Survival Crisis Z

By: Alehkhs

On: July 10th, 2008

How is TIGSource absent of what could be the greatest independent post-apocalyptic sandbox-game ever!?

Ska Studios, the maker of the soon-to-be released XBLA game “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai,” holds the title for perhaps the greatest free zombie game to date. Survival Crisis Z mixes the free-roaming, do-what-you-want aspects of games like Grand Theft Auto, and the post-apocalyptic zombie/infected scenario from movies like 28 Days Later and I am Legend.

The game has two main game-types: story and arcade. In arcade it is very simple: you will simply run around the streets of a city as the only survivor, facing ever increasing numbers of zombies until you die. This mode often only lasts a few minutes, and offers rewards for high-scores ranging from new mini-games available from the menu to a character editor for the campaign.

On to story mode:

As the main Character, you roam the city, trying to survive the outbreak in hopes that help will arrive. You aren’t alone either: other survivors like yourself have formed into clans, and the city’s police force has even set up a few strongholds.

For awhile, the city might seem peaceful almost, with only one ore two of the infected attacking at once. But wait until nightfall, and the streets will literally be crawling with them. Will you stay with other survivors in a stronghold? Or will you try to keep moving or hole up by yourself?

Survival Crisis Z (1)

The “living city” aspect of SCZ is amazing, better even than many commercial games that have attempted the same thing: you’ll come across police patrolling the street, or even walk straight into shootouts between fighting factions. You can even interact with these factions by visiting various strongholds and ask for a job. These jobs range from simple “take this package across town” to rescue missions to even taking out entire other factions’ strongholds. As you do these missions, the various factions of the world will treat you differently based on how much they like you.

You don’t need to follow any sort of storyline however (although, if you want to escape the city, you will have to at some point), and there are plenty of things to do. You can simply explore: looting bodies as you go around the randomly-generated city, or even venture into the dark sewers and try to flush out the zombie invasion. Or you can run a personal trade-route: purchasing supplies for cheap at one stronghold, and then traveling to another where they will fetch a better price. You can use any money you get to purchase new weapons, supplies, or training. Yes, I said training. SCZ has a rpg-like system of several skills that you can develop. From personal healing to bomb-making, these skills can then be used in numerous ways to your advantage.

During all your travels throughout the city, you’ll even begin to pick up other lone survivors like yourself, who will travel along with you and even fight alongside. You’ll have to keep an eye on their health however: if they are bitten and not treated within a few hours, they might turn on you and attack.

Survival Crisis Z (2)

The zombies of the game range from the fast, newly-infected variant from 28 Days Later, to the slow, shambling-yet-hard-to-kill version from the Zombie films of old. There exploding zombies, child zombies, dog zombies, giant zombies, and of course zombies that you always think you’ve killed, and then they get back up and attack again (much like those damn “magic” birthday candles).

Another fun aspect of the game is that you (and any “crew” that you have collected) can attempt to take over other stronghold for yourself. Sometimes this entails protecting it against a massive flood of the infected, and sometimes you must kill the current owners who are less than pleased to be evicted…

There are three “campaign/levels” in the game, and each is progressively harder than the last. So if you want an awesome survival-horror game for free, and you’re not a fool with Vista such as myself, look no further than Survival Crisis Z (or if you have Vista, do as I do and throw SCZ on a thumb-drive and play it on a friend’s computer with XP).

Download site (near bottom of page) / Direct Download
/ Developer’s Blog / Wiki

Also, although this version of SCZ doesn’t have multiplayer, who knows what lies around the corner…?


EDIT: for Vista users, there is a supposed fix, although it has only worked for some of those who have tried it. See the comments for this post if you want to try it for yourself.

TIGdb: Entry for Survival Crisis Z

  • haowan

    *takes down Deadrock site forever in utter disgust*

  • hmm

    I’d like this game so much better if they toned down the speed a bit.

  • Imaginationac

    Now I’m regretting that I reformatted my old PC that had XP…

  • Zulgaines

    This was the first indi game I actually payed for. Was worth it back when it first came out and wasn’t free.

  • torchedEARTH

    Download it now, what are you waiting for? Yes you there, come on, click that link. Do it! Do it! Do it!

  • TeeGee

    God, this review surely got me interested. It all sounds just too awesome to be true.

    Downloading now… bye bye my today’s tasks…

    Also, Ninjastarmageddon by the same guys is totally great!

