Gamersledge Video Review – The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
Click play above to watch the Gamersledge Video Review of The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
Released March 19th with little/no fanfare, Terminal Reality’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a first-person shooter that, unlike its’ Telltale counterpart, is based off the AMC television show rather than the comic books. It stars Daryl and Merle Dixon (played respectively by Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker) and is set as a prequel to the show, explaining their beginnings at the end-of-days.
There are some really good ideas in here. Beyond your standard FPS setup, the game encourages you to be stealthy. The AI on the walkers/biters/eaters/zombies is fairly good, with one exception that I will get to in a moment. Sound does play a large role in this game; if you throw a bottle, zombies will flock to it, allowing you a chance to pass unnoticed. Crouching reduces your footstep noise. If you make a loud noise, like a gunshot, zombies come out of the woodwork.
I had seen previous interviews where one of the producers had mentioned that if you had three walkers chasing you, that should scare you as much as a horde of them. I will say, on that front, again with one exception, this is a success. You also can’t stand next to a walker for too long, or they will smell you and attack. If you’ve been running, to where sweat drips down the screen, they notice you even faster.
Also, you collect pokemo–people as you progress through the game. Other survivors that you meet during the story, who, when you arrive at a new place, can be armed and sent out to collect whatever you need, from ammunition to food to gas; but at a risk factor that they may not come back and you may lose their equipped items. This introduces one of my frustrations – I had a wounded survivor and there was no explanation of how to heal her. I had to literally go ask on a forum board how to do it; there is no indicator on screen that you can do so that is clearly defined.
Also, this game is about the things you run out of… in premise. For a game that’s about a lack of resource, it’s truly about managing the inventory for the things you don’t need because you’re constantly full. You’ll never run out of bullets if you’re even halfway skilled. And then comes the thing I’ve been putting off talking about — the breaking of the game. There are actually two elements to this, and when combined, creates an almost-completely safe level clear on every level. Our site mission is to create spoiler-free reviews. However, these are not spoilers, this is an inherent design flaw of the game that anyone picking it up will figure out in two minutes. First, if you jump on top of a car, to the roof panel, zombies, for whatever reason, cannot grab you. They cannot hurt you. Second, the crossbow (which you don’t get until late in the first playthrough) has an inherent hit-detection box issue (this is a term to denote when you can interact with an item), so you can grab bolts from long distances. So if you stand on top of a car, shoot a gun, most of the zombies will come a-running, stand stacked around the car. Shoot crossbow, grab, reload, repeat. If you don’t yet have the crossbow, your knife or a pipe will work just as well, if not a little slower. Yes, zombies do respawn, but at a much slower rate than the mass culling you will do. If you look at the cars after you finish, they almost look like zombie clown cars; all the zombies just piled out and died on top of each other. This is a huge blow to the game’s goal: to make you scared of the walkers. Instead, you see them as bumbling idiots. And once you get that crossbow, it truly feels like ‘The Cabela’s of Zombie Hunting’ edition.
The other, large frustration I have is that the game is completely on rails. There is no chance to deviate or tell your own story. Yes, you have choices of which level to go to (the sawmill or the hospital), but to give an example — there is a time where you find someone and a wounded partner. The non-wounded party says if you go help a friend that’s pinned down somewhere else, they will give you a big bag full of goodies. What did I do? I turned and shot them in the head. What happened? Nothing. I couldn’t take the bag. I couldn’t determine Daryl’s level of goodness. It is a bit frustrating.
Plusses: Decent shooting controls, good stealth ideas.
Minuses: Poorly implemented instances of good ideas, game breaking design and lack of choice
The story retells the origins of the TV show characters (who never appeared in the comic books, but have become polarizing fan favorites on the show). Sadly, anyone who’s ever *watched* the show will notice a giant plot hole in the beginning of the game regarding the setup. The story throughout the game is pretty light; they could have crafted Daryl into a leader of his own with some of the ideas they started (directing a group of your own survivors) and really fleshed out the character. Instead, things happen to Daryl and he only really reacts. I will say that they stayed true to the heart of the characters; both Meryl and Daryl.
The game ends rather abruptly, and at one point you lose Meryl and don’t say a single word as Daryl about it. That happens a lot. You have survivors you’ve rescued, you send them off for something, and they never come back. Well, on to the next town!
Plusses: True to the spirit of the characters
Minuses: No real story development, further fleshing out of the characters or depth to your actions.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is no pretty princess. Instead, it’s the ugly baby. And what I mean by that is you’ll notice jagged edges, poor textures (on every assassination kill, which you spend a LOT of time doing) and just overall mediocre graphics. Is it the worst game I’ve ever seen? Nope. Is it the worst this generation? Maybe. I’d be hard pressed to think of another game that looked like this. Is it a game breaker? By no means. Sure, I want it to look super-realistic, but it’s not. And once you get over that, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it. It just means you know you’re not taking out the prom queen.
Sound is well done except for one thing: Zombies. Sound plays a huge role in the game; when you step on a can, you and the zombies hear it. When you brush against a gate, you cringe. But zombies are omnidirectional, even if there is one. If a zombie is behind me and to my left, then that’s where I should hear it in physical space. Instead, I hear it from all directions. Even if there is only one. It makes finding them very difficult, and I found myself whipping a 360 anytime I heard one just to find it.
Plusses: Overall good sound effects, and they managed to make the character models look enough like Meryl and Daryl to be passable.
Minuses: Overall poor graphics and omnidirectional zombies make doing your stealth job difficult.
Summary and Verdict
Guilty! The verdict is guilty of being a rush job to cash in on a show’s popularity, at the height of its popularity. There is a reason review copies weren’t sent to *any* media outlets, and there was no fanfare at launch by the companies behind the game. They are going for the sucker vote. So many great ideas, but subpar execution across the board prevent this from being anything special.
However – there is an innate ‘fun’ to the game. After completing my first playthrough, I am *still* playing the game for fun. I am still searching for the collectibles I missed the first time around. I am exploring the other geographical branches I ignored previously. The game is becoming a guilty pleasure.
That being said, noone should most likely buy this game at retail for full price. If you do decide to, buy the disc-based version so that you can trade it in. The only way I’d recommend the digital download is if you’re going to share it with a friend/family member on a second PS3. Although the game could have been great, with the rush job they clearly performed on it, the unfinished extra ideas that were implemented and the subpar graphics and gameplay flaws, Gamersledge gives The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct