TA Review: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

TA Review: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

Apparently, it's not just the bite that zombifies you; it's playing this game

Written by Chewie (ChewieOnIce) on 31 March 13 at 00:03

Based on the hugely successful TV show of the same name, which in turn is based on the comic series by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct isn’t the first game created from the zombie-filled license. Rather than take the easy route and make a basic zombie-killing shooter, Telltale Games decided to make their critically-lauded episodic Arcade series, The Walking Dead, a story-driven adventure title, full of tough choices and branching storylines, which also happened to have zombies in it. Terminal Reality have instead made their game a basic zombie-killing shooter.

29/03/2013 - Logo


As Daryl Dixon, one of the most popular characters from the TV series, we embark on a road trip through a selection of towns and facilities in search of rebellious brother, Merle. Unfortunately, all of the locations we visit have been overwhelmed by the living dead, who are still stinking up the place. The focus of the game is squarely on sneaking and melee combat. Whilst a variety ranged weapons are available, you’ll find yourself avoiding these as one gunshot can bring the entire horde on you. There are also various melee weapons that you can use to batter and slice through the shambling corpses, however once you get your hands on one or two that are good for instant decapitations, you’ll find yourself ignoring the rest. The same goes for ranged weaponry when you get your hands on Daryl’s iconic, silent crossbow and its reusable ammo. Why use another gun ever again? Weapons do not degrade at all and, even though Daryl and his vehicle have limited inventory slots, the inventory management becomes useless when you only really care to use one or two weapons.

There is a certain amount of fun to be had early in the game when you encounter walkers and decide how to progress. If there are just one or two zombies, a stealthy approach works well. If there's a larger group, you can either try and get the attention of individual shambling skin-sacks to separate and pick them off, or use glass bottles and flares to provide distractions and make your way around them. Unfortunately, once you've figured out your tactics, you'll find yourself settling into the same patterns throughout the game. There is no variety to any of the combat as the zombies themselves are such one-note enemies; always aimlessly coming straight for you, arms outstretched and mouth agape. The story teases you with the prospect of encountering groups of raiders, biker gangs and military personnel to break up the monotony of zombie slaying, but these situations never deliver.

Daryl has a few combat skills in his arsenal that help him get an upper hand on his rotting foes. As well as your standard sneak, sprint and lean abilities, he can shove approaching enemies back, giving him the opportunity to circle around them for an execution or the seconds he needs to escape. He's also a deft knife user; when he manages to get behind a zombie, he can perform a brutally satisfying execution move. If a meat-bag is allowed to get too close, Daryl will be grabbed, which initiates a quick-time event to perform an execution move on the offending zombie’s face. If there are other nearby zombies around at this point, he can be grabbed again, but can either shove his way free between grabs or simply continue performing a chain of executions. These unique moves add a small amount of variety to the combat, but they too ultimately become tedious as you utilise them time and again to kill zombies using the same pattern of shove, run around the back and execute.

Screenshot 2


Scattered through each level are survivors who can be brought into the group, often after performing a rudimentary fetch quest. The prospect of these survivors promises much, but delivers very little. Once you have collected survivors you must choose who to take along with you as space in your vehicle is limited. However, this group management is purely perfunctory. You can choose to send people out on scavenger trips for food, ammo or fuel before starting a mission. Sending more people out lowers the risk factor of each trip, as does giving them a weapon, but that is as far as the strategy extends.

There is also absolutely nothing in the way of emotional connection to your fellow survivors. For the most part you have no more interactions with them after picking them up, and dismissing them is simply an act of pushing a button and they're gone; no tearful farewell, no objections and no caring. Even though there are numerous stopping opportunities between main levels, no effort is made to use this time to develop a bond between the different survivors. Maybe the sense that this “touchy feely” element is sorely lacking is more thanks to the influence of the Arcade title and its focus on the stresses and strains of a group of people in dire peril, but the complete absence of any emotional depth is notable in a game based on a TV show based on a comic, both of which focus so strongly on these elements. Even the inclusion of two of the most enigmatic characters from the TV show, Daryl and Merle Dixon (brilliantly portrayed by actors Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker) is a wasted opportunity here. There is very little effort to further explore the history and emotional dynamics of the troubled brothers other than the template that the show has already laid down: Daryl is a tough hick with a sensitive side and a heap of misguided loyalty for his selfish, drug-addled brother.

