The Walking Dead Survival Instinct ReviewVideo ReviewIntro
After the brilliance of The Walking Dead episodic series which made its debut first as an arcade game and later on a disk format. I couldn't help but start getting my hopes up when I heard that a First Person Shooter acting as a prequel to the TV show was announced. It took all of about 10 minutes after putting Survival Instinct in to realize any hope I had that this game would be good or possibly even decent, was destroyed. The game is nothing more than a cash-in on The Walking Dead name. This is shown by it being quickly thrown together and obviously supporting a low budget.Graphics/Story
Survival Instinct for the most part doesn't look good. You can tell that the developers didn't put much work into the game's graphics. Aside from its HD quality nothing here couldn't have been accomplished on the previous generation of consoles. Objects in this game seem very basic in their architecture. Appearing as if the developers just threw a halfway decent texture on them and called it good. This lack of detail and effort hurt the game's overall look. Actually I think the best looking thing in this game is the black blood spatter that appears on walls after blowing off a Walkers head.
You take control of everybody's favorite crossbow wielding Daryl Dixon from the ever popular TV show. His A-hole of a brother Merle also makes an appearance, and the dynamic between the brothers as expected is entertaining. Both Daryl and Merle are voiced by their respective actors from the show, which is pretty awesome. Now if only the rest of the game were. It's too bad that the acting is never properly showcased due to the lack of cut-scenes. Majority of the story is told during loading screens when transitioning between new areas. Even during the rare cut-scenes the acting was never able to come to life, seeing as the characters appear so utterly lifeless. As I mentioned the events of this game act as a prequel to the show. An origin story for Daryl and Merle was a brilliant idea, it's really a shame that instead of being interesting it came across as cheesy. Certain characters, events, and locations from the show are mentioned during the game which is nice fan service along with allowing the game and show to feel further connected. It's just too bad that even the most die-hard fans of the show will have a hard time convincing themselves that this extra backstory is essential content. Especially because of the frustrations accompanied with gaining this extra bit of story.Gameplay/Design/Structure
The moment you take control of your character you will realize that this is not a very good game. Movements are clunky and animations are annoyingly slow. Leaving you to feel quite helpless against the hordes of Walkers; to make matters worse this game has a thing for continually spawning more enemies to replace the horde you just killed. Now I understand that this virus has probably overtaken four fifths (if not more) of the world's population, so infinitely spawning enemies is reasonable. Simply because it shows the sheer magnitude of a zombie apocalypse. At the same time it can cause the gameplay in these instances to feel slightly pointless. Pointless because ammunitions are so scarce that I questioned whether I would be better off just running away from every enemy opposed to killing them; knowing that if I did take the time to kill them more would just take their place. Unsurprisingly more often than not I did find myself running. A game that involves running from combat more than engaging in it; loses vast amounts of fun. I mean come on it's fun to kill zombies not to feel pressured into running from them to conserve what little ammo you have. I just think that the game lacks a certain balance to it. A balance between fleeing and fighting when relating it to scavenging. If you think about it the amount of supplies you possess greatly affects your decision to flee or fight This balance flaw could have been corrected if scavenging was more rewarding, and if more areas could have been cleared out instead of being continuously overrun by these infinitely spawning enemies. When I say scavenging lacks reward I mean that the work put into scavenging for supplies greatly outweighs your findings. When you waste more than you gain; you begin to realize how the gameplay can feel pointless. Although I suppose this design choice will be loved by anyone who wants to spend a lot of time exploring every nook and cranny for little to nothing. Constantly running from enemies, while debating on whether they can spare a bullet to blow off that zombies head; knowing that more than likely another will just take his place.
One thing the developers did do right that partially corrects the extreme scarcity of supplies is the addition of survivors. Survivors are as their name suggests people who have thus far "survived" the zombie infection. These survivors are NPC's found in different areas. Who join you on your journey; generally only after helping them out. Obtaining most of these survivors is completely optional, with a few exceptions of certain people relating to the story who have to accompany you. Anyways the reason I said they help correct the scavenging flaw is because prior to entering an area; these survivors can be assigned to scavenge for a specific category, ammunitions, food, or gas. I found myself almost always making them find ammunitions for me, because I for one enjoy actually shooting zombies. To clear things up I'll get into the purpose behind food and gas even though they're basically self explanatory. Food is used to heal yourself and your fellow survivors; who have a nasty habit of taking damage during their scavenging expeditions. I usually didn't bother healing my survivors. Instead I'd let them die off and then find a new one to replace the old. Normally I'm not so cold-hearted when it comes to companions, but these ones are just so boring. They really have no redeeming qualities when it comes to personality. I failed to like them, so I let them die no biggie.
