Licensed games. The mere utterance of those two words quickly sends chills down any experienced gamer's spine. While there have been some successful licensed titles, such as the Batman: Arkham franchise, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct sets a whole new low for tie-in products. There is no "so bad it's good" value to this game. It's so bad it's terrible.
Who would have thought Daryl would be the one to lead us astray?
On paper, a prequel to the AMC television show about fan favorite character Daryl Dixon managing his own group of survivors, as well as their supplies such as food and gasoline, sounds interesting. Daryl has just come back into town from a hunting trip to see crazed townsfolk gnawing on each other and decides he has to find out what has happened to his brother, Merle. The game starts out great when the title screen begins playing the show's now-iconic theme, but the quality instantaneously drops upon hitting the start button. Controls are horribly bloated, the graphics are a generation off, and combat is nothing short of abhorrent.
Throughout the game, players have the opportunity to find firearms such as pistols, rifles, shotguns, and Daryl's trusty crossbow. A handful of melee weapons, like knives and hatchets, are also available for silently taking down walkers. While it is easy to understand the logic behind the encouraged use of melee instruments (guns are loud, knives aren't), playing through a few missions being as stealthy as possible will quickly show how pointless it is. Provided you have enough ammo, running and gunning your way through the streets is both quicker and easier, as no Left 4 Dead-style horde will come running to the sounds of gunshots. Upon running out of ammo, I often found myself sprinting through levels, making sure to route the biters until they gave up the ghost.
Another major disappointment is the game's resource management. During Daryl's aimless travels across the southern United States, players have the option of choosing to take back roads or highways. Choosing the back roads will provide you with more opportunities to search for supplies, but they burn more fuel, whereas highways cost your vehicle little fuel, but are more likely to leave you broken down. In a situation all too common for Survival Instinct, these gameplay mechanics sound appealing; they aren't. Whether you run out of gas or need to fix your rig, the player is dropped into cookie-cutter scenarios where you must either find more petrol or follow your compass to the engine part you require, serving as little more than filler to a game that's less than six hours to begin with.
"Merlenderl. In a game. What could be better than that?" Turns out there's a lot, Mr. Rooker
Throughout his travels, Daryl will also run into other survivors. Talking to them yields new optional objectives, like procuring some food or other essential items, and completing these objectives sometimes allows you to add the survivors to your group, permitted you have enough seats in your vehicle. Ideally you become attached to members of your posse, but that never comes close to happening, making it very easy to kick someone out if you don't have enough seats to accommodate. During your resource stops you can also choose to send out any party members to look for supplies, but this requires them to be equipped with your precious weapons to increase their odds of survival. Ultimately, I found myself never using their services because it was more beneficial to leave them at the safety of the car while I ventured into the recycled, zombie-infested streets alone.
That about wraps up The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. There's no cooperative or competitive multiplayer. Just an absolute mess of half-baked and failed ideas. This is the first time that a game has left me with an utter loss of words.
Developer: Terminal Reality
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC