The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
When ‘The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct’ was first announced, there was much excitement from devoted fans of the Walking Dead TV series. After the first trailer for the game was released showing the shooter’s gameplay, that excitement was left pretty much non-existent. It was obvious by the footage of the game that Survival Instinct was a cash-in by Activision, and that much more development time was needed (the graphics were sub-par, and the environment and characters looked almost like a blurry cartoon).
Now, a few short months later, Survival Instinct is finally upon us. This is one zombie apocalypse even the zombies don’t want to be a part of.
Survival Instinct features Darryl and Merle Dixon, the fan favourites of the show. Players assume the role of Darryl, on a hunting trip with his father and family friend Jess. In the first “mission” players actually play as Darryl and Merle’s father, who whilst stalking a buck down-river, notices the buck is unusually scared about something ahead of it. No surprise, it turns out to be a few “walkers”, who then attack the player (Old man Dixon) and mortally wound him within seconds. Its a pretty tired technique, the old “kick the player’s ass at the start of the game with an invincible boss or enemies”, but it gets recycled here, and even the most skilled FPS player can’t do squat about it. It felt as though (and this is actually possible) Old man Dixon was extremely drunk. You can’t aim, or shoot your gun very well, and the camera is behaving as though you are balancing on a ball, like a bear at a circus. You might as well just run at the zombies and try to hug them.
Jess and Darryl find Old man Dixon, and mercifully blow his head off, without saying goodbye or sorry or any of that emotional nonsense, and decide to get the hell off their property.
Darryl wants to find Merle, who is a few days’ drive south, presumably with his motorcycle club. Jess advises against reuniting the Dixon boys, despite the fact they are bearing witness to the zombie apocalypse, and that their father has just died. Darryl proceeds to ignore Jess, and pursues Merle anyway, which sets up the remainder of the game.
Survival Instinct’s controls should be immediately accessible to anybody who has played an FPS before. The game controls are simple, even more so considering you never unlock any additional skills to use. You can crouch, jump, sprint, aim, shoot and stab. That’s it. Considering the game is called “Survival Instinct” I would have assumed Darryl gets more learned about eliminating zombies or he would become more agile or stealthy, but alas, it was not the case. Where Survival Instinct gets interesting, is in the survivor/inventory management between missions. You are constantly running out of fuel (by driving, duh) and you can only carry ten items in the car, and on your person. You are able to take a certain number of survivors with you (depending on the car you are driving), and they have different stats in different areas, such as if they are reckless, stealthy, weak, etc. For the most part, I enjoyed recruiting other survivors, but there is no pay out, no point to them, as they do not accompany you into missions (for most of the game) and they are only used to gather fuel, ammo, or food.
It feels like a wasted opportunity, as it would have been interesting to have multiple survivors, wanting to go in different directions for their own goals, and to have personalities clash. Instead, they simply stand next to the car and do what you tell them, without saying a word or even nodding their head.
In levels, zombies can be distracted by throwing glass bottles or throwing a flare, but turning your flashlight on or off matters not one whit. They will not see you if you approach them from behind, and they will if you approach them from in front of them or from the side. The weapons found in levels are pretty standard, and always detrimental to a stealth-based approach. Objectives in missions are always fetch quests (gathering an item or X amount of items for someone) and for some reason, Darryl always agrees, even if it is counter-productive to his current objective. At one point I had a key to a new vehicle, some guns, some food, and I was standing in front of the vehicle. There was a woman screaming on top of a truck as walkers tried to devour her. I ran over and killed the walkers (being the helpful guy I am) and the woman then interrupted the gameplay with an awkward cutscene, asking for food. I had plenty of food from previous missions and kept clicking on her (even with the food in my hand) and she still wouldn’t talk to me again. The game had decided I needed to search the level for more food to give her, which was annoying, to say the least. I began to search but ultimately left her there, as more annoyances began to pop up. There are invisible walls everywhere in Survival Instinct, you can’t crouch and crawl through gaps that are in the level area, and you are forced along a linear path the entire way. When I finally was reunited with Merle it wasn’t worth it. True to his character in the show he is an arrogant simpleton, quick to lose his temper and never producing a good idea about how to survive.
Now, instead of being partnered up with idiotic (and extremely blandly designed) “survivors” I could ditch if I needed, I was partnered up with a loudmouth moron that I couldn’t ditch.
Allow me to summarise the actual experience of playing the game with this statement: You don’t unlock or learn anything. There is no reward to the time you “invest” in Survival Instinct. There are bugs and invisible walls everywhere. The characters look like (somehow) even uglier Tony Hawk NPCs, and the majority of the game is fetch quests. If you can find enjoyment in stabbing a zombie in the back of the head five thousand times, buy this game.
I remember when Activision and Terminal Reality claimed that the trailer that hit was fake. That somehow someone had taken early design footage an leaked it. I hadn’t made up my mind about whether or not I believed them but regardless – this is the same game, and it looks awful. I have never seen a lazier presentation of a game. As I said, there was no opening introduction or cutscene, there are invisible walls everywhere, and even then I assumed that where I could walk in-game would receive a decent amount of spit and polish. The interiors of building are just barely above those found in the Day-Z mod of Arma II, only instead of having just a chair in a room, Survival Instinct has a kettle and maybe an ammo box. The characters look like muppet versions of the actors, and the rest of the game’s characters are the most bland and uninteresting characters ever. We’re talking black and white plain shirts, jeans, and plain high-tops. The women have their hair in plain ponytails. No one looks real, and even though Darryl and Merle look like muppets, they are at least unique compared to every other character.
Similar to the graphics, the sound approach to Survival Instinct is lazy. The zombies must have about ten or so sounds that they repeat over and over, regardless of the zombie model. Guns and explosions all sound adequate, but one problem I cannot overlook was how boring NPCs sounded compared to Darryl. They are extremely generic sounding, and without a hint of any regional accent. The game takes place in Georgia, but you wouldn’t know that if you were listening to the Californian accents of the characters. Even the sheriffs don’t have the local accent. Also, it has to be said, but like Sam Worthington (who is in the Call of Duty: Black Ops games) voice acting is not Norman Reedus’ strength. His muddled accent is anything but Georgian, and at times it is hard to understand exactly what he says, as he tends to mumble.
- Repetitive filler missions
- Terrible, terrible graphics.
- Invisible walls and quite often, only one route to take in missions.
- No levelling up or rewards for players.
- Boring story.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is far from perfect. Actually, let’s be honest, the Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is far from good, and it barely qualifies as finished (in my opinion). Its funny how Telltale made an adventure game based on the Walking Dead with one of the best stories I’ve played in years, and somehow, the more popular TV series gets it’s own game which is complete and utter garbage. If only Activision gave this game to Treyarch, who actually know how to make a good zombie game, we could have at long last had the Call of Duty Zombies full game we’ve always wanted, albeit with a Walking Dead design. With zombie games being all the rage nowadays, you really can find about ten games better than this. Pick up Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2 or even Resident Evil 5 before you pick up this.