Screenshot 1


In between main missions, you are presented with a map that asks which route you'd like to take to the next point and how you'd like to get there; gas guzzling but resource rich back roads or fuel efficient but empty highways. These choices do have some effect on how the game progresses, meaning that you'll experience different locations on each playthrough and make optional stops along the way. These location choices hint at branching storylines with different outcomes, but the story and extra characters are so bare-bones that you’ll wonder why the story is branching at all. Whilst the environments include small towns, a hospital, train yard and campsite, there is very little variety involved. They are mostly linear sojourns through drab, grimy, empty levels that alternate between enclosed areas such as alleys or corridors and more open area such as a graveyard or reception. None of the locales have any design flourish or visual identity and you’ll find the different towns in particular just merge together in your memory.

Throughout the game there are small moments that make you realise that the whole thing just isn’t fully developed and smacks of lazy, inconsistent design choices. For instance, invisible walls make frequent appearances, despite efforts in other areas to make barriers using walls, fences, cliffs or abandoned vehicles. Similarly, out of the many locked doors in the game, roughly half are recognised as doors and tell you they are “locked” when you get close, whereas the other half are simply pictures of doors. Also, even though you must manage who will fit in your vehicle out of the optional survivors you based on how many seats are available, story-specific survivors don’t seem to take up any seats at all. I’m presuming they sit on the roof or on Daryl’s lap.

Screenshot 3


Apart from a small selection of story-progression achievements and some for completing levels in a specific manner, most of the game’s achievements are cumulative for performing actions numerous times. Luckily, these are stackable across deaths and playthroughs so you will easily get most of them by your second time through the game. Due to collectibles and survivors being split across the different branching locations in the story, full completion will require at least two full playthroughs as there is no “Chapter Select” option. This could go up to three or four playthroughs as some of the survivors randomly appear at optional stopping locations and there are achievements related to who you end up with in the final sections. Luckily, the tedium of multiple playthroughs is offset by the fact that the game allows you to use the Crossbow and Assault Rifle from the beginning after the first playthrough.

Ultimately, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a short, tedious tie-in that should only really be picked up by lovers of absolutely all things zombie. It’s not broken and the basic sneaking and zombie-killing mechanics work well enough, but they soon become tiresome and repetitive. The few interesting ideas such as branching levels, and inventory and survivor management, are extremely underdeveloped and amount to little more than pointless logistics. Furthermore, there should have been much more focus on the story, characters and emotional turmoil of the Dixon's road trip to help tie it all together and hold our interest. Like Merle Dixon, this game is the crude jerk brother to the other Walking Dead’s sensitive but powerful, Daryl.

The reviewer spent 10-15 hours in the shoes of Daryl Dixon, finished the main campaign once, executed hundreds of walkers, explored most locations thoroughly and replayed the first chapter a few more times for extra achievements for a total of 35 out of 50. The game was reviewed from a personal copy.

Review score: Given 2 stars by ChewieOnIce
AuthorMessage
SyndicateKing
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SyndicateKing - Online
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Last post: 09 Dec at 11:13
Posted on 31 March 13 at 00:30
To be honest i didnt mind this game, 6/10 for me, far from good but playable
Marc Pilkington - So that's now 5 games I'm getting for Christmas...think I should leave it there [laugh]
141,289 TrueAchievement PointsTrueAchievements Newshound2,431 posts
Last post: 15 Dec at 11:35
Posted on 31 March 13 at 00:32
I'm pretty much hearing all bad stuff about this game. I saw a video and just immediately thought of some worse version of Dead Island. They had so much potential here to deliver something great, but sadly not. What a shame. Those graphics as well...eesh.
Lethal God428
122,572
Lethal God428
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Last post: 17 Dec at 07:50
Posted on 31 March 13 at 00:44
Thanks for including an brief overview of the types of achievements for this game. I always want to know what the achievements are like when I'm on the fence about buying a game, but reviews that are not console specific usually don't talk about them.
DJ JAW135
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DJ JAW135 - Why is there even multiplayer in Arkham Origins?
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Last post: 22 Feb at 21:35
Posted on 31 March 13 at 01:00
Im a bit pissed off i actually pre ordered this and paid full price. I did enjoy it at the start but the multiple playthroughs to get the last few achievements was a bit tedious. Its worth renting easily 1000g in 3-4 days but not worth buying. Shame on you AMC.
N0T PENNYS B0AT - just bought a ps4
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Last post: 27 Nov at 01:21
Posted on 31 March 13 at 01:06
That was a truly awesome review, Chewie. I love your writing style.
Twitter: @N0TPENNYSB0AT || Instagram: @mdelaney4127
BloodwCinnamon - Alien, Dark Souls, Isaac Rebirth, Wolfenstein, South Park. Five of the year.
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Last post: 11 May at 19:25
Posted on 31 March 13 at 01:24
These are screenshots of the PC version.
abelxcain
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abelxcain
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Last post: 24 May at 19:24
Posted on 31 March 13 at 01:46
It is nice to know that the review is been made from playing a game purchased with the own reviewer's money.
Derpcrawler
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Derpcrawler - Fightin' Around the World
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Last post: 18 Aug at 23:56
Posted on 31 March 13 at 01:46
After I realised how crappy this game is I deleted if from my game history before I got my first achievement.