Gas as I'm sure you've pieced together is consumed when traveling. Which is perhaps the stupidest feature this game has. To explain why I first must delve into the structure of the game.
Going into this game for some reason I sort of assumed or maybe hoped that it was open-world. Oh how wrong I was. The game is overwhelmingly linear, and not in a good way. The game is level based, although I prefer to refer to them as areas instead. Each area is very small. Which is odd seeing as one would think a game that insists on exploration to offer a larger area for the player to run around in. This is further worsened by some of the worst level boundaries I have seen in recent years. If you don't understand what I mean by level boundaries I'm referring to how the developers block the level off from the rest of the world. Linear games must give the illusion that the area the player is currently restricted to is actually part of a larger world. Surely by now you understand what I'm getting at but if not picture drawing a rectangle on a piece of paper. Now pretend that you are in the rectangle. You're trapped because the edges of the rectangle prevent you from leaving. These edges would be the level boundary. Ideally the player should never or rarely notice that these boundaries exist. This is accomplished by distracting the player with objectives, so they don't wander too far. And, making the boundaries appear reasonably impassable while still making them not look out of place. This game does an awful job on both accounts. Often I had a hard time distinguishing places I wasn't allowed to go from places I was allowed to. For example the game used a line of cars as a level boundary, even though there are tons of cars within the area that I can jump on and over. Yet, the ones acting as a level boundary I magically am incapable of jumping over. Causing me to idiotically attempt to jump over to no avail.
After completing an area the player is taken to a map where they have the option of choosing to take either back roads streets, or highways to get to their next destination. Each choice has its own advantages/disadvantages. Highways waste the least amount of gas but scavenge opportunities are rare, backroads are the opposite, and streets act as the middle ground. So, the choice really depends on how much gas you have.
My personal opinion these scavenge opportunities are a complete waste of time. Basically when traveling if you come across an unmarked location (meaning one that isn't where you need to be) you have the option of stopping, and searching for possible supplies. Perhaps if handled better this feature could have been cool. Instead it comes across as a fill-in. The area you can scavenge for supplies in, is ridiculously small. The most pathetic thing about them is that they are recycled areas. I'll give you an example, so I start traveling come across an abandoned truck stop. I say what the hell; I look around and find very little. I then leave only to have my tire blow on me, so the game makes me enter a new area. What do you know this "new" area is the same damn truck stop I was just at despite having driven a good 20 miles. Of course the layout of the items has switched ever so slightly, but come on. In reality there are maybe 5 different scavenge locations, that are just re-used throughout the entirety of the game. What's the point of even including this feature if you're not gonna take the time to make completely original locations? It's sad, lazy, and just further proves that this game is nothing more than a cash-in.
Alright so earlier I said that gas was the stupidest thing included in this game. The reason I said that is because having to constantly try and find more gas in order to be able to make it to the next area is annoying. I don't want to do it and I don't like doing it. But, I will do it in order to minimize the amount of times I wind up at an unmarked location.
I really wish the developers would have scrapped the entire travelling between locations concept, and instead just made the game purely level-based. Where upon beating one area you click a button, and are instantly transitioned into the next area. I feel that the game would've really benefitted from it, along with making it even shorter which when it comes to this game isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I haven't talked much about how the game actually plays, so I'll get into that. The player is given long-range weapons, short-range weapons, and flares/glass bottles to dispatch or distract the walkers. By long-range weapons I mean gun's, and surprisingly this game has a decent amount of them. Ranging from Pistols, Rifles, Machine Guns, to Daryls classic crossbow. The crossbow is probably the most rewarding and useful weapon because your bolts can be retrieved after being shot. Plus, it's entertaining to see your bolts sticking out of a Walker. For your short-range weapons or melee weapons, you've got a Fire Axe, Machete, Lead Pipe, and Hammer to name a few. I never found myself using the flares or glass bottles much, but their only purpose is to distract a group of walkers who haven't already spotted you. All of these weapons and items are found scattered about the different areas you explore.
At any given time you are able to carry 10 items. Upon finishing a level excess items can be stored in your vehicle to make room for more. This is perhaps one of the few things this game got right. Too many First Person Shooters these days limit how many weapons can be carried to an obscenely small amount, typically two. At least with this game I can pretty much always have 5 weapons to switch between.
