Well, Michael Rooker, a good game with Merle and Daryl would be better than that. Yes, Activision has once again milked a licensed product much to the dismay of the video game community. For anyone who actually bought this game, your wallet has successfully performed harikiri on itself with your pocket knife. That is how bad this game is. I feel sorry for Walking Dead fans in particular. I am a viewer of the show; however, I wouldn't call myself an avid fan of it, but I can wholeheartedly defend this show from this poor excuse of a video game adaptation.
I thought Man vs Wild the video game was laughably bad, but here comes The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct that rushes to the starting line screaming, "Wait until you see how frustratingly bad I can get". This game was supposed to emulate the days of the Dixon brothers before they meet up with Rick's group. It is this concept for the game that wasn't done well. Then there are the gameplay concepts that don't do any better. The ideas are there, but this game fails consistently with every single one of them. We are talking major moments of failure like when someone actually thinks that Playstation All-Stars is on the Xbox 360.
Since this game is supposed to be a prequel of sorts for the Dixon brothers, let's talk about that first. The story starts off with the father of Daryl and Merle getting slaughtered by the walkers. Daryl and his uncle come across the dying father. They give him mercy by shooting him in the head. Daryl and his uncle proceed to evacuate their residence with Daryl reinforcing that Merle needs to know what happened, while they head toward Atlanta.
From the beginning, I encountered many graphical problems. Keep in mind that this was all in the first level. The moment you get control of Daryl and explore the environment you will quickly realize that attention to detail was not on the agenda here. For example, objects can suddenly disappear into thin air. I was trying to sneak up to a walker to kill it by using a table as cover, but the table vanished. If I took a shot for every time something disappeared in the game, I wouldn't be standing (much less coherent) by the end of this five and a half hour cash-in.
Texture loading is absent for many objects in the world. You will see objects that you can identify as a can, corpse, and furniture, but notice that everything is choppy and blurry. I'm standing next to a corpse that a walker was eating just waiting to see if its textures will load up. Amazing that poor programming catches my eye more so than the execution animations. Just to amuse myself, I waited for five minutes. This resulted in no progression on any texture loading. This becomes more commonplace in the rest of the game. It is also coupled with bad character design that has barely any detail and fighting the same six models used for the walkers.
Speaking of the enemies, the walkers are dumb as rocks in this game. These are AI levels of idiocy that rival the xenomorphs from Aliens: Colonial Marines. I know that zombies are generally stupid. In the case of these zombies, they can be so dumb that they may not react to you hitting them with a bat. That or they will become extremely hostile upon the slightest footstep you take. For the most part, they do react like a horror based zombie would, but there are many times that you can catch them doing some pretty stupid things. Walking forward into a wall for minutes on end, flailing their arms at the air for no apparent reason, and mindlessly breaking a door to pass it despite Daryl being behind them are just a few things I saw.
Weapons cover your shotguns, handguns, molotoves, grenades, and assault rifles that you have seen in zombie games dozens of times over. Of course, you have Daryl's signature crossbow which can or cannot be effective. Walkers shuffle their way quickly toward you making precision aiming to the head a chore so hip fire is the way to go, but a risk. The one good thing about it is that you can retrieve the bolts. You can assuredly use that when you're out of ammunition with firearms; however, firearms appear to be highly discouraged in this game as you are penalized with many walkers zeroing in on you and doing so rather quickly.
When I think about it, melee combat really is the way to go, despite Daryl being able to hold ten different items. So, you can hold more than two firearms (whereas holding only two firearms in video games is something I despise), but it's all for not when the walkers respawn and are faster than their television counterparts. Which brings me to area control and clearing out walkers: it's pointless. They respawn in areas you previously cleared, are purposely placed at corners to initiate the grappling mechanic (which I hate), and are nigh impossible to evade from one end of a zone to the other.
The grappling mechanic seems broken. I say "seems broken" because there is a trophy for killing a certain amount of walkers in one grappling chain. That means that the possibility of getting this trophy was made on purpose. The whole idea seems feasible, but is ultimately squandered because once you're surrounded by walkers you are screwed. There is a split second between walkers grabbing Daryl where they can swing their arms at you causing damage before the next walker grabs you and if your health gets too low then the chances of Daryl getting bitten by the walker he's grappling with are extremely high. In the end, this mechanic is just having walkers stare at their watches as they wait in line for their turn to get stabbed in the face.
