By Adam Soviak
If you watched our Let’s Play video for Aliens: Colonial Marines, you got to hear me level criticisms such as; worst graphics, uninteresting gameplay, last gen textures, horrible animations. Here we are about a month later, and I’m glad that when I said Aliens was the worst game of 2013, I added the caveat “So Far”. The crown made of feces now belongs to The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct takes place right at the beginning of the zombie outbreak. You follow Daryl Dixon as he, uh, well I don’t really know what the driving force of the plot is, because there really isn’t one. The game starts off with his father dying and he decides to find his brother, Meryl, to give him the news. That would’ve been fine if that was the crux of the plot, but Daryl finds his brother soon after the death and you play the rest of the game thinking “What am I doing here?” I haven’t had such an aimless feeling in a linear game like this in very long, or maybe even ever. If this were an episode of the show, you would switch channels five minutes in, or maybe even to My Strange Addiction. I would rather watch some moron eat dryer sheets than have to suffer through this story again.
The gameplay follows suit from the story, a boring affair to say the least. It consists of monotonous first-person melee combat that is horribly repetitive. Hit RB to stagger a zombie, then aim for the head and mash the Right Trigger. The choice of weapons is affected by the combat scenarios the developer puts you in as well. You have guns, but you never want to use them because you will get swarmed, and the levels are so small and confined you really can’t run to safety to save yourself. You can throw bottles and flares to distract zombies, but it isn’t effective and isn’t worth the spot in your paltry ten slot inventory. If you get more than three zombies near you, the game puts you in a horrible quick time event where you need to align a circle “crosshair” over a zombie’s face and hit the RT. The problem is, you get stuck in this QTE animation and there is no way to get out. If there are more than a few zombies to deal with, it’s game over, you may as well just let go of this world and just wait to reload. The thing that angered me the most was you don’t get the crossbow until you are half done with the game. Are you kidding me? I’m here to play as Daryl Dixon, the badass hillbilly on the show, with the awesome crossbow! It is a horrible design choice for the game as I was forced to play, up until I finally got the crossbow, with a knife or a machete. This is just one of the litany of bad design choices for this game.
The lazy design doesn’t end with the gameplay, the level design suffers there as well. You constantly see reused assets and copy and pasted levels everywhere. This is most apparent in the forced scavenger missions. These missions are forced upon you as you travel from one main mission destination to another. When you drive to your missions, you can choose one of three ways to get there(choices range from backroads to highways) and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but you will be stopping no matter what. You can collect all the gas you want, but you’ll still need to stop for a tire or some other ancillary thing to artificially pad out the games length. If you stop more than once on the same trip, you will see the same same area over and over. They may throw a night cycle on it, but it’s still the same bloody level. This game loves to put you in the dark as well, in order to hide the ugliest graphics I have ever seen on Xbox 360. I’ve played games from 2006 that look better than this, and play better, Condemned: Criminal origins comes to mind. This game looks like a game in the Alpha phase of development, and the gameplay suffers for it. it’s important in this game to sneak up on zombies, but you can’t tell which way the are facing if you are about 50 yards away from them. I can’t tell you how many times I got stuck in the horrible QTE just because I couldn’t see a zombie that was on my right as I stalked a zombie in front of me. Miraculous zombie appearances happen all the time as well. Every time I had to a scavenge mission, I would clear an area, get the thing I needed and make my way back to the car, only to have zombies re-appear in the area I had just cleared.
The only somewhat interesting things are the survivor scavenging system, which is ancillary and , in the end, completely useless. It’s nice to have Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker voicing their characters, even though Michael Rooker is in this game for 15 minutes tops. Also the game is only about 4 hours long, so that could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. Other than that this game is horrible, another line of failures and missed opportunities in the licensed game arena. It’s sad because it can be done, the Batman Arkham series is the best example of that. If you want to play a Walking Dead game, get TellTale’s adventure game, if you want a good action combat zombie game, get Dead Island. DO NOT BUY THIS GAME.