The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a first-person shooter from Terminal Reality and publisher Activision, placing you in the rugged redneck boots of Daryl Dixon during the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse in a quest to re-unite Daryl with his older brother Merle Dixon.
The Walking Dead is hot property at the moment, so it comes as no surprise that Activision thought it would be a good idea to re-create the universe in the form of a first-person shooter. It’s not a bad idea either, in fact, it’s one of the better ideas that Activision has had in recent times, unfortunately the execution is less than stellar, with bland graphics, boring gameplay and a game that reeks of lazy cash-in, you’re better off avoiding The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a prequel, set before the events of AMC’s The Walking Dead television show. Remember the golden rule about prequels being turds? We’ve recently had a couple of exceptions to the rule in the form of God of War: Ascension, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gears of War: Judgement, all fantastic games by their own merits, and all of them prequels to popular franchises. Survival Instinct does one thing right and that’s bringing balance back to the ‘prequels are turds’ rule.
To be fair, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct starts off promising, the eerie theme score from the television show rattles in and for a moment you’re tricked into thinking that you’re going to be in for a great time. Then the music stops and the charade is over, you soon realise that you’ve purchased a turd that the developers didn’t even bother to polish, not even a little bit.
Played from the first-person perspective, any Call of Duty player will be instantly familiar with the gameplay which borrows from the aforementioned franchise as well as 007: Goldeneye Reloaded for its stealth mechanics. The stealth mechanics are a joke, and to be brutally honest broken to the point where I can only describe it with a swear: shit. The gameplay is slow and repetitive, not helped by the non-existent story not being told.
The story not being told is Daryl trying to re-unite with his older redneck brother Merle whilst zombies walk the streets and generally just stink up the place. In order to get to Merle, you’re going to have to drive through a bunch of towns or mini-areas, though you don’t actually get to drive yourself which is a shame as this could have resulted in a decent bit of gameplay where you’d drive along the highway bashing walkers down, instead it’s a missed opportunity and is instead presented in map form, a bit like Indiana Jones but without any of the charm.
So, you’re going along and darn it, you’re out of gas. Naturally, you’ll want to find more, so you check out the area you’re pushed into and start to look around for some supplies, whether it’s food, fuel or ammo, whilst all the time being among the undead who prowl the streets and alleyways. You can either go in all guns blazing and risk attracting groups of flesh rotters, or take the stealthy approach and pick off the lame-brains with your trusty knife or Daryl’s trademark crossbow. It sounds good right? Reading it back to myself even I’m thinking “damn that sounds interesting and fun,” but in reality, it’s a broken shambles. I know zombies are supposed to be stupid, but when you go up to a group and start stabbing or shooting, you at least expect some sort of reaction, at the very least a zombie attempting to have a nibble. Instead, you’re faced with stupid AI that doesn’t respond to your gameplay choices, it seems random. Sometimes you’ll be able to walk up to 3-4 walkers and not get noticed until you are able to see the poorly rendered teeth of the undead, other times you’ll be going all out Splinter Cell: Redneck Edition and alert the horde even when you can’t see them! To put it simply, the best way to go about your business is to do as Activision intended: Call of Duty it. By that I mean just go in with a gun and pick off the undead with hot lead. This works with Call of Duty because the enemies can shoot back, providing an incentive to take care, however, in The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct the enemies are slow moving targets that can be done away with pretty quick thanks to the unresponsive AI.
This is pretty much how The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct goes on for the short 5-6 hours it takes to finish the ‘story.’ The gameplay can be extended by enlisting the help of other survivors that you’ll encounter on your travels to different towns, different towns that look exactly the same that is, but ultimately there’s no point in using the people you meet. They’re pointless and it’s usually quicker to just go and fetch whatever it is you need by yourself, all the while blazing through a la Call of Duty, then moving on to the next familiar locale.
Rinse and repeat, and that’s the Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct could have been fantastic, it could have been so much more, but unfortunately it’s nothing more than a shameless cash-in on a popular license. Lacking any kind of visuals to keep you interested, a story that isn’t really a story and repetitive gameplay across repetitive locations and you’ve got yourself a stinking, steaming pile of rotting zombie crap. Once again, Activision have taken a beloved franchise and bastardised, raped and ruined it, just to make a quick buck.
Story: If it’s a thrilling, dramatic and emotional tale you’re looking for then look again because there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before, or done quite so badly. 1.0
Gameplay: Boring, repetitive and broken. Nothing more than a rushed cash-in. Basically Call of Zombies: Redneck Ops. 2.0
Graphics: By todays standards, they’re rubbish. Even Aliens: Colonial Marines looks good in comparison. Characters look like plastic moulds and zombies come in about 7 variations. Visual fidelity wasn’t a high priority, obviously. 4.0
Sound: The highlight is the voice acting, with Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker providing the voices for their in-game character. The familiar theme music is also top-notch, but seeing as neither of these are original creations from the developers or Activision, they don’t deserve the credit, instead they sit beside the bland and repetitive sound design. Bland and repetitive is a recurring theme with this one… 3.5
Replay Value: There are Trophies and Achievements to get, but that requires playing through maybe one or two more times, something you’ll not want to do unless you’re in the mood for some digital self harm, in which case, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct will do you fine. 1.0
Final Score: 2.3/10 – Please, please, please, please, please do not waste your time. If you really want to take on the zombies, rent it, or borrow if off one of your lesser informed friends. Otherwise, check out Telltales’ The Walking Dead for the story and the Left 4 Dead series for proper first-person zombie slaying. Shame on you Activision, shame on you.
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Release Date: March 19th 2013
Developer: Terminal Reality
Genre: First-Person Shooter/Action/Adventure
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
Version Tested: Xbox 360
Review copy bought at retail by the reviewer.