- 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.
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.
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.