The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct review
The Walking Dead by Telltale Games was always going to be a tough act to follow. The point and click adventure game both won critical acclaim and had commercial success thanks to its heart warming yet tear jerking story telling.
As such, Terminal Reality was realistically never expected to achieve the same level of success with its attempt at a game based in the same zombie infested setting. But, not only is that the case, this attempt has fallen well short of the mark.
These were always going to be different games: Telltale made a revival of the point-and-click adventure while Terminal Reality has made a game focused on first person action. The works then are intentionally worlds apart, but unintentionally there's also a huge disparity of quality. One feels like a carefully constructed and loving attempt to do the Walking Dead licence justice, whereas the other feels like a cynical race to the finish line.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a terrible video game. It is ugly, barely functional, has a nonsensical plot, poor animations and AI, badly implemented mechanics and to top it all off, it has been slapped with a full retail price tag.
Set in the universe of the AMC TV show, Survival Instinct shares the same core story of two of the programme’s characters who, during the early stages of a Zombie Apocalypse, are journeying from their homes in rural Georgia to the city of Atlanta. However, it severely struggles to fulfil the potential of this intriguing, open-ended setting. Instead the game meanders, dolling out a handful of levels that would be described as unsatisfyingly few if this were a more entertaining experience. Instead this brevity could be considered a luxury were it not for the significant cost to buy.
A pitch would say that the game mingles survival based stealth with a focus on melee combat and carries an extra mechanic based around your journey and the characters brought along with you. This is all true, but the execution is abysmal. The game suggests that a sneaky approach, attempting to limit your visibility and sound, will help you traverse the levels, but unless it’s necessary for the objective to engage them it’s too effective to race through any level at high speed, barely paying attention to the undead adversaries lurking around.
Should you find it necessary to clear the area, most of the regular melee attacks on offer are insufficient at dispatching foes. This would normally suggest that you need to be careful and get involved in combat sparingly, but the systems are too easily exploited, you can kill any enemy in one hit if you’re behind them and there's another move that will stun them long enough that manoeuvring into this position is easy.
That technique works when it’s a 1 on 1 encounter, but combat is even more egregiously simple when you’re being swarmed. If you’re ever surrounded by a horde they will each take turns to grapple you and a short quick-time-event will appear which allows you a one-hit kill. It’s very simple to pull off and actually serves as the best way of clearing a large group quickly. This game makes it a good tactical idea to throw yourself at a horde of zombies, against all common consideration.