One gameplay mechanic that had real potential was managing survivors and their inventory. This really could have been cool. I was thinking that we would go out into a mission, clear out walkers, and take back a lot of supplies. Undead kill squad for the win, right? Well, "wrong" is the word that comes to mind. After all, this is an Activision cash-in game. Instead, you supply your crew with weapons that are appropriate for them which make them more effective in the field and lower their risk of dying, while sending them out by themselves. You can have them stay at the car (where they will be guaranteed safety) or scavenge for fuel, food, or ammunition.
Here's the kicker where this idea shows its utter pointlessness: they always come back hurt and with barely any supplies to show for it. I found more fuel, food, and ammunition by myself then three of my survivors combined! There is no incentive to even allow them to leave the car. Hell, there's no incentive to even have other survivors with you, but the game forces them on you anyway through scripted events. Any food you find or they find will have to go to them to raise their health back up in order to send them out again on their own, but I just gave up on that because I'm more reliable than they are.
Another thing that makes survivors pointless to have are the vehicles. You can unlock vehicles by finding the keys that go to them in pretty much the major missions. Each vehicle can seat anywhere between one to three extra seats for survivors, plus have extra inventory space. If you don't have enough room for survivors, then they can't go with you, but they never plead their case to stay with you or revolt at your decision to leave them behind. There's no emotional attachment or further interaction with them whatsoever. What sucks is that this is what the show always stresses: emotion in times of strife.
When traveling, your vehicle will spend gas depending on what type of road you take. You have back roads, streets, and the highway. Back roads cause you to consume more gas, have a low chance of a vehicle breakdown, and have a high chance of scavenging missions. Streets cause you to consume a medium amount of gas, a medium chance of a vehicle breakdown, and have a medium chance of stopping for a side mission. Highways cause you to consume less gas, have a high chance of a vehicle breakdown, and a low chance of stopping for supplies.
The side missions from this are varied. It goes from avoiding a large group of walkers to moving cars blocking the road to finding a survivor in need of help to finding parts needed to fix up your vehicle. This adds more to the game. It should be noted, though, that the areas you go to are not all that expansive. Conveniently placed vehicles and invisible walls prevent you from exploring an area entirely. Sometimes Daryl will just say that he should go back. Even then, the locations are repetitive and it's very obvious when they mirror a location around to make it seem like you're somewhere new, but you aren't. Also, should you want to actually go out and do a side mission by choosing the back roads, there is a chance that you will not stop due to a scripted event. If you hear a voice over while traveling, you will not stop. So you might end up wasting a lot of gas for no reason, which happened to me twice and from then on I just stuck to highways.
Sound quality is okay at best. The walkers do sound like their television counterparts. Voice acting can be pretty solid. This is especially considering that we have Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker reprising their characters. The game doesn't do them justice, though. Merle is barely in the game and doesn't aid you in missions, while Daryl doesn't feel as resourceful as he could be.
Replay value is very low considering that there is only the single player campaign that you can beat in less than six hours. The collectibles hold no real interest, the sudden ending is lazy and terrible, Merle is absent for most of the game, and every unique idea fails to live up to actual use. It really has no redeeming features to go back to other than the branching paths that you take when going to Atlanta to see different locations and have a bit of a new game plus mode by having certain survivors with you at the end and you get new abilities that you can activate for the entire game, but you can only activate one.
The game pretty much can be summed up with this premise: find this person or object, kill walkers while scavenging, find person or object, get jumped by dozens of walkers for no apparent reason. Rinse and repeat is the formula here that is accompanied by their unique concepts that fall short time and time again. It is baffling that Terminal Reality can make a fantastic Ghostbusters game, but follow up with Star Wars Kinect and now The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. Ghostbusters had heart and soul, so why was there not enough time and effort put into a game based on a popular television series?
Well, some could attribute that to the overlord in this equation: Activision. Activision is notorious for making quick buck games that take advantage of other licensed products just to get a piece of the pie. It is blatantly seen at various moments that this game was rushed and clearly not done. I have a question to developers and publishers: is it really that difficult to have game testers try out the finished product before releasing it? You know, so you don't have a bunch of angry consumers wanting to impale your reputation on a rusty spike? My recommendation is to pass on this game and save your fifty dollars.