Release Date: 3/18/2013
Developer: Terminal Reality
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC (reviewed)
Genre: Action Adventure
I’ll have to admit, I was briefly excited when I saw the Activision logo sequence upon turning on The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything noteworthy from Activision and they’ve created an extensive line-up of A+ games, including the Tony Hawk series, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and that war game franchise, Call of Duty (you may have heard of it?) . Their last release was Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse, one of the worst games of 2012. And, quite honestly, the company may have hit a new low with The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
In fact, Activision and Terminal Reality should be ashamed of themselves for using the licensing of the incredible The Walking Dead series to produce a game of such poor quality to steal money away from unsuspecting fans of the series.
The story isn’t nearly as good as I thought it would be, taking you to pre-Zombie Apocalypse Atlanta through the eyes of Daryl Dixon, as his father has just been swarmed by zombies. While the zombie virus is just beginning to take over the South, you spend most of the game trying to reunite with your brother, Merle, but it won’t take you very long, as you will complete the game in less than six hours. I would have liked a more engaging, captivating story arc for the game, as we have only been teased with Daryl and Merle’s past in the series. You’ll also come across a few fellow survivors along the way, but none are memorable characters.
Survival Instinct plays like a cheap Left 4 Dead knock-off, except there’s no multiplayer. Terminal Reality took all of the things we hate about zombie survival games we’ve seen in the past and decided to throw them all into the game, such as Left 4 Dead’s repetitive gameplay, The War Z’s hammer-smashing zombies to death and the lack of character maneuverability seen in Resident Evil 5. Unfortunately, the game isn’t open world and you’re led to your next objective by a large and intrusive onscreen compass. For the most part, you only have one course to take, with the exception of the occasional fork in the road, which leads to the same destination anyway. There’s a point early in the game where it tells you to go around a flatbed truck, instead of just climbing over it (what the hell?). Mainly, you drive from point A to point B (and by drive, I mean you’re looking at a loading screen with a map), stop to fight through a small horde of zombies in a shantytown to find gas, then rinse and repeat. The game feels more like a gas survival thriller than a zombie survival thriller, as you’ll find yourself hunting for gas more than hunting for zombies.
There are fewer than a dozen different weapons in the game and although you’re told that shooting guns attracts more zombies, you’ll find yourself using your rifle the most for your zombie killing, instead of the suggested hunting knife or hammer just to break from the boredom. You would think that since you’re playing as Daryl Dixon you would be toting a crossbow for the majority of the game. Nope, you don’t even pick up a crossbow until midway through the campaign.
Graphically, the game looks deplorable for a current-gen game, with dull-looking zombies who are uncharacteristic of the television series and lifeless environments that do nothing to please the eye. The Walking Dead series is a show that prides itself in having no two zombies look alike, but that passion for horrific costume design is not shared by Terminal Reality, as there are merely a handful of zombie character models. The cars that are scattered throughout the game are also uninspiring and seem colorless. The shantytown environments all look the same and blood spatters look like they belong in the PlayStation 2 era.
The sound design in Survival Instinct is mostly standard, excluding the opening sequence’s use of the same enjoyable title theme as the television series. You’ll hear other frantic, albeit generic, music as you are being attacked by walkers. Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker lend their voicing talents to the game and it is just about the only highlight that you’re going to get from The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is just another example of extremely poor licensing for a quick cash-in-pocket venture by a large publishing company that can get away with it. We have yet to see a formidable zombie survival thriller hit retail shelves and Survival Instinct is no exception. I’m left to wonder if the developers at Terminal Reality actually even played through their own game and thought the end result was enjoyable. The game greatly disappoints with its lackluster visuals, unexciting gameplay and lack of replayability. Survival Instinct might have The Walking Dead in its title, but it doesn’t have any of The Walking Dead in its veins.