The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (Xbox 360 review)
Title: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
Developer: Terminal Reality
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rated: M for Mature
Activision attempts to recreate the feel of the TV show with The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. The game, as most know by now, is a prequel to the TV show that shows what fan favorite Daryl Dixon had to do to survive before him and his brother Merle meet up with the TV show survivors in Atlanta during the first season of the show. With Daryl and Merle being fan favorites, you have to think thaqt Activision is off on the right foot here. If you are going to try and expand the back-story of a character, the Dixon’s are definitely a good place to start.
One thing that caused a lot of hesitation and head scratching among the fans of the property was the idea of going with a FPS game, instead of say a sandbox title or something along those lines. We all know the series is not only about killing zombies, it is about the human factor more than anything. How do you survive in a post-apocalyptic zombie filled world? How do you do that when the zombies are probably the least threatening thing you will face. I can now safely say, those concerns were not unfounded.
What we have been given with this game is a very pedestrian attempt to cash in on the success of the show, while offering very little of anything reflecting the feel of the show, outside of Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker. While the game does have a few interesting ideas, they are never really implemented to the fullest.
Everything starts off well enough. The best way to describe how this game plays would be to compare it to a beefed up Oregon Trail. You travel, you hunt for supplies and other things you need. Along the way you will meet what the game refers to as “Optional Survivors”, who will have some other task for you to do while you are in their town, doing so will get you a reward, and the option to bring the survivor with you. We will get into them a bit later in the review. Let’s start at the top, shall we?
When I say the game plays similar to a beefed up Oregon Trail, I’m not really stretching it to far there. You get a view of a map. You have to choose which area you want to go to. Some on the main roads, some of them off the beaten path. Staying on the highway doesn’t offer as high of rewards, but does give you less of a chance of your vehicle breaking down. Alternately, taking the road less traveled will give you a better chance of finding supplies, and will raise your chances of your vehicle breaking down on you.That is basically the extent of what the game offers, you travel, you explore for supplies that you feel really have no bearing on your trip anyways, and then you move on to the next area.
The game’s graphics are not anything special, in fact they look about on par with some of the first FPS titles to hit the Xbox 360, like maybe Call of Duty 2. The likeness of the characters is there, but it isn’t anything jaw dropping, and each town seems so generic, with nothing to really distinguish one area from the next. Seriously, if you were to fire up the game after being away from it for a week or two, you would not know how far into the proceedings you were just by looking at the backgrounds.
Sound-wise, things pick up a bit. We do have Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker reprising their roles as the Dixon brothers, we have the actual theme song from the TV show, which is really cool at first, but when you are listening to it during every loading screen, and when you are watching your travel map, it tends to start wearing on you a bit. The sound does do an effective job of helping create an atmosphere in the game, where you almost want to do things the right way, and sneak around the walkers and try to avoid them at all costs.
When I say you want to try and play the game the right way, I say so because you really don’t have to. It appears they tried to play things the way the characters would behave in the movies, by offering you ways to distract a horde of walkers away from you so you can sneak off the other way. But with no cover system other than you standing by a car waiting for them to look away, you never really feel that sense of “playing it safe”, and I instead found myself just running from objective to objective. You can outrun most of the walkers, and the ones that are chasing you will eventually drop chase and return to their area where they were when you found them. The ones that will follow are usually fairly easy to dispatch of if you need to.
Which brings me to the method of dispatching the undead hordes. You are given melee weapons, as well as explosives, and of course guns and crossbows. My problem is with the melee weapons. They give you the option to aim at the walker’s head, but instead of what we see in the TV show where a knife can very easily put an end to a walker, here you have to stab and stab and stab and stab. No less than four hits with most melee weapons to bring a walker down. You can charge your attack button for a more powerful hit, but good luck timing that correctly, and it really never seemed to make much of a difference. No matter how you slice it, the melee weapons are extremely weak in the game.
The optional survivors just highlight another of the unrealized ideas the game offers. The optional survivor idea is sound, but the execution is very flawed. Outside of your initial conversation with the survivor, you are not given a reason to care about them again the rest of your time together. They become lifeless scenery that pop up before entering each new area. You have the option of sending one, or all of them out for supplies, the more you send, the better chance they have of surviving. If you have to many people with you to leave in the vehicle, you have to cut someone loose. Doesn’t matter who, as you don’t know anything about these people, you are given no reason to care about anyone outside of Daryl. Even with him the suspense is minimal, because you know he isn’t going to face any real threat due to this being a prequel.
Hell, even when you dismiss a survivor that is it. No little cut-scene with you saying your good byes, no moment of you feeling any guilt at all for your decision. The game treats the survivors as an afterthought. Something that the put there to pad out an already short game. They don’t seem to care about any of these characters and make no effort to give you a reason to do so.
There are so many things that could have been done better in this game, instead we are left with a basic cash in attempt using one of the fan favorite characters from the TV show. Outside of the voice work from Norman Reedus, and Michael Rooker, there is really nothing else that makes this game stand out as something you should invest your time in. It is full of interesting ideas, but they all just really seem to fall short on being anything truly special.