GAME NAME: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
DEVELOPER(S): Terminal Reality
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
RELEASE DATE(S): 22 March 2013
Zombies might be pretty scary but perhaps not as scary as The Walking Dead Survival Instinct. The main difference is that zombies are scary in.. well… a good way. Survival Instinct takes you back in time as the game acts as a prequel to the highly acclaimed TV Series. The focus is set around brothers Daryl and Merle Dixon and their travels across the countryside when the zombie epidemic was still in its infant stages.
The storyline is probably one of the game’s stronger points. The voice acting roles for Daryl and Merle are done by both Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker who, for those who aren’t fans of the series, are the original voice actors for the characters in the TV series. Now that we’ve praised Survival Instinct for its limited positive points let’s move onto its shortfalls…
Avoid the undead, fetch supplies (in one way or another), move on… repeat. This is the basis for the short-lived campaign mode. During your travels you will meet survivors who can or can’t assist you on your journey. Your vehicle will inevitably break down and you are tasked to find either a spare part or fuel in order to progress. These mini-levels are tediously generic and nearly every town is suspiciously familiar, if not identical. The actual benchmark levels vary a little more but the overall monotony levels remain at an all time high.
The troops of zombies you face share the stage design’s repetitive tendencies. AI was clearly not a huge focal point and if it was these zombies are a bit more than brain-dead. In fact they’d barely be contributing more if they remained in their graves. Everything from the AI’s capabilities to the enemy character’s copy/paste appearances are seriously lacking. But that’s not all that’s repetitive. But that’s not all that’s repetitive. When a mass of contaminated flesh-eaters manages to surround you a quick time event triggers which tasks you to try stab them in the head in order to break free. The more surrounded you are, the more you’ll need to stab individual zombies. Once again, a rinse and repeat scenario.
During the first half of the game you will find yourself using mostly melee attacks due to limited ammunition. The zombies will also attack in masses if they hear a gunshot or if you get too close without doing a silent take-down attack. These skull crushing melee attacks are good watered-down fun for the first hour of gameplay but you will soon find yourself racing through the level and avoid any weak stealth strategy all together. With time your arsenal increases, allowing you to productively use a wider variety of weapons including the signature crossbow that Darryl deems as his weapon of choice. These silent attacks and reusable arrows are an effective asset but by no means is it an essential as the melee attacks will suffice in nearly any situation.
It quickly becomes evident that there are a handful of really good ideas which must unfortunately be written off as missed opportunities. Your inventory is managed by the car you choose to take you to your next location. This forces you to choose your inventory carefully if you intend to strategize your way through a level. You can choose to take the highway or back roads, which ultimately determine the number stops you’ll make on the way to your destination, or the amount of energy drinks and ammo that will be available to you. Had there been more time spent on ideas like these Survival Instinct might not have been as dull as the end product proves to be.
Developers Terminal Reality have really missed out on an outstanding licensed title opportunity. When looking back at what Telltale Games did with the The Walking Dead: The Game one can help but feel dismally disappointed even for die-hard fans of the overall series. The distantly satisfying melee attacks are quickly overshadowed by the abundance of tedious elements that the game is comprised of. Even if you are a fan of the series and the previous franchise installments you’ll probably be doing the series a service by giving this title a skip.