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The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Review (X360)

About.com Rating 1.5 Star Rating

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The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Review (X360)
Activision
Activision and Terminal Reality's take on The Walking Dead franchise is, well, pretty half-assed to put it bluntly. Survival Instinct has all of the hallmarks of a bad licensed game - ugly graphics, lack of modes, bad gameplay, undercooked mechanics that could have been interesting if properly developed, and a poor narrative all with a handful of nods to the license shoehorned in to get fans' attention. Even the biggest Walking Dead fan shouldn't subject themselves to this mess, however. The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is just a bad game.
Game Details

  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Terminal Reality
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: Shooter
  • Pros: There is actual gameplay in this Walking Dead game ...
  • Cons: ... but that gameplay is terrible; respawning zombies; ugly graphics; pointless survivor mechanics; lack of modes; poor narrative; totally half-assed all around

The first thing that needs to be said is that Survival Instinct has absolutely nothing to do with Telltale Games' The Walking Dead. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Whether or not you enjoyed that game should have no impact on whether you should play Survival Instinct. They are just two separate games attached to the same license.

With that out of the way, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a prequel of sorts to the AMC "The Walking Dead" TV show and has you playing as Daryl Dixon right when the zombie apocalypse starts to spread. The game centers around Daryl trying to find his brother Merle with, of course, a lot of other survivors and a horde of the undead popping up along the way. While the TV show focuses on the human drama of things, Survival Instinct doesn't have much drama. Or a story. Or any real characters other than Daryl and Merle. There are other survivors you come across, but none of them matter (more on that later). Bad fan fiction has more heart and soul than this.

Gameplay

Activision
The gameplay is even more dreary. It is a first-person-shooter, but dumb and broken. Your weapons - pistols, rifles, shotguns, and Daryl's signature crossbow - all feel awful to actually use and the guns draw huge crowds of zombies due to how much noise they make. Your other option is to use melee weapons like hatchets, machetes, fire axes, or blunt weapons to beat the zombies' brains in until they're dead. The melee weapons are horribly slow, however, and typically take 2-3 hits to even kill a zombie, so by the time you kill one you more than likely have a crowd around you, in which case you're screwed. There is a silly mechanic where a zombie will grab you and then you do a simple QTE to stab them in the head and get away, but when you're surrounded you just get passed from zombie to zombie to zombie until you either kill them all or they slap you around enough to kill you. Your best bet is to either sneak around to avoid detection, which the game suggests, or you can just run past all of the zombies and pretty much ignore them, which is what I suggest. And if you need to fight, all you have to do is stand on a dumpster or a car or something, and then the zombies can't hurt you so you just bash their brains in one by one. Fighting isn't recommended, though, since even if you clear out an area, more zombies just randomly magically spawn right behind you anyway. It kind of makes sense to have zombies indefinitely pouring out of the woodwork if you linger too long, but they shouldn't be spawning right next to you. That is just stupid.

The other main mechanic of the game is that you have a vehicle (that you don't drive, you just "drive" on menus) that constantly needs gas or parts to fix it, so you have to stop now and then to scavenge. You can find health items, ammo, weapons, fuel, parts, and even new vehicles in these areas, which is kind of cool. When driving on the map, you have the option of taking backroads, main roads, or the highway - all of which offer different fuel mileage, scavenging opportunities, and probability of breaking down, which is also pretty neat. Not so neat, however, is that the scavenging points are all the same handful of maps used over and over and over again. That coupled with the stupid, stupid first-person gameplay doesn't make for much fun.

Survivors also play a role in Survival Instinct, but not the way you'd hope. You meet new people along the way who will join your group. You can give them weapons and health items and then send them out to find ammo or fuel or something. The problem is that they only recover a fraction of the stuff you find, so they aren't really worth it. On top of that, your vehicle only holds so many people, so you have to give a survivor the boot once in a while. Instead of it being a dramatic heart-wrenching decision, however, there is no drama whatsoever. You just make a menu selection and they leave without a word. That right there encapsulates everything that is wrong with Survival Instinct - there is no drama or hard decisions or any repercussions for anything you do. It is all completely and utterly pointless.

A lot of these ideas are actually pretty good on paper, but are executed absolutely terribly in the game. What you end up with is a boring game full of half-finished mechanics and bad gameplay that won't satisfy even the most die-hard fan of "The Walking Dead". The final nail in the coffin is that there isn't anything to do outside of the short 5-hour campaign (which isn't replayable at all due to the bland gameplay). And they wanted full $50-60 MSRP for this?

Graphics & Sound

To top it all off, the presentation is just freaking terrible. The actors from the show lend their likenesses and voices for Daryl and Merle, and they at least look and sound okay, but everything else is just awful. There are only a handful of zombie models, so it isn't uncommon to be surrounded by 15 zombies that only have 3 different character models between them. The environments are also extremely bland and lack detail and have a general blurry repetitive ugliness to them. It looks like an Xbox 360 launch game (but actually worse, COD2 and PD Zero still look better than this) and not something you'd expect in year 8 on the system.

Bottom Line

Activision
All in all, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is just a bad forgettable game that we can't recommend. It badly misses the mark in pretty much every area and isn't worth the time or cash to play it. Don't be fooled by the appealing license. Zombie movies and TV shows are no stranger to mediocre videogame tie-ins, but even Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green wasn't this bad. Skip it.
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