  • mizipzor

    Looks nice! I’ll try it later today when I find the time.

  • Flamebait

    IIRC I found this unplayable on account of the (non-reconfigurable) controls, I’ll have to check it out again.

  • Toadsanime

    @Zulgaines – You paid for this…? That’s appreciatable and all, but this is a freeware game. Was it Shareware at a previous date, then? The only games I know of that Skasoftware made that are at a price is the sequels of Zombie Smashers X.

    …wait a minute, Zombie Smashers X isn’t on TIGsource either!
    Guys, I think now would be a good time to catch up on some games. Make an article about old games that you haven’t mentioned previously before. I don’t recall Dink Smallwood or Glace being mentioned before, either, but I may be wrong.

  • sean

    seems like a cool concept, but the randomness feels TOO random… like buildings changing layouts and stuff. also, i think the controls are cripplingly bad. left should be LEFT, not diagonal, in absolute mode and the relative mode feels very clumsy.

  • Bezzy

    “takes down Deadrock site forever in utter disgust”


  • Alan Gordon

    Fun Fact: SCZ was a huge inspiration in the development of Zombie City III.

  • TeeGee

    Having played it for a while now, I can post some comments.

    The idea and sandboxy feeling is great, the gameplay is interesting and there’s lots of stuff to do. However, sucky controls and overall unpolished feel subtract significantly from the experience. It’s like a game I really want to love, but I know that it would make for a hard relationship.

    Also, I hate the procedurally generated city. It looks like an ugly dungeon and sucks up about 43% of atmosphere.

    Also, the map sucks.

    Also, the living city aspect isn’t that good to be honest. I shot one SWAT officer dead and his fellow, who stood so close that few stray bullets hit him, did absolutely nothing.

    Also, the game’s still great.

  • fartron

    This sounds awesome.

    But there’s always more room in the living-city-of-the-dead genre, so keep Deadrock alive.

    Also.. *ska* studios? wtf?

  • MetalGearLefty

    Is There anyway to get this running on Vista?

  • Tim James

    Zombie Smashers X2 is a River City Ransom clone, a gametype that is sadly underrepresented in the bloated indie world of shmups, cute platformers, puzzle games, etc.

    At the bottom of his blog is an adorable skit Microsoft did of him at the GDC one year, where they put him on stage with developer legends to show how even the proletariat can use their XNA system to make games (in this case it’s The Dishwasher, which I hope makes it to PC).

    He looks like a total music scenester (which is awesome), hence the name ska studios. Zombie Smashers X2 has a heavy punk/music influence to it.

  • Tanner

    I wish this worked on Vista. Really badly.

  • Advenith

    I’ve been needing something to play for awhile and this got my hopes up. Then the Vista thing dashed all of them.

  • Alehkhs

    There are reports of some people getting the game to work on Vista-machines, but I have had absolutely no luck.

    There is this solution, posted over on the Facepunch Studios forum thread for SCZ (which is a great little community for the game)

    From Facepunch Studios:

    “Originally Posted by Viro:

    1. Download and Install VB6 runtimes:…displaylang=en

    2. Download and Install AllRuntimes.exe (as Admin):

    3. Download and Register dx7vb.dll (as Admin)…/download.html
    Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> Right-Click ‘Command Prompt’ -> Run as Administrator
    regsvr32 dx7vb.dll

    4. Download and Register dx8vb.dll (as Admin)…/download.html
    Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> Right-Click ‘Command Prompt’ -> Run as Administrator
    regsvr32 dx8vb.dll

    After that it all worked. I am not sure how many of these steps are necessary but the game works after I installed and registered that lot.”

    However, it has had limited success, so I am assuming that there is another factor determining why it doesn’t want to run on Vista.

    Believe me, I would give anything to have this run on my laptop, but alas, I just have it on a thumbdrive and play it on my friends’ computers when I can.

    If you do attempt the above fix (and I wouldn’t mess around with registry files unless you know what you’re doing) let us hear back from you if it works.

    Best of luck!

  • Dominic White

    Survival Crisis Z has been one of my favourite indie games for a very long time. The news that he’s making the first steps on an updated, multiplayer, XBLA version if it is fantastic.

    Here’s hoping it doesn’t take forever to make. He’s got most of the gameplay mechanics worked out – just needs to balance and tune and prettify.

  • Zulgaines


    The game is 4-5 years old, but only recently has been released for free.

    There was a pretty good demo though.

