The other The Walking Dead game is finally here, and after some controversy over a trailer that wasn’t supposed to be a trailer, and video that wasn’t supposed to be final, the final product looks much like the one we were told was not final. The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct would be easy to write off once you get a look at the graphics, but there are some elements that require a closer look. Grab your crossbow, and cut off your sleeves, Daryl’s got his own game.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is based on the AMC Show, The Walking Dead, rather than on the books as Telltale’s The Walking Dead game was. Since this is the case, you’ll be taking control of Daryl Dixon, and meeting up with big brother Merle from time to time, during the days leading up to when we meet the Dixons on the TV show.
The first thing that jumps out at you when you start up Survival Instinct is the graphical quality. It’s obvious that no money or effort was put into the way this game looks, and you’ll probably feel like you’re playing a shooter from six or seven years ago. Survival Instinct also stumbles out of the gate with controls that feel clunky and unresponsive most of the time, and downright frustrating at others.
One of the key mechanics in the game is the ability to stealth kill enemies, from behind, with your knife. To pull this off, you’ll have to be in a position that the game considers to be behind an enemy, and hold the right button. The problem lies in that pressing the right button pushes a walker away from you, and if you’re not in the right position, which seems to be arbitrary, you’ll just shove the walker and have to re-position.
Luckily, the enemy AI is willing to help you out when you mess up, and most walkers can simply be pushed out of your way, so you can step behind them to deliver the killing blow. You can often do this to three or four in a row before any of them notice you, and if they do notice you then it’s a simple task to just run away a short distance where the walkers will lose interest. In fact, you can run straight through most levels, to the objective, without drawing a crowd of more than one or two walkers. The game tries to convince you that stealth is the best option, but there is little to no disadvantage to simply pushing forward and ignoring the walkers.
Terminal Reality did have a few good ideas to make Survival Instinct more interesting, they just get lost in poor implementation or under the rest of the game’s issues. You’ll be travelling from level to level by car, and will need to scavenge for gas and other supplies along the way. When choosing your next destination you’ll be given the option to take the highway, streets, or back roads, each with varying levels of risk and reward. Back roads cost you more fuel, but you have less chance to break down and more chance to find supplies, for example. The problem with the random locations that pop up for you to visit, or scavenge fuel from when you run out, start to repeat very quickly and even have items in the same spots every time.
When you do stop for a mission, you’ll be able to send any survivors you may have met, and taken along with you, out to scavenge for supplies. Their success is based on a number of factors including their condition, and the weapons you decide to equip them with. This is a neat little feature, and one that I wish had a little more depth. It’s indicative, along with the random events, of how fun Survival Instinct could have been more time and money had gone into it.
The Walking Dead Survival Instinct isn’t unplayable, and it can be a fun for short periods, but it’s clear that it wasn’t given the chance to be any good. The primitive visuals, and sloppy controls, are indicative of a low budget and short development cycle. There are some great ideas for a fun survival horror game here, but they simply don’t have a chance to shine through. Survival Instinct is a bargain bin game, at best, but you’ll still have to pay $50 if you want to give this one a shot and that isn’t something I recommend you do.