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Unturned : The Zombie Apocalypse Game You Overlooked


Unturned : The Zombie Apocalypse Game You Overlooked

It’s easy to dismiss Unturned – free on Steam – as a Minecraft wanna-be on first glance. You can clearly see that this game’s graphic design policy follows the Minecraft philosophy – minimal polygons and crude shapes. But it’s a completely different experience. To be sure, other things in common between Unturned and Minecraft include:

  • It has zombies – does it ever!
  • Resources to gather, items to craft.
  • First-person real-time combat.
  • Big open world to explore.
  • A day and night cycle, and nighttime is a pain in the butt.
  • Multiplayer servers full of trolls.
  • Likely for new players to get frustrated by being repeatedly killed within the first five minutes.

However, you don’t get to mine, and zombies are the only enemies you encounter, not counting other players in multiplayer. Zombies are the whole point; you are a human, one of the last remaining “unturned” ones, scrabbling for survival in an apocalyptic world. The difference between this and standard zombie-survival games is that it has no mercy for new players. So I’m going to give you the unwritten guide, for the brand new player.

Just for a good vision of what you’re up against, may I present YouTuber Thinknoodles. Thinknoodles is a bear of very little sense and no mouth filter, so he does an outstanding job of conveying the average Unturned player experience for the first frustrating 50 tries or so.

Killing your first zombie is the hardest…

To start with, the game is sluggish to load for the first time, especially when loading a new map. Be patient, because it shows precious little information onscreen. Unturned runs cross-platform. I’ve got it running on a Lenovo T420 battleaxe with an NVidia Quadro NVS 4200M under Linux Mint, and it runs the game fine. Unturned follows a policy of “if it runs, ship it” without much polish.

Starting points: By all means, play through the tutorial, which will teach you some bare minimum keyboard controls, item interactions, and little else. Next, flip through the Unturned Bunker Wiki, which isn’t much help, but does have some rudimentary information. And until you master the game, play “offline” only. You have enough problems without somebody griefing you.

Now here’s the parts that nobody else explains: Every new game of Unturned starts off exactly the same, regardless of your chosen map. You spawn defenseless on a beach, with zero assets. The first thing you’re likely to see is a tree, but you can’t punch down trees here. Wander around and you will find a settlement of buildings. The first part of every new game is a stealth game, so lay low and case the joint first.

On encountering your first settlement, circle it from a distance in the hills until you have a good fix on the population. Find a gap in the defensive line between zombies, and sneak in, likely in a window. Loot quietly, sneak out, get away, repeat. If you alert a zombie, run for the hills. If a settlement is just too hot, you can always just move on to the next settlement where perhaps the looting is easier.

Keep this up until you find a decent weapon, then begin luring one zombie at a time to the town radius, and clubbing them all to death. Finish looting a settlement, and move on to the next camp.

Example opening


I’m starting a new game on PEI. I passed on this town. It was too crowded.


Headed down the trail a bit and found a little military encampment, with no zombies close to this tent. I sneaked in.


That was good looting! I found a military-grade knife, so I could start picking off zombies. Here I am backing away as I lead the first grunt to his access perimeter.


When he reached his perimeter he gave up, turned away, and headed back a bit. Bad move! If you attack the head from behind with a right-click, the knife kills them in one hit. Gives +7 experience, too.


I was easily able to clear out the rest of the camp, and loot the medical tent as well. Nearby is a bridge, where I’m using the binoculars which one zombie dropped to scope my next targets and plot how to take them out. You just keep snowballing from there.

Tips you’ll wish somebody told you before

Be advised:

  • Every structure spawns zombies. Even if it’s just a tent.
  • Your only hope of getting resources is to raid a structure.
  • Zombies spawn as the game progresses, so you’ll never be fully rid of them.
  • Zombies only re-spawn when an area of the map reloads, so you’d have to go away and come back for that to happen.
  • All zombies are invisibly tethered to their spawn point. They can only move a radius from their original spawn point, and then they have to turn back.
  • Zombies move very little on their own. They just stand there until a player comes within detection radius.
  • Zombies are fast, feisty, and will kill you in a few hits. You can just barely outrun most of them.
  • You can only run when you have energy, that yellow energy meter at the bottom left. It refills fast, but try to save energy for when you have to run.
  • Your health will likely go down from the first few zombie encounters. You regain health either by applying bandages, or being fully fed and hydrated. Yes, hunger and thirst can kill you on their own.
  • You’re going to have to be happy with a melee weapon to start with. Luckily, almost anything with a handle counts as a weapon.
  • You can do some damage to zombies with your bare fists, but this is not advised.

Ground rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • Loot everything that isn’t nailed down! You will have plenty of inventory space anyway, and almost everything is useful for scrap at least.
  • You’ll find clothing and luggage in most structures, which expands your inventory.
  • Hit ‘x’ to sneak – this helps you move around zombies undetected. Hitting ‘z’ is even sneakier as you’re crawling on the ground, but that’s only recommended for indoor use to crawl past windows.
  • Head for high ground as often as possible. Staying away from structures keeps you safe from zombies.
  • Keep a weapon handy at all times.
  • Pick your battles! Try to pick off one zombie at a time. Under no circumstances should you just try to brawl your way through a mob.
  • Killing zombies and performing a few other tasks gains experience, which can be spent to level up skills. Hit that level up whenever you have 10 or more XP.

This video by RoboKast is the best tutorial for raw starters I’ve found:

The tutorial is from 2016, so there’s been a few updates such as default maps in the game and such, but for the most part everything about actual beginner’s play still applies. I still find PEI map (Prince Edward Island) to be the easiest start. If Thinknoodles had watched this tutorial he would have had a far easier go.

Why the focus on getting started? Because that’s the hardest part! Once you get geared up and especially once you have XP skills up, the game grows exponentially easier.

Not bad for a free game, but lacks long-term interest

Unturned came out a few years ago, and has never generated much interest due to its unpolished nature and lack of an extended endgame. You can download custom content including maps and mods which give you more goals and features, and of course multiplayer is a blast with friends or at least people who aren’t absolute jerks.

Only trouble is, by that time you’re ather be playing Minecraft, Team Fortress, Counter Strike, or whatever multiplayer playground works with a similar style. Unturned feels like a half-finished game, but it’s passable as a free-to-play low-demand diversion in between your AAA-title games.