation sickness above fast travel. The desolate landscape of The Zone is sprinkled with beasts, harmful anomalies, and treacherous zonesplorers out to steal your last can of unlabeled food. S.T.A.L.K.E.R was DayZ, years earlier, without the presence of other players. Which makes it either less bleak or more bleak. It depends who you ask, and whether they force you to drink bleach afterwards.
They did. You’re dead now.
You wake up in a strange facility. The world has collapsed and there’s a snarling creature clawing its way into your room. So begins another fresh journey in this roguelike survival jaunt, a desperate anti-adventure in which having two pairs of functioning shoes can be the difference between a sad, infected end and a whole second day of extra life. NEO Scavenger understands that survival relies upon the mundane. Water bottles, crumpled t-shirts, bits of string. Finding a good rock. These are the tools and tales of the post-apocalyptic human. Not steampunk guns and magical steroids. No. A shard of glass duct-taped to the end of a stick. Unidentified berries. A clumsy fight to the death in the mud between two sleep-deprived cowards. Oozing wounds from which the “winner” will later die.
Ah, the Sophie’s Choice of adventure games. Yes, this tumbling-down-a-hill story of one girl and her successive entourage of carers and carees is full of dead daddy figures and zombified nippers. But if all storytelling is a form of emotional manipulation, Telltale’s Walking Dead series is an unhinged campfire brutalist, offering you a choose-your-own-misery that other games have long sought to mimic. “Here you go,” says Telltale, “choose between saving these two characters, it’s easy. Actually, you know what? It doesn’t matter.
Nierrr… faaar… where eeeevvvver you are! That is a blunt reference to the song “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, popularised by the movie Titanic, in which low-born American Jack DiCaprio has passionate intercourse with a society woman called Rose in the back of a prototypical automobile. In Nier: Automata, a post-apocalyptic action game of blended genre and mood, humanity has vanished, leaving only rusting robots who now begin to emulate basic human actions, such as the aforementioned act of sex. To witness these rotund tin cans of the future, rutting away as the iron oxide flakes off their cylindrical bellies with every ineffectual thrust, is quite possibly as tragic a moment as the final moments of Jack and Rose are in the movie Titanic. That is to say, a big slab of bleak, with a massive side-helping of comedy.
“This is a bit like that game from last year,” I said as I bricked another man in the forehead in The Last Of Us during the hateful summer of 2013. “What was it called? Ah, never mind.” It was called I Am Alive, and it was a skyscraper-clambering action game colour-drained to the point of resembling a 1940s newsreel. You could point guns at people and they would put their hands up, even when you had no ammo. You could put your own hands up when outnumbered and pick your moment to fight back. It was all set in a crumbling 7 out of 10 world where the biggest killer wasn’t zombies or mutants but dust from fallen buildings. If scavenging a copy of Naughty Dog’s blockbuster is like discovering a cache of tinned peaches, finding I Am Alive is like uncovering a pallet of posh dog food that tastes confusing.
Send the children down the mines. Humanity must survive. Great, what other horrible things can we do to make sure the people of this steamy town-building sim survive? Cannibalise corpses, check. Back-to-back work shifts, check. Propaganda law, check. All seems to be going well, until a crowd of people start getting fed up with your rule, and shove you into the centre of town to be executed for all the horrible laws you’ve passed. Frostpunk questions the idea that huddling with other people and building a society will ensure your survival. You might have been better off forging a way through the bitter cold by yourself.
Nope. Still died.
One Off The List from… the 9 most desperate cowboys
Last week we threw a lassoo around the ankles of the 9 most desperate cowboys in PC games. But you, the just and respectful jury of the comment section, commanded the immediate sentencing of one of the no-good outlaws. It’s… Revolver Ocelot.
“Suggest Revolver Ocelot for the chop,” says list executioner “MiniMatt”, who takes umbrage with the gunslinger’s code name. “On the grounds that he sounds more like the comedy feline sidekick on a CBeebies show than a rootin’ tootin’ cowboy. Sure Hideo, you make a compelling, if disturbingly pervy, game but every character was named during a crystal meth-fuelled team-building trip to the zoo.”
A sound case backed up by strong, almost-libelous accusations. Good work, see you next week.