The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Review – When good licensing happens to bad games

walking-dead-survival-instinct3At the end of 2012, everyone was talking about Telltale’s The Walking Dead. The game virtually swept every Game of The Year awards from almost every major publisher. The title was a shining example of how movie and TV licensing can be turned into a great game. Then there’s Terminal Reality’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, a game that took what made Telltale’s Walking Dead so great and completely ignored it.

Story
Survival Instinct follows the story of the Dixon Brothers long before the events of Atlanta and Woodbury. The game actually has you start out as their father before switching the story over solely to Daryl. Right off the bat in the first act you witness the death of Senior Dixon, but the moment lacks any emotional impact because the game gives you little to no time for any character development. Just judging from his time in Survival Instinct, I couldn’t tell you if Daryl’s father was a good man or a backwoods racist wackjob. For the most part, the story is pretty bland and most of your time is spent looking for Merle.

Little to nothing really happens during the game. You pick up survivors you meet along the way and you can choose to take them with you or leave them behind. I remember saving every one of the survivors in the first couple of levels. They had all agreed to join me, but when it came time to leave I only had room for two other people. I picked the ones I wanted to go with me on my journey and that was that. What happened to the people I left behind? Did they willingly just stand there as I drove off into the sunset? You’d think there’d be at least be some sort of cut scene. I mean I did just leave people who fully believed that they were finally leaving this god forsaken hellhole.

Once you finally pick which survivors you want to tag along for the ride, you spend most of your time choosing what they do at each town you arrive in. The game’s main story may be Daryl looking for his brother, but more than 90% percent of your time in the game is spent on looking for food, ammo and gasoline. You can choose which survivors to look for which items, and the game will tell you the likelihood of their survival. Again, Terminal Reality’s inability to create character development leaves no emotional impact once they start dropping like flies. This is the game’s biggest problem. It’s hard to feel any emotions for characters if you don’t give your audience enough time to become invested in them. This is such a huge difference from Telltale’s game, where story and character development were the key driving points of the game.

The-Walking-Dead-Survival-Instinct-sledge-hammerGraphics

Being that the title had the backing of video game industry tyrant Activision behind it, I expected the graphics to be at least better than Telltale’s. Sadly, I was wrong. The graphic are nearly the same if not worse. At least Telltale’s game graphics seemed like the game was at least going for a graphic novel cell-shaded look. Survival Instincts looks like a game that is still in Beta. I remember seeing the first clip of in-game footage and thinking to myself, “Man, that looks horrible.” I remember dismissing my own criticism because it could easily have just been stuff from early in the production. But once the game got closer to release, the graphics never seemed to improve as more and more trailers began to pop up online.

Terminal Reality does a good job of creating large environments, but it is what is in those environments that is really lacking. Survival Instincts lack of different zombie character models will have you killing the exact same zombie character model more than five times in the same level.

Gameplay

If there was one thing I thought Survival Instincts would have over Telltale it would have been gameplay. To me, Telltale’s one and only weak link in their Walking Dead game was the gameplay, but their amazing heart-wrenching makes up for it.  Survival Instincts does offer more engaging gameplay, but ultimately it’s no where near some of the other Survival Horror games in the zombie genre. Survival Instinct’s main combat centers around shooting and melee attacking. You can pick up and swap out different weapons you come across during the course of the game. This can be a little annoying because every time you grab an item, whatever is in your hand at the time is immediately swapped with whatever you picked up. This can be quite frustrating while trying to do a simple snatch & grab for supplies, because you may find yourself being caught off guard by a walker holding nothing more than a Gatorade bottle.

Obviously, shooting un-silenced firearms is not the best idea, because it will attract other walkers or so the game would have you think. I clearly remember unloading numerous rounds into a small mob as a I stood on top of a car. I could see more walkers in the distance, but they didn’t seem at all interested in all the ruckus I was making. Melee attacks and sneaking around seem to be the best option. One thing I disliked about the melee combat was that there was literally no variety in animation. Beating down the undead can be really tedious and unsatisfying. It doesn’t help that the zombies seem to respawn randomly out of nowhere. While clearing out one of the building, I stood by the door entrance waiting for the opportune time to move into the streets. Before I could make my move I was attacked from behind. All the enemies that I had defeated in the previous rooms had been replaced with fresh hungry rotting corpses.

The-walking-dead-survival-instinct-review-31Final Verdict

In short, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct feels like a game that was rushed out to purely profit off the popularity of the show. The game was announced only a year ago and it was only in last December that we saw the first bits of in-game footage. Does that seem like enough time to create quality title? Activision is likely to know of Merle’s demise this season and wanted to have the game come out just at the right time during the show. It’s sad because I believe that if Terminal Reality had the proper time to develop the game they could have produced a title worth playing. After all, they did prove me wrong when I thought that no one could ever make a good Ghostbusters game. But unfortunately, I can’t put a grade on a game that could have been.

Grade: F

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Mike Villarreal
Mike Villarreal 1363 posts

Mike once killed a man with a plastic butter knife. True story. #ViolentGentlemen