As a leading videogame publisher Activision gets a very bad rap from the core audience. Using their big name projects to finance the more debatable releases, one would have thought that their commercial releases to fund titles for the core audience would’ve been exactly what gamers wanted. However, it seems that rarely do this audience know what’s good for them, and that’s exactly the case with The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
From the off, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is not a great videogame. It’s not a particularly good one in any respect, but in the same regard it’s not awful either. It’s challenging and occasionally inventive. It’s entirely playable and at no point could you say that it’s ‘broken,’ as is the far too commonly misused criticism. The problem is that for every moment of intrigue and respectable invention, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is hampered by sloppy design or loathsome AI. The videogame reeks of a product that could’ve done with another three or four months in development, but the fact that it’s some of the core fundamentals that are flawed suggests that the development team at Terminal Reality realised that this was never going to be a high quality product from day one.
A first-person shooter (FPS) that challenges the player to conserve ammo and rely more regularly on melee weapons opposed to fire arms, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is more Condemned than Dead Island in its gunplay. The grab attacks are a weak point in the system, though their escape mechanic is an interesting take on the QTE, and the fact that the variety of melee weapons seem to have little difference between them is disappointing. It’s outside of the combat that The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct makes it’s most successful strides however, especially in those moments of calm.
A large amount of your time in the world of The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct will be spent exploring, looking for vital supplies: ammo, food and fuel. Fuel is required to travel from one location to another, as is the core innovation the videogame offers. Players need to secure a vehicle and decide how to travel, be it on the highway to conserve fuel or on the backstreets with more chance of finding supplies. This kind of small superficial management happens before and after each action sequence too, with the player able to decide what tasks their fellow survivors should partake in and what equipment they are allowed to use.
Completing the circle of gameplay design is finding the survivors, with many optional allies requiring minor tasks to be completed at each location before coming with you. It’s a simple mechanic but one which – coupled with the resource hunting – gives you reason to continue, pulling you through every door and into every nook and cranny.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct has more than its share of flaws, and though they appear more immediately than the more interesting aspects of the videogame any amount of perseverance will lead any discerning gamer to the belief that there is entertainment to be had here. There’s been a debate in recent years about the elimination of the ‘middle tier’ of videogame productions, with the belief being that you are either AAA or indie. The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct stares these claims down; delivering a product that when taken on board with an open mind has enough new ideas to be considered a worthwhile attempt at creating something bigger.