Green Hell is not a game that should be taken lightly in any sense. It’s a survival game for survival game enthusiasts, and as such, it will take every opportunity it can to hand your ass to you. While the tone of Green Hell’s story and setting might remind you of Eli Roth’s Green Inferno, don’t let the superficial similarities lead you to think they are somehow related to one another. This is certainly a similar sort of tale that you would see from the tribal cannibal movie crazy of the early 80’s but it is also very much its own thing and it’s a story worth seeing if you can survive the game’s many treacherous obstacles – both intended and unintended ones – long enough to do so.
If you’ve ever played a real survival game from the last ten years or so then you basically know what to expect here. You will be dropped into a hazardous world with a handful of metrics to manage, terrain to familiarize yourself with, resources to gather, and of course, plenty of antagonistic forces to contend with. Of the many things that need to be constantly managed are Jake’s health, fatigue, hydration, and a balanced diet. It can be done, but don’t expect to come out of the gate swinging without making a lot of mistakes at first. Some mushrooms are good for certain situations, and some are not. Water is easy to find but must either be filtered or gathered from rainfall to be safe to drink. Weapons don’t require much to craft but the stones needed to make good ones are not super easy to find, and will change location on every spawn. Every inch of this world wants you dead, so every move you make in it needs to be purposeful and calculated. So, while Green Hell’s requirements of you are fairly simple in nature, they are not by any means easy to achieve.
"While the tone of Green Hell’s story and setting might remind you of Eli Roth’s Green Inferno, don’t let the superficial similarities lead you to think they are somehow related to one another. This is certainly a similar sort of tale that you would see from the tribal cannibal movie crazy of the early 80’s but it is also very much its own thing and it’s a story worth seeing if you can survive the game’s many treacherous obstacles – both intended and unintended ones – long enough to do so."
By design, there will almost always be something going horribly wrong. Maybe you’re away from your camp but also become so thirsty that you are forced to drink dirty water to buy you some time, which will almost certainly result in you ending up with internal parasites, which will also have to be dealt with. So, for every problem you solve, there will almost always be a new one created. This is how survival games work, but it’s particularly intense in Green Hell, both in terms of the speed at which things can deteriorate, and the sheer number of variables to keep a constant eye on. In a way, it can feel that this particular breed of hardcore survival game can conflict with the idea of progressing through a narrative. Given that my hands were always so full with problems that required immediate attention, it was hard to carve out short moments where I actually felt confident enough to move the story forward. All of this is of course even more pronounced in the beginning, as the short training section at the start does very little to initiate you to Green Hell’s numerous facets and how they impact each other. None of this is necessarily what I would call a flaw in an objective sense, as your personal appetite for punishment and hardcore survival situations will profoundly affect how much fun this sort of thing ends up being for you.
One thing that did stick in my craw however was the somewhat obtuse menu systems and inconsistent manner in which certain objects are crafted. Some items are created on your crafting table, while others require you to select them from your notebook, pick a spot, and place items into that spot to make the item manifest. Both of these methods work well enough, and I eventually understood the differences between – and purposes of – the two methods, but I still think it would have made more sense to just apply one method to everything. Couple that with the menu systems feeling quite clunky and unnatural for a controller, and you have a game that challenges you with learning how to use its various functions almost as much as it does with its actual intended gameplay. Some games make graceful transitions to console with liberal adjustments to their PC-centric menu systems; Green Hell is not one of those. Despite my best efforts to see one, I never quite felt like there was any one consistent functional language across all of Green Hell’s processes and mechanisms. Instead of the game’s moderately complex actions becoming second nature to me like they have in other similar games, I consistently found my eyes darting around the screen looking for visual cues of what button I needed to press to tell the game what I wanted to do.
While I do think that Green Hell’s difficulty could certainly be seen as one of its stronger qualities, especially for the right players, I seriously doubt that wasting precious time fumbling around with incoherent menu systems while my health continues to decline is the inferno that the developer intended. You can play an easier mode that turns off the insanity meter as well as native attacks, and for newcomers I would highly recommend this – at least until you are fluent in the game’s many quirks. Playing online could also theoretically yield benefits I suppose if you’re lucky enough to come across helpful players who can give you some tips, but I had little such luck in my time with the game.
"While I do think that Green Hell’s difficulty could certainly be seen as one of its stronger qualities, especially for the right players, I seriously doubt that wasting precious time fumbling around with incoherent menu systems while my health continues to decline is the inferno that the developer intended."
That said, once you are able to dig yourself out of the deep hole that the game initially drops you in, you can start to see glimmers of a grander system that these many different interconnected elements ultimately add up to. There is a bigger picture here that is sure to satisfy those who like the rush of constant struggle and reaching for a north star of stability that they will rarely if ever actually get to.
The visual performance of Green Hell on the PS4 Pro is impressive in terms of the detail that they were able to pull off on the platform. Details on Jake’s arms and legs stand out nicely. The Amazon rainforest is aptly dense, and everywhere you look you’ll find color, movement, and life. Sun and moon light bounce off of wet dirt and leaves in a convincing way that might momentarily trick you into thinking it’s well-optimized, but sadly overall, not so much. Screen tearing and frame drops are sights you will be very familiar with in this version of the game, especially when chopping down trees or engaging in combat. It can also interfere with normal tasks like crafting and picking up objects as button presses might not register because of a lag in the game, which can be particularly annoying in tense situations, which is most of the time. Why these haven’t been ironed out for the PS4 Pro version when the base version has existed for over three years now is beyond me, but if you are particularly sensitive to this sort of thing, I would advise you to tread lightly with getting the PS4 Pro version at this time.
Music in Green Hell is largely nonexistent but there is a nice series of eerie sounds that slowly swell as Jake loses sanity and experiences hallucinations. This well-designed soundscape helps those moments feel far more alarming than they otherwise would, and that successfully ratchets up the tension in an already constantly tense game. Voice acting is also pretty good across the board, so as far as audio goes, the game has made a seemingly perfect transition from PC and should satisfy what most PS4 Pro players are expecting.
"Green Hell makes no bones about what it is and can’t be faulted for being a purposefully difficult game that knows how to keep your back against the wall. Even after you get your arms around everything that’s expected of you, it doesn’t really feel like it loses that edge over you, so for that, Green Hell accomplishes exactly what it seems to want."
Green Hell makes no bones about what it is and can’t be faulted for being a purposefully difficult game that knows how to keep your back against the wall. Even after you get your arms around everything that’s expected of you, it doesn’t really feel like it loses that edge over you, so for that, Green Hell accomplishes exactly what it seems to want. It’s a relentless test of your ability to plan, solve problems, and adapt. What it doesn’t do is give you a user interface that facilitates your already steep uphill climb of getting the hang of things, nor does it land on the PS4 Pro in a way that keeps the gameplay feeling smooth and responsive enough to praise this version very much as a port. Thankfully, the flaws of this version don’t ever quite stop it from being a fun challenge that manages to remain enticing despite the abuse it dishes out.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
A relentless but an addicting challenge that should please all survival enthusiasts; One of the most well-realized forest locations I can recall in a game; Effective and impressive audio work all around.
Poor optimization that often dips below acceptable levels; An often-confusing UI and obtuse mechanics that get in the way of learning the game.