The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Review by FrustratedNerd

20 Mar 2013 20 Mar 2013
41 17 8
Another chapter of the Walking Dead story expands as we learn a little more about the very popular Daryl Dixon. The story of Survival Instinct starts off with the Dixon brothers meeting the apocalypse and leads up to how they met up with Rick's group (from the comics / TV series) in Atlanta. As a huge fan of the series; it was great to learn more about our beloved crossbow-towing character even if his sassy mouth brother, Merle, was breathing down your neck most of the time.

Gameplay: Looking at this game for what it is, without the Walking Dead lore and attraction, makes it appear a little less educated and lot more aggravating. The mechanics are simple. Much like other post-apocalyptic first-person-shooters, there isn't much that separates it from the original Left 4 Dead, or the recently acclaimed Dead Island.

There's a certain level of smooth that doesn't quite get to show-off until later in the game. From the beginning, you find yourself swinging a knife, which takes a good 4 swings to a "biter's" head before they go down. Trying to stay quite, while moving to each obstacle, proves to be quite irritating using only your knife. Luckily, there's about 7 or 8 other melee weapons, but guess what? They all still take 4 hits to kill zombies, at least until you reach the sledgehammer, which isn't until about 60% of the way through the story. So here you are with axes, baseball bats, and lead pipes, just taking up inventory space, which proves to be the scarcest thing about "surviving".

The level of smooth I mentioned before doesn't get to shine until you receive the cross-bow at the beginning of Act 3. I didn't feel a need to obtain it throughout the game since I did have an assault of rifle-ry, but once I got to use it in it all it's glory I don't want to start the story over again without it. It's so fun to pop a walker in it's head silently, pull the bolt out before he falls, and cap the next one. It makes moving through a dozen walkers easy as pie, and you feel like a badass doing it. What more could you ask for?

Surviving: The game is called "Survival Instinct", and if you've read anything about this game you know that "survival" was the base premise. The goal of the game is to find enough supplies to stay alive, and keep your car from running out of gas. You're constantly on the look out for med-packs, gas, new car keys, weapons, and that's just about it. There's thousands of containers, boxes, and cars, but none of them are searchable. Everything you need will be just sitting on the floor, glowing it's outline for you to find.

The game is checkpoint based in the sense that each "level" is a new area. Each area is a pit-stop for you and your crew. During these pit-stops you can choose your path, and if you want to take the backroads or the highway. The backroads give you more opportunity to find supplies, but really they feel like a waste of time. I'm pretty sure I wasted more health looking for med-kits and energy drinks than I found at each optional site. The highways use less gas for car, but there's a higher chance of breaking down. You will break down.

Luckily, when your vehicle runs out of gas, or blows a water hose you'll be in a new randomly generated area and all your needs can be found there. Personally I'm kicking myself for stopping as much as I did in the beginning. Once I decided to rush the story-line, I found myself much better off with gas, and health-packs. I'm the type of person who likes to stock up when I can so I don't have to worry so much about dying later on. If you're like me, throw your instincts out the window with this one.

By the end of the game you'll be annoyed with all the pit stops you had to make. Especially once these "generated areas" start to look familiar, and the originality dies.

Difficulty: The game has no difficulty setting. As someone who's played their fair share of zombie-horde games I didn't expect much of a challenge. I was wrong.

Alerting a horde is obviously a bad idea. But like I said earlier, the melee weapon selection just doesn't cut it. You are given flares to distract the walkers, but it doesn't seem to be enough. A well placed flare will only occupy about 40% of a large group, leaving another 20% to see you and bring their friends. Being completely stealthy is almost impossible on every level. There will always be at lease on walker in your way and probably another 4 or 5 in the same alley that will see you killing their buddy.

I found myself sprinting around large groups most of the time. It almost seemed easier to get a trail of 20 enemies and turn around opening fire on them. At least until the one behind you grapples you. Than you're forced to stab them in the head before you can get free. Thankfully there's a good chance of pushing the next grapple in line away and having another chance to escape.

The large groups makes the game extremely difficult. If you run out of ammunition, and you're in a room with about 6 or more you can consider yourself dead. The game isn't terrible with checkpoint placement although you usually only get one or two per area, which is where I started sprinting checkpoint to checkpoint. Maybe that's what they intended you to do? But who doesn't love slaughtering the undead? Especially since the option to "execute" zombies is so cool, even after you've seen one of the two animations over 100 times.