Funny if you compare this game to Walking Dead Arcade game, but I guess good licensed games are just that, dimonds among pile of crap.
ScuzzyBunny
608,621
ScuzzyBunny - FYI...Halo 5 beta weighs in at 10gb (before any patches). 80% downloaded...let's do this!
262 completed games(Includes owned DLC)TrueAchievements Pro user1,200 posts
Last post: 13 Dec at 03:12
Posted on 31 March 13 at 02:15
I actually preferred this one to the episodic arcade version, but I really didn't put much investment in either. Got the retail disc of the arcade one from Gamefly, picked this one up from the red box and got out back the 2nd day ($4).
Look at me so I can finish!
Uranium Deposit - Here are the games I'm about to beandive.  http://bit.ly/16PCPuk Not including any digital.
215 completed games(Includes owned DLC)Achievement Completion Percentage: 60.31% (Includes owned DLC) - 93 more achievements required to reach 61%286 posts
Last post: 26 Feb at 17:33
Posted on 31 March 13 at 02:22
I like that reviews are now telling us how long it was played and how many achievements were earned. Useful information for us all in one way or another.

Definitely looks to be a skippable.
Arachnicide
251,498
Arachnicide - 2...More....pizzas....damn
Achievement Completion Percentage: 80.36% (Includes owned DLC) - 60 more achievements required to reach 81%154 completed games(Includes owned DLC)363 posts
Last post: 01 Apr at 22:43
Posted on 31 March 13 at 02:35
Uranium Deposit said:I like that reviews are now telling us how long it was played and how many achievements were earned. Useful information for us all in one way or another.

Definitely looks to be a skippable.
The fact that it is from Terminal Reality makes it skippable. I hate those guys...moreso than EA I think.
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Bk LuCKY ChaRMS - finally back
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Last post: 25 Aug at 19:09
Posted on 31 March 13 at 02:58
hated this game had a lot of good elements going for it but it felt way too rushed i think they had to get the game out before the end of the third season of the show which is why it was so quick but thats no excuse
matdan12
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matdan12 - Warface - Rank 24 221470/423700
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Last post: Today at 05:32
Posted on 31 March 13 at 06:24
Did anyone expect this to be good after they released that awful footage?
Quadrahands
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Quadrahands - I went outside once, the graphics were amazing but the characters and storyline were truly awful
197,821 TrueAchievement PointsAchievement Completion Percentage: 71.34% (Includes owned DLC) - 54 more achievements required to reach 72%123 posts
Last post: 18 Dec at 15:37
Posted on 31 March 13 at 10:35
Bad game, tedious combat and achievement grinding... But totally playable. I have played a lot worse. Worth mentioning that you may have to play 3-4 times (I did!) but you can just run past virtually every single zombie to get where you need to be. My last play through took 1h25m start to finish.
I went outside once, the graphics were amazing but the characters and storyline sucked!
lolmanX0
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lolmanX0 - Does anybody know an app creator app?
Achievement Completion Percentage: 92.71% (Includes owned DLC) - 10 more achievements required to reach 93%TrueAchievement Ratio: 1.80162,690 posts
Last post: Today at 03:11
Posted on 31 March 13 at 10:50
Haha matdan!
Beat the best, Own the rest.
Posted on 31 March 13 at 11:20, Edited on 31 March 13 at 11:21 by TopScienceBoy
Great review - right on the money in my opinion (from what I have played so far). There are far, far worse games out there...
Marcist
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Marcist - Castle Crashers is in my future - anyone interested in a coop playthrough??
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Last post: 15 Oct at 23:19
Posted on 31 March 13 at 12:04
***SPOILER***

Merle has 2 hands again? WTF?
Don't buy new games... if you can wait 9 months and clean out your backlog you'll save $50.
Quantum Binman - Red Faction has lost GFWL as of today.  Just moved to steamworks.
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Last post: 05 Dec at 15:39
Posted on 31 March 13 at 12:13
Marcist said:***SPOILER***

Merle has 2 hands again? WTF?
It is set prior to the TV show
Acceleretto
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Acceleretto - Really hope the 360 sees another "Tales" game...
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Last post: 31 Aug 13 at 09:54
Posted on 31 March 13 at 12:17
matdan12 said:Did anyone expect this to be good after they released that awful footage?Somehow, some managed. Some people will play any ol' shit with "zombies" in it.
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