  • Karuvitomsk

    Reconfiguring the controls is a huge hassle, and the normal schemes are very clumsy. I really wish these issues were fixed.

  • Pnx

    Yeesh, I keep having this issue where I can’t seem to blow up a building with c4 for a mission, I’ve tried and tried I’ve even gone ahead and placed 12 charges all around it but that damn thing doesn’t wanna go. Any ideas anyone?

  • Phasma Felis

    Why do gamers keep installing Vista? Did you not believe the ten thousand people before you who complained about half their games not working?

  • Pnx

    Well I completed the game, for the c4 thing I found the only solution is to restart the login and try again. eventually it will work.

    The end was kind of fun, but I thought that towards the end it starts to become too easy once you have all the skills and have enough money to buy the supplies you need to use them.

    A couple of tesla coils and maybe a sentry or two and every boss is easy.

    Although I have to admit, I’ve seen magic zombies, and I’ve seen virus zombies. But I’ve never seen both used like that. Fun ending.

  • Rabspat

    This game has loads of flaws, but it’s still incredibly fun.

  • Greg

    yeah, Zombie Smasher X is worth a look too. Gameplay is fairly clean and has some interesting extra features: you can buy tattoos, and eat at fast food places. and like SCZ, it’s kinda buggy but forgiveably so.

  • MisterSmith

    “Ska Studios, the maker of the soon-to-be released XBLA game “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai,” holds the title for perhaps the greatest free zombie game to date.”

    Soon-to-be released? Are we getting some insider info over here? :p

  • RayLancer

    This is pretty fun. I might look into doing some new graphics for the sprites in this game.

  • curezen

    @Phasma Felis:

    it says on the box that most games will not work with vista. but, unfortunatly neither does some of the new hardware.

  • Mike

    I run Vista, all my games work, and any games I had trouble with I got working within 10 or 20 mins… Not really that bad… :-/

  • Eddie

    Sometimes I feel so alone,
    and then I think of the zombies and I realize, all their friends are dead..

  • Quetz

    It’s pretty fun for a while. I played it for like 6 hours straight, but I wish there was more variety (there really isn’t as much as you’d think) and a steeper difficulty curve. It just became too easy during the second half of the first level.

    I couldn’t figure out how to beat it though. I explored a lot of the sewers, but it was getting pretty monotonous going through every room. I also explored all of the compound but it didn’t seem like much was there.

    Anyway, I don’t plan to pick it up again. And one more thing, why the heck do the fat people explode?

  • Nikica

    And where is Blood Zero, it was released as free but there is no download link and the author doesn’t answer my mails.

  • Christian

    i love this studio… never got into this game as much as the River City Rampage clone tho… but they’re such awesome guys and i’m glad to see they’re still around

  • fartron

    >why the heck do the fat people explode?

    Because they’re basically Wights which are awesome.

  • PHeMoX

    “i think the controls are cripplingly bad. left should be LEFT, not diagonal, in absolute mode and the relative mode feels very clumsy.”

    Actually, if you look at the small arrow instead of the character itself it won’t be confusing.. at least in my opinion.

    I like the game, never heard of it before and it’s free, what more could I want? Hahahaha, ZSX 3: Ninjastarmaggedon on GiveAwayOfTheDay perhaps, I’d wish… ;)

  • moon_rabbits

    Haaaaaaaa. Awesome.

  • Lyx

    After a while, i dont find the controls (absolute + mouse) that bad. What bothers me about the game are some signs of lack of polish: party AI always wants to run INTO enemies and get eaten, instead of keeping some distance. ALT-TAB crashes game. Got stuck in terrain during missions a few times. The player-position on the map is difficult to estimate. And i often wish i could see more of the surroundings (too short view-distance). Still, despite of those things, its a great freeware game – the concept is great and the implementation just needs some polish to turn it into a gem.

  • Pry

    It’s really irritating how your party members will stop every 30 seconds to utter one of a handful of comments you’ve already seen fifty times. It wouldn’t be nearly as bad if they would just keep walking, but apparently they’re too stupid to walk and talk.

    Also, I wish that during takeovers the party members would realize that the safest place to be is in the protective ring of tesla coils I’ve set up rather than right next to the door out of which hoards of zombies are continuously pouring.

    AI issues aside, it’s pretty fun.

  • olda_sadlo

    oh, i can’t finish last neutral mission, i’m waiting for that pilot, and when i kill all zombies, game freezes. any solutions?

  • LilGucci Rogers