As I mentioned briefly before the game doesn't play well. To be blunt it plays like a bad First Person Shooter. The shooting mechanics fail to be as crisp or responsive as the higher budget shooting games. They work well enough though, and I've played with worse so I'm not gonna complain much on that front. What I am gonna complain about though is the terrible melee mechanics. Now melee combat from a first person perspective has been proven to work take for example either Condemned game, or Skyrim. In this game though it is handled terribly. It's almost as if the developers didn't want you to use melee weapons. One would think that if you've got an axe or even a hammer it wouldn't be hard to quickly bash in a zombie's skull. I mean on the TV show they're rather quick about it. But, no with this game every swing takes way too much time to perform, but even longer to initiate any subsequent swing. Which, one would think a second swing wouldn't be necessary, but for some reason Daryl isn't very good about killing a zombie with his first swing. The meleeing works well enough when only facing one walker at a time,but try and face a group and you might as well be slitting your own throat.
The annoyances don't stop there zombies if given the opportunity to get in close to you will take any opportunity to grab on to you. Which if they succeed activates a god-awful little mini game where the player uses the Right Stick to direct a reticle over a zombies head, whilst this reticle is sporadically moving about.
Once the player lines up the reticle a simple tap of the Trigger and Daryl will shove a knife through its head. The different knife animations are cool in the beginning particularly the one where he shoves it up the jaw, allowing the blade to be seen through the walkers open-mouth. These animations quickly become tiresome simply because of how often this grabbing happens. After one zombie grabs you and you kill him another zombie will instantly take his place. Before you know it you're performing the grapple mini game on 10 zombies before finally breaking free assuming they don't kill you first. Towards the end of the game I found myself just letting them kill me so I didn't have to do the mini game any longer.
Another noticeable issue is the absolutely terrible AI behind the Walkers. Now I know they're zombies so it's possible to argue that them being dumb is actually realistic. Which is fine, except that these Zombies are also constantly getting stuck on bits in the environment. Strangely they seem best at getting stuck on each other when each zombie is attempting to go a different direction.
One more slight issue, possibly more of a complaint happens when throwing a grenade. When say standing on a car and wanting to throw a grenade in the middle of 20 or so zombies surrounding you; the grenade will always bounce off their head and continue past them, instead of falling between them like it should.
Possibly the most unique thing about this game that I don't believe has ever been done is having the main character's sweat appear on the screen after sprinting for too long. I found this rather amusing mainly because it took me so long to figure out what it was. Originally I thought it was supposed to be some sort of rain effect on my screen, except that it never rained.
The one thing that saves this game from being absolutely terrible happens during any extra playthroughs of the campaign. After beating it once the player unlocks bonuses which can be activated, and make the game much more enjoyable. The better of these bonuses allow for the player to have the crossbow and assault rifle as starting weapons from the games beginning and the absolute best bonus grants the player with infinite ammo. These bonuses turn the game into more of a shooter, and take away some of it's flaws which is good. It's too bad that most people will never bother playing the game past its first playthrough.Conclusion
Before playing this game I believed that Aliens Colonial Marines would go down as 2013's most disappointing game. I now think that Survival Instinct is a definite contender for that title. Going into this game I had heard rumors that it was a bad game. Those rumors still did not prepare me for what I experienced. The game has countless flaws that hold it back. I'll be honest I can see what the developers were trying to do with this game and in a way I suppose it's a decent idea. They wanted to create an authentic zombie apocalypse experience for the player. One where the player is constantly worrying about their supplies. Making them face off against a seemingly endless flood of zombies. All the while forcing the player to make tough decisions. When you say it like that it sounds kind of cool. Too bad in reality it's laughable, frustrating, piece of garbage.Pro's
+ 10 inventory slots is nice
+ TV Show Voice Actors
+ Nice bonuses after completing the game (adds replayability)
+ Crossbow grants a bit of funCon's
- Infinitely Spawning Walkers
- Scavenging lacks reward
- Shooting mechanics and movements feel low-budget
- Melee combat is far too slow
- Lots of recycled areas
- Poor Walker AI and collision issues
- Outdated graphics
- Poorly told story
- Levels are too small, not expansive
- Walkers grab far too much
- Traveling feature hinders the gameRating3.5 / 10Youtubehttps://www.youtube.com/fatalxblade