Following the success of AMC’s television show, developer Terminal Reality has set out to create something that both fans of the show, comics, and zombie lovers alike would enjoy. Survival Instinct puts you in the boots of Daryl – you know, the interesting one – as you locate your brother Merle. All events in the game happen before Atlanta, so essentially it’s the brothers’ backstory. There’s no switching between characters and no co-op – we’re not off to a good start, are we?
Shambling Gameplay and Game Mechanics
The entire game has you utilizing stealth to move around the world. making use of particular gameplay mechanics to distract the dead. Bottles and radios, for example, can be used to create sounds which the dead will investigate and move accordingly. You can use any means you see fit to dispose of your enemies and most of my time was spent using the “quick push tactic” in which I would push an enemy, walk around them as they stumbled and insert my knife into their cranium. There really weren’t many other ways to kill if I wanted to stay stealthy. Striding into town guns blazing is always an option but with limited ammo, unless you scavenge each area, there really is no point.
The “quick push tactic” became a grind halfway through the game but it’s around this point that you finally have access to Daryl’s famous crossbow. Obtaining this weapon makes the rest of the game a joke – no really. Sit atop of a vehicle or any raised platform and crossbow your way to victory. You only have to stop to retrieve more ammo and then you can continue.
Travel Everywhere – Just Pick One
Before playing this game I was under the impression that Survival Instinct was something of an open-world game in which you were free to explore. This is sadly not the case and the linear areas between awful travel mechanics are truly disappointing. When you reach the end of a section you are presented with a route selection – usually two paths. It is here you can also decide who you’d like to bring along with you and what items you’d like to bring with you.
The environments are boringly linear and there’s no real opportunity to roam which is a shame. This is a missed opportunity on the developers part, especially with The Walking Dead series being so open and daunting. There are some larger areas towards the end of the game but this doesn’t make up for the linearity during most of the game.
Are We There Yet?
When traveling there are a few decisions to make which will either help or hinder you. For example, taking the highway will use up more fuel but there will be fewer opportunities to make a stop and restock on supplies. Taking the streets will consume less fuel, give more opportunities to resupply but at an increased risk of a breakdown. If you are unlucky enough to breakdown and prolong your gameplay, you must scavenge the area for the items you need.
Fortunately, the developers did put a small amount of variety with the option to acquire new vehicles in certain areas by collecting car keys found in random places. The vehicles that carry more people are generally better and allow you to store more supplies from your trips but you can travel however you want – I won’t judge.
Let Them Die or Let Them Live?
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. The great thing about survivors is that you make the final decision regarding their future – take them with you or kick ’em to the curb.
It should be mentioned that survivors aren’t completely useless. While you are completing missions you can allow these people to carry weapons (or not – I’m so cruel) to go out scavenging for fuel, food or ammo for when you get back. There are only two outcomes and I’m sure you can figure out what has potentially happened if they don’t appear before you leave.
There isn’t a point to these survivors in the end as you will have obtained all the supplies you will need by going out yourself, though having particular survivors with you at the end of the game will unlock special “‘cheats” such as unlimited ammo.
Is This Going to Fit?
All items you pick up are contained in your backpack and like all other games, you can only carry so much. Some of these items can be stored in your vehicle but spaces on your person are limited. You don’t need to take much with you as many of the areas contain handfuls of useful items so you will more often than not find yourself coming to the end of an area with yet another full inventory.
The survival factor would have been increased if ammo, food and other supplies were in short supply. As it currently stands the game doesn’t feel like the “survival” game that is touted as – far from.
Weapons which use live rounds are useless unless you’re surrounded by the undead and the only time you’ll see yourself being surrounded is during set scenes. Noise and smells do draw the zombies in, but as I have already mentioned there really isn’t much of a challenge to begin with so this isn’t an issue. Running for too long will produce sweat and your screen will start to create droplets around the edges – this just falls on the disgusting side of things.
Audio and Graphics
You’re going to get a shock when it comes to graphics but not in a good way – this is no Red Dead Redemption of its time. The zombies look like pieces of cardboard and the environments feel bland and empty. For a game based on a much-loved franchise I expected more of an effort on the developers part and I certainly would have thought Robert Kirkman would have wanted more from this title than what is presented.
The voice acting, however, is the best part of this game. Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus play their respective characters and do a great job – even with a limiting script. It’s a sad time when the only part of a video game you enjoyed is the voice acting but it is how it is.
Environmental, weapon and other sounds are mediocre at best and don’t add much to the game as a whole. Zombies make the same mid-pitched growl constantly and I did find that these noises sounded as though they were beside me but were in fact in the alley outside or two rooms over. Talk about confusing.