After gorging themselves on the mobile and console episodes developed by Telltale Games, fans of the Walking Dead TV series will be chomping at the bit to get their teeth into this fully-fledged console adventure. But while Telltale based itself on the original comic-books and made character development and backstory as important as any zombie bashing, Terminal Reality’s attempt at a Walking Dead FPS is fatally flawed.
Although the game is designed to be a stealthy experience where players creep up on the undead and stab them in the head before any other walkers notice, it only takes a few minutes to realise that you can simply sprint past most enemies, bolt straight to the end of the level, then pick off the handful of shamblers that block your way to the next stage. Worse, while being surrounded by a group of slavering walkers is an unnerving experience, the dead in Survival Instinct are bewilderingly polite and form an orderly queue to attack you one-by-one in dramatic quick time events, which are remarkably easy to win and require less skill than picking enemies off using standard shooting or stabbing.
Fans of the series will be delighted to see Norman Reedus reprising his role as Daryl Dixon, and his likeness and voice add weight to the experience and make it feel like a genuine prequel to the TV narrative. However, any warm feelings you get from this casting soon fade once the action begins, especially when you find yourself exploring the same boring areas over and over again while scavenging for fuel and supplies. And even though Survival Instinct gives itself a perfect opportunity to develop peripheral characters through the other survivors Dixon encounters along the way, these tedious zombie-dodgers amount to little more than extra slots in your inventory, are devoid of personality and intrigue, and are unnecessary baggage you’ll be happy to ditch once they’ve served their purpose.
If you’re looking for a game that paints a grim picture of what a zombie apocalypse might feel like, the mobile adventure Organ Trail does a better job of creating a tense atmosphere and making you care about your companions. But as Organ Trial is a clever retro parody that’s designed to look like a 1970s Apple II game, it beautifully illustrates what a crushing disappointment this contemporary Walking Dead adventure is.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen