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Review: The Walking Dead Survival Instincts

April 11, 2013 • Gadgets and Gaming

The Walking Dead franchise is one of the biggest entertainment properties on television at the moment, with crossbow-wielding Daryl Dixon being a firm favourite, gamers rejoiced when it emerged that a video game will be released featuring the Dixon brothers.

A screenshot of The Walking Dead Survival Instincts (image: Activision)

As soon as The Walking Dead Survival Instincts hit the shelves, joy turned to disappointment as the title completely failed to deliver on what could have been a truly great and exciting title.

What we like about it

The pure fact that it is based on AMC’s The Walking Dead franchise should get anybody excited, but sadly that is about the only thing it has going for it. The prospect of playing Daryl Dixon (voiced by Norman Reebus) is also what might drive gamers to pick up the title, but it is not enough to sustain the intrigue and suspense it deserves.

While the title is completely not what gamers expected it to be, it is somewhat fulfilling to sneak around an Armageddon-like street armed with only a crossbow while taking pot-shots at zombie heads.

Other than Daryl Dixon, the crossbow and the Walking Dead theme tune, it does not have much else going for it.

What we do not like about it

Unfortunately the list of things that we do not like about it going to be much longer than what we initially hoped for. We were cautiously optimistic when the first screen shots and gameplay videos surfaced, and it is sad to say that not much has changed between the development process and the final product.

In terms of graphics, it is one of the major factors why The Walking Dead is such a disappointment. The visuals resemble that of Counter Strike or an early PC version of Medal of Honor, which is not great.

The graphics lack a great deal of detail, and it seems almost incomplete or that there wasn’t a lot of effort put into them. On many occasions objects will be pixelated of just out of place. It is rather a pity, as the title has a lot of potential and could have made for a really exciting game – if it was done properly. In actual fact, the graphics are pre-historically awful.

Another great drawback is the combat, which is essential to fighting off the zombie hordes. The player will primarily make use of blunt objects or knives, which are equally horrendous to combat the undead. Taking a swing at an enemy is a laborious exercise, as a zombie can literally take three strikes to the head before falling over.

The best strategy here is to actually get grabbed by a zombie, and when the game zooms into stabbing mode, placing a knife with one smooth move into the head – which will do the trick without alerting other walkers.

All hand-to-hand weapons take a while to swing and there is no single weapon that will take down a zombie in one move – except for the crossbow, which users only get much later in the game.

Together with the combat mechanic, the gameplay also leaves a lot to be desired. Players will select a route on a map to reach salvation, but they are almost guaranteed to break down at random intervals. Once there, they have to search for fuel to continue with their journey, and it also seems pointless. It seems that the title is more about looking for fuel and ammunition than what it is about reaching safety or taking out zombies.

Players will also have a choice to save various survivors and allow them to ride along, but most of the time they are just a nuances. Sure they give the player special items if they are in the party at the end of the title, but they bring no value to the overall game – unless gamers instruct them to look for fuel while the player is out looking for more fuel (see where this is going?)

The title was also punted as revolving around brothers Daryl and Merle Dixon, but the title is more about Daryl than Merle. Actually, Merle does not bring anything to the title except give orders and assert his dominance over Daryl. It would have been better if Merle actually helped kill a few zombies on the thin-plotted “missions”, rather than just stay at the vehicle and moan.

Conclusion

As much as we wanted to like the title, unfortunately it just does not deliver on what could have been the quintessential zombie killing game based on one of the most-watched shows on American television.

The Walking Dead franchise across the world is huge, and developer Terminal Reality missed a golden opportunity to cash in on it. It seems more like a quick grab at a successful franchise than actually putting in time to develop something decent. Survival Instincts not only pits the gamer against the zombies, but also against their own patience and frustration levels.

The title would have been great if it incorporated co-op multiplayer like Army of Two or Splinter Cell, or if they scaled down the vehicle element, and focused the efforts on a single town.

 Our score: 4/10

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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