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The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct PS3 Review

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The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

Image © Activision
There are mediocre games, bad games, movie tie-ins, truly awful games, "Duke Nukem Forever," and then there's "The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct," one of the worst games I've ever played in decades of gaming. This game is a train wreck on every level. It's so bad that it makes me like the AMC show and even Telltale Games' brilliant game (which made my top ten last year) slightly less by association. Awful graphics, horrendous gameplay, nearly inoperable action, abysmal load times, bad dialogue, and just no sense of what a gamer is looking for in a 2013 PS3 experience -- you almost need to play "The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct" just so you have a low water mark with which to compare other bad games. "It's bad, but it's not as bad as Survival Instinct."

Game Details

  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Terminal Reality
  • ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
  • Genre: Action
  • Release Date: March 19, 2013
  • Pros: Norman Reedus & Michael Rooker Reprise Great Characters, Concept is Clever
  • Cons: Execution Fails on Every Level From Horrendous Gameplay to Awful Graphics

You play the great Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), one of the more popular characters in the history of the show. Daryl and his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) are traveling through the South after the zombie apocalypse, trying to find supplies, gas, and killing hundreds of walkers. Resources are hard to come by and Daryl has to choose his shots carefully, sneak past groups of zombies he can't kill, and use his handy knife or hammer more often than his firepower. Guns bring more zombies. Knives are quieter. And harder to use in this silly game that, clearly, has an interesting premise upon which nothing was built.

Gameplay

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

Image © Activision

Have you ever wanted to get into a slap fight with a zombie? You can now! Most of the action in "Survival Instinct" is melee-based. If you're lucky, you'll sneak up behind the bad guy and drive a knife into his brain. If you're less lucky, you'll come face-to-face and smack him with a knife three or four times. Or, if you want to have some fun, just push him over and over and over again because it's just so ridiculous to do so. If you're unlucky, the zombie gets the leap on you and you have to time an R2 hit with his head to impale it. Damage is entirely random. Especially when you're using the four-slash technique to a zombie's head, in which you'll often take damage despite there being no visual cue on the screen to indicate you should.

"The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct" is just a mess. I could list dozens of notes I took while playing like "weapon switching times are hysterical...is my knife in a locked bag?" but perhaps this story best indicates the complete lack of development in the game. This is the kind of title in which you can explore a powerless building for 20 minutes, go outside, turn around and come back in and KNOW that your dumb protagonist will, once again, say, "Hmmm....power's out" as if he didn't know that already. That was maybe acceptable in 2002. It's long been simply not OK for that kind of character inconsistency and lazy development to pass in anything more than an arcade game. Especially not in a $50 standalone title. And we used to say things like, "This might have worked as a $10 downloadable title" but that's not even true when you can play the amazing Telltale Games version through the PSN right now. The downloadable tie-in to AMC's hit show (actually more to the Robert Kirkman comic) absolutely destroys the licensed, Activision-published action version. It's interesting to think what this says about where gaming is going in the '10s.

Graphics & Sound

It's just hideous. The zombie animations are inconsistent and ugly. The buildings are nondescript. The environments cannot be impacted. The human characters look stupid. Even the sound mix is lackluster. There's just a notable lack of detail that doesn't pass in 2013. When you enter an old building, shelves may be on their sides but there's little debris, no dust, no play of light or shadows, etc. It feels virtually incomplete at times.

Overall

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

Image © Activision
The idea wasn't bad. "The Walking Dead" is about surviving more than it is about killing zombies. OK, so let's start there. We make a title that gives players very limited resources, upping the fear factor by leaving them with tough decisions on when to use that final bullet and when to run. I like that. And yet video games don't exist on paper. Everything after that high concept was poorly conceived and even more poorly executed. The idea wasn't bad but the end result is undeniably awful.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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