Over the past few years I have come to realize that there are two types of fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead: There are zombie fans who like the show and all of its moments (where I find myself). Then there are mouth frothing, muscle twitching, ravenous idiots who scream about how bored they are watching it if a zombie isn’t being shot in the face every 3.1 seconds, who don’t realize the show isn’t about zombies but about how people survive in the collapse of society (yes, I’m a tad annoyed with it). Well for those latter folks who can’t get hard on without seeing a walkers skull caved in every few seconds, now we have the chance to walk in the rednecky boots of Daryl Dixon in Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
Sadly, for a game that’s based of a story driven show like Walking Dead you’ll find the story is probably weakest element of the game. Essentially you play as Daryl at the beginning of the outbreak and after a hunting mishap where he loses his father to walkers, he sets out to find Merle and find a means of escape from the infestation. Essentially, that’s the whole plot. Not uncommon for a zombie game but pretty bland. It’s marred by the fact that at least 95% of the characters you meet in the game don’t really have any major story interaction aside from the mission you are in. If you complete their very poorly acted side quest they can join you and scavenge for supplies in later missions (and will probably die in the process). Because of that, all of Daryl’s lines are responses to quests. They are hacky, forgettable, and allow for no character development or growth.
As a first person shooter from a technical standpoint, its functional. The graphics aren’t exactly triple A but they did look much better than the commercial makes them look. It uses the right amount of blood splatter when cracking a walker with a melee strike and has a nifty little sweat trickle down on the top of the screen when you become fatigued. The melee is visceral and has the right amount of weight and reaction to them for it help immersion which might have been one of my favorite things in the game. The gun combat is pretty forgiving as well as you don’t need to be laser precise for head shots, although firing in the game almost ALWAYS alerts the attention of more walkers than you want so its usually better to find a stealthier approach.
But while this game has some good ideas and its heart was in the right place, its execution was incredibly poor. The game starts off murderous in difficulty as your melee is weak and the ammo is too scarce to fight off major hordes if you fire once. But when you get Daryl’s signature crossbow, the game becomes insultingly easy. The scavenging for survival is a good idea, but gets horribly boring after one or two missions. In between story missions you get plunked into occasional scavenge quests with about 3 different small maps, which just makes them a waste of time to pad out game length.
There are literally no special walkers or human enemies in the game, so basically all walkers you see at the start are all you’ll see by the end. God forbid you get grappled by a walker too, because the escape mini game is cool but will leave you trapped and force you to do it for every zombie in the group. It drains your health and basically extends your game over by like 3 minutes. Micheal Rooker and Norman Reedus are brought in to reprise their roles as the Dixon brothers, but the story is so poor there’s only so much they can do with the lines (which is a shame, because Rooker is a really good voice actor).
There are nuggets of good ideas in this game, and I really did want to like it more than I did. It started off so hopeful, and has some decent mechanics built in. It sadly shoots its wad right out of the gate and basically has nothing to follow it with. No varied style of missions, no boss fights, no real story development. Bottom line is though, Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is just another entry of popular properties getting a bare bones shitty game to cash in on it. Rent it if you have to, but even that much is overspending on it. Survival Instinct bites.