Following the success of the television show, developer Terminal Reality set out to create something that both fans of the show and zombie lovers alike would enjoy. Survival Instinct puts you in the boots of Daryl and as him, you must 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.
The entire game has you utilising stealth to move around the world using certain gameplay mechanics to distract the walking dead in your path. Bottles, radios and other objects can be used to create a sound in which the dead will investigate and move to investigate. You can use any means to dispose of them 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 aren’t many other ways to kill if you wish to stay stealthy – guns blazing is an option if you wish to be rushed by the locals.
The push and knife combo became a grind halfway through the game, though it’s at this point you are able to finally use Daryl’s now famous crossbow. Upcoming finally ‘unlocking’ this weapon, the game became laughingly easy. Sit atop of a vehicle and crossbow your way to victory.
Open world? No. Ability to travel wherever you want? No. 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 items you’d like to bring with you. When you reach your next area in the world the environments are linear, there’s no real opportunity to roam which is a real shame. There are larger areas towards the end of the game but this doesn’t make up for the linearity early on.
When traveling, there are a few options to take which will either help or hinder you. Taking the highway will use up more fuel, but there will be fewer stops to restock and fewer opportunities breakdown. Taking the streets will consume less fuel, give more opportunities to restock but at an increased risk of a breakdown. If you do breakdown, you must scavenge the area for the part you need to continue or fuel. There is the option to use new vehicles in certain areas by collecting car keys. The vehicles that carry more people are generally better and 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 particular 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 and shotguns are useless unless you’re surround by the undead, in fact the only time you’ll see yourself being surround by them will be during specific set scenes and only when you fire these noisy things in the first place. Noise and smells draw the zombies in, so unless you want a challenge on your hands I’d suggest going in 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 and even more distracting.
Visually this game isn’t anything special. The zombies look like pieces of cardboard with some red dribble and the surrounding environments feel the same. For a game based on a much-loved franchise and which was released in 2013, I expected more of an effort on the developers part.
Voice-acting is the better part of this game as no expenses have been spared as Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus their respective characters. To be honest this is the only part of the game that I really enjoyed whilst playing through it, take that as you will. Environmental, weapon 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. Survival Instinct summed up in as little words as possible would be rushed.