Platforms: PC (Coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2019)
Release Date: November 6th, 2018
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Overkill Software
Publisher: Starbreeze Studios
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is a game set in the world of The Walking Dead universe. Based around four-player co-op, it follows a group of survivors as they defend their camp, scavenge resources and try to survive repeated run-ins with other survivors. If you don’t know much about the game, you can check out my E3 2018 hands-on impressions, as well as some thoughts on the closed beta. Now, let’s dive into the review.
The game opens with a narration from Anderson Banks, a man who loses his wife and child in the outbreak of walkers (zombies). He’s taken in by a new group of survivors, who run him through the ropes of survival in a walker-infested, lawless world. This in turn launches off a series of missions. This group of survivors at their new Camp Anderson are attacked by another group called the family. While the attack is repelled, the Family steals their water purifier, so further confrontation is guaranteed.
Apart from the opening cinematic, the majority of the story is told through extended narration, with visceral, red-and-grey graphic novel-esque pages telling the story that connects the missions. With that said, the story is by no means the major pull here. Heather, Aidan, Grant and Maya (the initial playable characters) simply aren’t interesting. You can walk up to them at camp but they remain static, not really having much to say.
You’re not just facing a few walkers: the hordes can consist of dozens and dozens of walkers and they are truly threatening. You can fight off one that grabs you but if there’s others, you’ll be pushed down and eaten. The walkers respond to noise, investigating anything they can find. Unfortunately, the human enemy AI seems nowhere near as complicated. Once they detect you, they’ll stand still and shoot in your direction, occasionally tossing a grenade. If you’ve used walkers as a distraction, they usually won’t even run away as they get surrounded and eaten. This doesn’t make them less of a threat, because they all have automatic weapons and an infinite amount of ammo, a direct contrast to how you’ll be scavenging and saving bullets.
The game is balanced around multiple players and it shows. If you try any missions by yourself, even on the lowest difficult they’ll prove to be a cumbersome affair. Another important thing to notice is the resources mechanics. When you’re out on missions, you’ll need to gather resources for your base in order to maintain everything and keep your current number of survivors happy. There’s also a variety of base upgrades that unlock new missions.
Anything less than a perfect connection will result in unplayable amounts of lags. Wait times in lobbies tend be long and even on a stable connection, I’ve encountered lots of unusual and weird gltiches, such as being stuck in an infinite loop of reloading my gun, unable to actually fully reload it and continue playing. The lobbies take an incredibly long time to find anyone – I highly recommend just playing with friends – and even if you find someone, it’s liable to time out and disconnect you from the servers.
When it’s working right, this is the game at its most balanced. Combat encounters and progression through the dilapidated city are all based around multiple players, ideally using each of the different characters. If, for example, you need to power on a gate, having everybody scour for parts to repair a generator will go a lot faster than playing by yourself. Each of the different characters have different gear and different weapons that can be unlocked. There’s also a stash where you can store all the extra equipment you’re not using.
The graphics remain relatively unchanged from the beta. While the character models are fine, many of the walkers have blurry or unfinished looks, even on the highest settings. Even on a capable PC, stutter is frequent and it’s difficult to maintain a smooth framerate. Many times, despite anything in particular being on-screen, the framerate would utterly tank. Fortunately, the environments are usually quite detailed, with appropriate clutter and debris while overgrowth is beginning to reclaim different buildings.
One of the best aspects here is the soundtrack. While perhaps not as memorable or catchy as anything from other works related to The Walking Dead, it’s actually more fitting. The dark imagery used in tandem with a more haunting backdrop of music is actually quite interesting, and as a result the music is more brooding compared to anything in the TV show. It reinforces the oppressive, isolated themes and works surprisingly well.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is, quite frankly, a bit of a mess. The potential of the setting, the music and some of the gameplay concepts simply can’t support the rest of the game. Bugs and glitches are commonplace and the base concepts aren’t fully realized.
If you play by yourself, you’re in for an extremely rough experience. If you’ve got some friends who are going to play as well, then there is fun to be extracted. There are decent concepts to be found, and killing zombies with your friends is enjoyable, but as of right now there simply aren’t a lot of compelling reasons to keep playing. I recommend keeping an eye out for future updates and patches.