After a couple of years on PC and even a time as a console exclusive on the Nintendo Switch, Green Hell is ready to put players through their paces on PS5 and PS4.
I am deep in the Amazon jungle, and I am lost. Again.
This isn’t the start of a diary of my adventure with Bear Grylls, but an average hour spent playing Green Hell, a new survival game from developers Creepy Jar.
Set in the Amazon rainforest, you play as Jake Higgins, an author who is researching material for his new book on the hidden tribes of the Amazon rainforest. Things quickly take a turn (don’t they always?), and you end up separated from your wife Mia, who you then spend the remainder of the game trying to find.
With the setup out the way, it has to be said – Green Hell has one of the best looking jungle environments I have ever seen in a videogame. Sunlight breaks through dense foliage; animals skitter and scurry around in the undergrowth. As in real life, bumbling through the jungle without a direction or purpose is a sure fire way to get lost, and this is a testament to the game’s world.
As such, navigation is a major part of the gameplay. Early on you’re gifted a watch that, besides the obvious job of telling the time, also works as a compass giving you your GPS position at any given time. This information, when combined with the map you find a little later, is crucial if you want to make any headway in Green Hell, and I barely went 5 minutes before I was pulling out my watch to check my coordinates and cross-reference them with the map.
All of this is done in-game – the HUD is minimal with your watch doing the majority of the heavy lifting. Along with the time and your grid position, the watch also keeps you informed of your actual physical state and tells you what you need to be eating.
Green Hell breaks food down into four main categories – fats, carbohydrates, proteins and water. Each one combats a certain ailment you can pick up as you trek through the jungle in shorts and a t-shirt, but all I really worried about in my 15-hour playthrough was if I needed to eat or if I needed to drink, without thinking too much about what exactly I shoved in my gullet.
Saying that, I did have to consider how I prepared my food or water. Cooking and boiling is always the safest bet, but setting up a fire takes time, energy and resources, and if I was lacking in even one area it could make the difference between life and death. What Green Hell does so well is manage these in the background, with each continuously ticking down which meant I was constantly keeping check to make sure I had suitable food ready to go at a moments notice.
This is easier said than done, however, as eating and drinking aren’t without peril. Food can be acquired in a variety of ways, one of the easiest being coconuts that litter the jungle floor. If you’re lucky, you’ll find tinned goods in abandoned settlements, or master the art of capturing animals before cooking their raw meat over a fire, but eating blind can cause injury which makes my stats drain faster.
There are ways to combat this, but Green Hell doesn’t exactly throw a pharmacist into the jungle to help you. Starting the game blind, finding out what works and what doesn’t is a case of trial and error, and one wrong move could result in a swift death. Luckily the jungle is littered with various flowers and mushrooms to chow down on with each offering various bonuses or penalties should you consume them in the wrong way.
I will confess I still don’t know what half of them are good for. I worked out which ones cured venom and those that when combined with my leaf bandage helped me overcome a rash, but other than that I am still a novice, with all my accrued knowledge stored in my notebook that I could access at any time along with my crafting recipes and objectives should I forget what I was doing.
If you’ve played any survival game, none of this will be anything new or groundbreaking, but what Green Hell does to stand out is that it weaves the survival gameplay into a narrative that keeps you fighting off death’s dirty embrace. I had played a few in-game days in before I got the balance between crafting and pushing the story on about right, but even then, I was only one wrong move away from a venomous bite or an infected scratch that would have me scrambling off in another direction before I succumbed to infection.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, Green Hell is tough. There is no hand-holding here, and at times it seems like everything in the jungle is merely there to kill you. Green Hell does a decent job of balancing all these systems, however, I will confess I did kick the difficulty level down during my first play-through as the balance between survival and enjoying the story is a fine one.
Not only that, but saving in Green Hell further complicates matters as you can only save at constructed shelters or in a few key areas throughout the game. Constructing a shelter every time you want to save is a bit cumbersome, and I quickly settled for rushing from one key area to another with a few strategic shelters spread out around the jungle, but that didn’t take the sting out of it when I died and lost a few hours progress, so be warned.
Another frustration that had me scratching my head was the tutorial. Booting up the game for the first time I decided to give it a go to get my head round the systems in play, but in the end this was a complete waste of time. Upon completing the tutorial, you are kicked back to the main menu to start the game over, even though it starts in the exact same way and includes all the same information, so why I had to play the opening twice I still don’t know.
This, combined with an annoying bug that caused Green Hell to crash way more times than it should have done on my PS5, was my biggest frustration with the game, but one that I was able to overlook (the bug I seemed to fix by deleting and reinstalling so whether that was the game or my PS5 I have no idea).
Along with the beautiful level design, Green Hell does a fantastic job with immersion. Everything you collect as you scramble to survive is stored in one of the many areas of your backpack, and managing this inventory becomes second nature. What Green Hell does differently is it displays your backpack, whether you want to find something to eat or get some sticks to start crafting an axe, you have to find them all in your backpack and start putting them together.
This is such a simple idea, but it is incredible how immersive it is in action. At first, I felt a little overloaded, but I quickly learned where all my important resources were stored, which allowed me to get what I wanted quickly and with little fuss, and it felt like a breath of fresh air when it came to managing my inventory.
Crafting is also done in this way, with any items you want to make coming from the gear you can carry with you. Crafting recipes aren’t found but learned from trial and error, before they are stored in your notebook in handwritten form. These can range from the small, such as axes and bows, to huge structures that you can combine in order to make larger buildings. Green Hell contains a story and survival mode, so if you prefer one over the other you have that choice.
Additionally, there are seven challenges that you can attempt outside of the storyline to see how well you can survive with certain conditions in place, such as building a raft or collecting meat from different animals, so there is plenty to get your teeth into if survival games are your thing.
Green Hell is a beautiful looking game that doesn’t just look good, it plays brilliantly too. Controls feel tight and responsive, and the depth on offer is a clear tip of the hat to its PC roots. Green Hell is a great addition to the survival genre, and although we have seen many of the mechanics used before, Green Hell combines them all in a way that feels fresh, fun, and satisfying to play.
Green Hell PS5, PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Green Hell ups the ante by combining survival, storytelling and ultra-realism to create a tense, tough, and terrific game. It’s brutal but fun, and even better if you can rope a buddy into playing Survival mode.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5.