Saving Survivors: What I really hated about the game was how saving survivors does nothing for you. Each person you collect has to fit into your vehicle. If they don't, you just leave them? Or something. There's an option to "dismiss" when they don't fit, and they just disappear with no hard feelings. At each story area you can send your survivors to search for supplies, and equip them with whatever weapons you have. The game gives you a success chance for the group you create, but there's a good chance they just won't come back. There's nothing you can do to help them besides give up better weapons and more survivors. Then they're just on their own waiting to great you with a simple text box that says either "deceased" or "returned with X Fuel". Yay! All those optional errands you ran earlier are really paying off now!

Graphics: This is where someone who isn't a fan of the series will be greatly disappointed. The graphics aren't terrible, but they aren't anything special either. The game did have an unfinished feeling, but it wasn't anything that broke my experience. I saw little to now rendering problems, or lazy graphics, but I didn't feel like it was fine-tooth-combed over to make me feel about my purchase. Comparing the game to it's equals, Dead Island & Left 4 Dead, the game offered nothing graphically. There was also these little squares of light found throughout the game, that bothered the hell out of me. If I'm in an all black room, with no electricity, which is this square glowing? I wish I could have someone explain it to me, but I couldn't capture them with my camera. It felt like laziness overlooked by the graphic department.

100%: Since the game just came out yesterday I haven't had a chance to try a second playthrough to reach completion. I did beat the story line in 7 hours, which felt kind of short considering how much I stopped for supplies, and died. There's too paths to the story, and you need to go both ways to find all the collectibles. The collectibles are usually pretty easy to find, but you may want to pull up a guide before you finish an area. There's three types of collectibles. Stuffed squirrels, posters, and vehicles (I guess we can call the weapons a collectable too, but we won't). The great thing is if you get a squirrel or map and die you don't have to go find it again. With the vehicle keys on the other hand, you will have to go back for, even if you reached a check-point at the end of the level.

The hardest about finishing this game for achievement hunters will be the "completing a level without getting hurt" or "only using ammunition". I feel like these go hand in hand but I tried for them on a couple areas with no easy way of seeing these done. Than again I haven't gone the other path yet so maybe it's easier there.

Overall: Fans of the series, or even zombie shooters will appreciate the game but I say it can wait. Due to the rushed feeling of the game, even with it's smooth mechanics, there's no point in paying full price for this game. The story with Daryl isn't anything impressive, and there's nothing here that will like you Merle; so if you're dying for the background story, you can look it up online. As a gamer, I did enjoy my 7 hour session yesterday. The stopping for supplies, and lack of, well, everything did start to kick in around the 6th hour or so. Right about the time I realized I was on the final act, and didn't mind. Once I complete my second playthrough I doubt I'll play this game again in the near future. I personally preferred Dead Island, since there was more to the game (more weapons, more loot, more everything).

The story isn't anything imaginative. Compared to the previously Walking Dead game by TellTale, the drama doesn't even light a match to it. At least with this game I didn't feel on rails, and had a little bit of freedom.

Not comparing the game to anything else, it is a nice little experience. It's just missing an original aspect to make me tell you to buy this now.
Homunculus Furynice review, they also missed out on a chance for a good co-op game
Posted by Homunculus Fury on 20 Mar 13 at 19:25
Good review, best one of the game thus far. +1
Posted on 20 Mar 13 at 21:55
FrustratedNerdOh, good looking Midget. I meant to add that to the review. Maybe I'll edit it tonight. Thanks guys.
Posted by FrustratedNerd on 20 Mar 13 at 22:06
Paully05Nice review
Posted by Paully05 on 21 Mar 13 at 03:54
Ant695Nice. I'll be saving my money for Riptide now.
Posted by Ant695 on 21 Mar 13 at 08:36
Vr EnglishI much preferred your review, very readable as apposed to walls of text. I think you've sold me on not getting it, unless its on the cheap!
Posted by Vr English on 25 Mar 13 at 14:24
HealttiI feel the text and review score don't match at all.

Side note: I didn't -vote this. I think anyone who puts this much effort into a review shouldn't get neg'd.
Posted by Healtti on 07 Apr 13 at 12:18
xTCxNice review. This is one of those games that you shouldn't buy but it is good to rent. Like the recent made game Fast and Furious: Showdown.
Posted by xTCx on 17 Aug 13 at 08:05