The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts
|Listen to your instincts... - A The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts review by poison_SHADOW|
One would think that he would make for an interesting lead character in his very own video game, right? Not if Activision and Terminal Reality have anything to say about it.
Survival Instincts was the perfect opportunity to give fans of the show a chance to learn the inner working of the hillbilly badass most TWD fans have wholly embraced, and on paper the game still sounds quite good. Played from the first-person point of view, we were promised the chance to see untold events of the earliest days of the zombie apocalypse unfolding from the perspective of an underdog, an every man trying to survive and learn the skills he will need to survive. You can rescue other survivors, scavenge for weapons, food, fuel and even new vehicles to aid Daryl in his hellish road trip.
None of this is even remotely fleshed out or polished, however. Rescuing survivors in a great idea - so much so that Capcom made this a chief gameplay mechanic in their Dead Rising series, with protagonists Frank or Chuck even being able to form well-armed parties to mow down the undead. Survival instincts takes a bear-bones approach: you happen upon the occasional survivor NPC alone, usually in a perfectly defended room but never in any kind of danger whatsoever. You aren't saving these people from the Walkers - they've got that covered. No, the only thing you seem to be saving them from is a great deal of boredom.
But at least they contribute something to the game, you say? Not really. Unlike Dead Rising, fellow survivors simply stay put until you're ready to leave and - upon finishing that particular level - they warp to your 'base camp' where they stand silently and stare at you until you either send them off on retrieval quests or simply tell 'em to off, pack up their things and leave. Sure, they can bring back food or fuel from their little misadventures - but it is mostly futile as, upon finding food and bringing it back to your base camp, they will likely need to use all of the food they found to heal themselves anyway - if not more from your own supply.
Daryl's ill-planned road trip is also quite underwhelming. With every new article and interview pre-release (which was few and far between) it began to sound like Survival Instincts had its very own Oregon Trail-like distraction. Again, sounds good on paper: you make sure you have enough supplies for your trip, and while choosing your next destination you are presented with three paths to take: back roads that quickly drain your fuel but gives you a random chance to stop somewhere and scavenge, highways with minimal fuel consumption but a very probable chance of having your vehicle break down, and city streets that serve as a balance between the other two choices.
It's just too bad that this is entirely pointless and altogether uninteresting in execution. There is literally no point in worrying about finding enough fuel during your missions because when you do run out - and you will, frequently - your trip is simply paused long enough for Daryl to be dropped in a small map with dozens of cans of gas just lying around everywhere - and at least during my playthrough, it was the exact same location every time this occurred. It also doesn't help that the entire road trip to begin with consists of an Indiana Jones-styled map with a dotted course streaking across your screen.
All of this could be forgiven, however, if the simple act of killing zombies was fun, fresh and joyously entertaining... so it's too bad that the basic gameplay is not. Throughout each map Daryl can pick up, use and keep a small handful of melee weapons (lead pipes, baseball bats, machetes, hatchets) and guns (revolver, high-powered pistol, pump shotgun, double-barreled shotgun, hunting rifle with scope, assault rifle) to wield at any given time. It's just too bad that using them is such a drag, as melee attacks boil down to either tapping the right trigger to do quick swipes or holding it down for a heavy attack. That's it, aside from a half-assed shove Daryl can do (that only seems to connect half of the time) and a quick unvarying stealth execution from behind.
I will say this, though: I am very glad that the developers handled gunplay the way that they did. It's a well known fact in the Walking Dead universe that even a single gunshot can cause whole herds to teleport seemingly out of nowhere to threaten the lives of the main cast, and it is no different in this game. Using guns even momentarily will cause small groups of walkers to spawn in the area to run limp quickly to your position. It's quite comical.
Despite all of this, though, there are surely Walking Dead fans that will check this game out solely to see the early exploits of Daryl Dixon and his racist psycho of a brother, Merle. I know that's why I gave this a try. Do yourself a favor: don't. The story is non-existent, delivered only through sparse (and, sadly, poorly recited) lines of dialogue in-game. I remember only two cutscenes - one coming at the end of the intro tutorial, and the other at the very end of the game - if you can even CALL that an ending. Indeed, anyone hoping to see how these characters meet up with Shane and Dale's RV gang from season one of the show will be truly disappointed - this game simply doesn't lead to that in any way whatsoever, and there is in fact ZERO reference to any of the other main characters from the show - other than one NPC being the father of a certain widely-hated female character.
Bland gameplay, half-assed survival mechanics and a non-existent story all prove that this rushed product simply cannot live up to fan expectations. Zombies are few in number unless you intentionally fire off a gun to summon them, NPC survivors contribute nothing, the 'story' is pathetic and the interaction between brothers Daryl and Merle - the main selling point for this game - is frustratingly limited, with Merle showing up only halfway through the game before quickly disappearing until the grand (HA!) finale.
Even at a low launch price of about $40 I can't recommend this to anyone.
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