Following the success of the television show, developer Terminal Reality sets out to create something that both fans of the show and zombie lovers alike would love and enjoy. Survival Instinct puts you in the boots of Daryl and as him, you must find out what on earth is happening in the world around you whilst trying to locate your brother Merle. All events in the game happen before Atlanta, so essentially it’s a back story of the two brothers, though it isn’t a very exciting one. Sadly for us, you can only play as Daryl and there are no co-op elements in which a friend could join in with the fun – a missed opportunity. I would like to have seen some co-op aspects, especially as Merle is such a great character alongside his brother.
The entire game has you sneaking around the different environments using certain gameplay mechanics to distract the walking dead in your path. Bottles, radios and other such devices can be used to create a sound in which the dead will investigate and move away from you. You can use any means to take them out and that includes being stealthy or going in guns blazing, most of my time was spent dispatching enemies using the quick push tactic in which I would push an enemy, walk around them as they stumbled and stick a knife in their head. Knifing enemies takes too long, three to four slices at least to take them out, and using any kind of weapon which using ammo is sure to create a problem as they’re too noisy, there really isn’t much else to do unless you want to get yourself killed quicker than normal.
This way of taking out enemies did become a grinding task halfway through the game, though it’s here that you are able to pick up and use the infamous crossbow, making taking out enemies easier. Though I must mention that the game did become laughingly unbelievable once the crossbow was unlocked as sitting on top of a car allowed you to take out huge numbers of enemies from far and close range without being attacked by the surrounding dead.
Traveling around isn’t very creative either, when you reach the end of the level you simply select which route you’d like to take, who you’d like to bring along with you and what you’re like to bring along with you. It’s also worth mentioning that you are confined to each area once you reach it, there is no free roam/open world which would have been a bonus. There is a unique system used when traveling however, taking the highway for example will use up more fuel, but there will be less stops (to find goodies) and less chances to breakdown, taking the streets will consume less fuel but there are more chances to breakdown. If you do breakdown, you must scavenge the area for a new part and sometimes you can choose to stop just to look for more supplies and fuel. You also have the option to pick up new vehicles during certain areas by collecting car keys, the vehicles that carry more people are better and usually allow you to store more supplies from your trips.
Throughout your journey you will come across survivors, some will automatically tag along with you when spoken to but others will want something done for them first. Survivors can either be brought with you or you can leave them at the roadside, it’s your choice. While you’re doing missions you can allow these people to carry weapons (or not) and go out scavenging for fuel, food or ammo for when you get back. They will either come back successful, empty handed or not at all. There really is no point to these survivors in the end, you have all the supplies you need by going out yourself, though having certain survivors with you at the end of the game will unlock special ‘cheats’ such as unlimited ammo which for some people might create a re-playability factor.
You have an inventory in which you can hold a certain amount of items, before you begin each new area you can equip particular items and move some over to the vehicle you’re using to store them for a later time. You really don’t need to take much with you, many of the areas in the game carry more than a couple of useful items so you will always find yourself coming to the end of an area with yet another full inventory. It would have helped more if ammo, food and other supplies were in fact in short supply, it would have made the game feel more survival horror than it actually is.
Weapons such as pistols, shotguns and so on are pretty useless unless you’re surround by the undead, in fact the only time you’ll see yourself being surround by the undead will be during specific set scenes and only when you fire these noisy things in the first place. Noise and smells draws the zombies in, so unless you want a challenge on your hands, I’d suggest going on silently, but the choice is yours. Running for too long will produce sweat and your screen will start to create droplets around the edges, slightly disturbing, but a unique technique I’ve never seen before.
Visually, this isn’t anything special, the zombies look like pieces of cardboard with some red dribble and the surrounding environments are the same. This is a real shame as if more time were to be spent on how the game looked I’d like to think it would have been much better.
Voice-acting however, is top notch, though no expenses have been spared as Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus, the actors from the television show are voicing their respective characters. To be really honest, this is the only part of the game that I really enjoyed whilst playing through it, take that as you will. Environmental, weaponry and other sounds are mediocre at best and don’t give much to the game as a whole. Zombies make the same pitched growl almost constantly and sometimes you will find that a zombie is in fact in another room or on the outside of a building, but you’re sure that the noise is coming from right beside you thus causing some jump fest moments.