Another game set in The Walking Dead universe and this time an FPS. But how does it fare against the other TWD game (that made me cry) from Telltale Games? We discuss it in our The Walking Dead Survival Instincts Review.
The Walking Dead Survival Instincts is a FPS game set in The Walking Dead universe, that was announced about two months and released on March 19th 2013. Last year we saw the release of another game set in the Walking Dead universe, the game that surprised everyone (our GOTY) The Walking Dead The Game from TellTale Games. It wasn't just a game, it was an experience! The Walking Dead Survival Instinct however it's just... a mess and a missed opportunity!
My hopes for Survival Instinct were high, a FPS game set on the TWD universe, what could go wrong, right? Well in this case super short and rushed development time and a desire for easy cash happened. The Walking Dead was the bomb last year (and it still continues) and Telltale only made it bigger so Activision decided to use the license to rush another game out, even if the game itself might be total cr*p!
The main character and the one who you will control in the game is the fan favorite, Daryl Dixon, the redneck that turned into a zombie killing machine. The game starts with a tutorial where you learn to move, crouch, aim and shoot, the basic stuff and it ends with the reveal that you were controlling Daryl's father. The zombies overrun him and he is bitten, so to end his suffering Daryl chooses to shoot him in the head, but he can't do it. His brother, however, doesn't have a problem shooting him. This is one of the few times you see Daryl's character since most of the time you are in first perspective and to tell the truth this is good, cause his character model isn't good, it's nothing like the real Norman. After this scene, Daryl and his uncle Jim or whatever his name was, flee to their hunting shack to regroup and think their next move. Here you are introduced with the whole stamina system, which is nothing like it sounds, it's just a health bar, but the game wants to make you believe that it is something more, something like the DayZ health and stamina system. Also you are introduced with the execution move Daryl can do on unsuspecting zombies, where he grabs them by the head and stab the zombies in a very gruesome and satisfying way. I will talk more about it later. Also here you are introduced with the "meta-game" of travelling and managing survivors.
The whole story is about travelling and getting to a safe place. THAT'S IT! Or that's what I understood throughout the 6-7 hours of campaign. You meet with different characters and you do different tasks for them, but what's the point if everyone is gonna die or leave you?! I completed the game and apart from Daryl and his brother Merle, I don't remember anyone else. As I previously stated in the Telltale games review, I am not a hardcore fan of the serie and I don't watch it regularly, but I know a few details and I know the characters. I also know that the main weapon that Daryl uses is his awesome crossbow and I thought that this game, being a prequel or the story of Daryl, would show how he got the crossbow and I was expecting something amazing, but here it was just another random sh*tty moment that went like this "Hey Daryl here's your crossbow, pick it up and kill some zombies". WTF?! Couldn't they came up with a great moment for it, since it is one of the first things you think when you hear the word Walking Dead? Again everything felt stupid and out of place. Why should I care for anyone or better who are these people that I need to give food, soda cans, help them find their dogs, bags or keys. Just why? I played the entire game and at the end, that came out of nowhere and was nothing like a proper game ending, I said "What, that's it? LAME". Once you finish the singleplayer, you can put away the game in a dark old shelf and never touch it again since the singleplayer is the only mode. Sure if you want to play again the game with the idols, a sort of gameplay modifier, you unlocked that by the way don't change anything or if you want to collect squirrel statues. Nah you will never play this game twice, believe me!
So in order to progress, you have to travel and you will eventually get to small towns, abandoned dinners, small camps etc. that by the way looked all the same. You can choose three different routes to reach your destination: backroads that has small fuel consumption but a high risk of your car breaking down, highway which is inverse of the first, or a middle way. Sometimes you will run out of fuel or sometimes the car would just break down and you have to get out in the "world" to explore to find fuel or spare parts. The whole concept is very cool, but the execution is terrible. The environments you stop in are just the same, with the same item locations, number of zombies and spawn points etc. The first few times it's cool to explore, but then it becomes really boring really fast. They really needed to expand the exploring part. Make each stop point bigger and more varied. Let us enter every house, shop, building to scavenge for ammo, food etc. Is that difficult to do?
Another cool concept that the developers failed to make it cool, here is the survivors system. At the beginning of each main mission, apart from choosing your inventory, what to take with you and what to leave in the car, also you can give specific tasks to the fellow survivors that have joined you in your journey. Much like the "meta-game" in Assassin's Creed, you can send them to scavenge for food, ammo, fuel so basic missions or just order them to stay in the car. You can also give them a weapon based on their "skills". As I said a cool concept, but here it's useless. Most of the times the survivors will die even if they have full health, a powerful weapon and the risk is very low and if they manage to stay alive they will bring 3 or 4 ammo or fuel, which is useless to you.
The gameplay is not very good too. It's not fun, dramatic, epic, no nothing like that. Daryl is a jack of all trades as ge can use melee weapons such his trusty hunting knife, old pipes, hammers, baseball bats and my favorite, the sledgehammer. Or he can use a variety of firearms ranging from revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, ARs, rifles, snipers and the awesome crossbow. The firearms feel OK and sound like they should when they are fired. You start the game with the knife and a sniper rifle and as you progress from a "mission" to another, you will find better weapons, more ammo etc. It all sound great, but in reality it isn't. Let me put it this way, early in the game you have limited ammo so most of the time you will have to use the knife or another melee weapon to kill and get past the zombies. Then it comes a moment when you find new and powerful weapons like the shotguns, revolvers, rifles and you find more ammo, but since Daryl can carry a small number of things in the inventory, you will leave many of the weapons and ammo at your car, which by the way has only ten inventory spaces (it sucks I know). Also by the time you get these weapons, you will have already acquired the crossbow that has infinite arrows since you can reuse the ones you fire, so getting these weapons is totally useless! Also the design of the game itself stops you or force you to not use firearms. The zombies have excellent hearing and if you fire a shot with the revolver or just run, in a matter of seconds you will find yourself swarmed by hordes of zombies. Many times you will die, since you have nowhere to go cause they have surrounded you. However sometimes one zombie will try to eat your face (while the other ones stay and just watch) and you will have to do a quick time event to stab him it in the face to escape from it's grasp. As I said above, it's very satisfying and gruesome to watch it, but after you escaped from one, another will grab you and so on. I found myself executing this QTE 14 times in a row, killing 14 zombies that surrounded me. I mean, really?! You are a human for god's sake, even though a badass one like Daryl, but hey how can you survive an encounter like that? If the TV Show taught us something is that if you see a zombie run, let alone if you see a horde...
Here we come to another thing that left me very disappointed. To survive you have to sneak around zombies, execute them silently when possible and all of that, but what happens if you decide to run? Simply put, NOTHING! The zombies will run behind you, even those who are in front of you. They will wait for you to pass them and then start chasing you. Then if you have nowhere to go and a big horde is chasing you, find a vehicle and jump on top of it. The zombies will come near the car and do nothing to you while you bash them one after the other with the sledgehammer or clear them with a firearm! Why did the AI have to be so bad?
Visually the game is looks like total garbage! PS2 games looked better than this. I don't know the engine they used, but it is very outdated. The textures are ugly, the lightning is bad, the environments look all the same and are totally bland. I mean, how many bathrooms can look exactly the same? The same thing can be said about the character models and their animations. They didn't even get the look of Daryl right... The zombies fare better in the looks, as some of them look really good and really creepy. The UI is terrible. That compass on the screen...god why. In the sound department the game does somewhat better. The voice acting is OK, with Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker doing the voice over for their characters. The firearms sound like they should and the zombies "Aghhhh" and "Ughhhhh" are well done too.
Simply put, this game sucks unfortunately. The story suck, the writing and dialogue isn't good either. The gameplay mechanics are interesting, but are far off from being any good. Killing zombies using melee weapons is very satisfying, but even that doesn't last for long. Visually it looks very outdated for a 2013 game. But even with all these problems, the developers somehow managed to capture the atmosphere of the TV Show, the color palette, the look of the towns, I felt like I was in a zombie apocalypse and part of that world. Too bad they got almost everything else wrong. So should you buy this game? No! Should you rent it? Maybe, if you are a hardcore fan of the TV Show.If you are looking for a fantastic game set in The Walking Dead universe, try Telltale's and thanks us later!