Up until now, when I think of video games based on The Walking Dead, I think of Telltale. Their narrative games started a revolution that led to an entirely new genre being created. The first non-Telltale Walking Dead game was an FPS called The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. While the FPS had Norman Reedus, it didn't have anything related to quality. Now Overkill is giving it a shot with Overkill's The Walking Dead and ... I think we're getting a repeat.
I'm going to preface this by saying that I think there are some genuinely good things in Overkill's The Walking Dead. This Left 4 Dead styled shooter sees four players cooperate to complete objectives. There are four different playable characters, each of whom has their own unique abilities. I got to play as Grant, the old man who served as the team's sniper. This meant I also had smoke grenades which I could use to block the sight of human enemies.
Before the mission, we got to pick a tool we wanted to bring into the map with us. I went with an electrical kit, which let me disable car alarms so I could raid them without worry of attracting enemies. I saw spots where I could use wire cutters or lock picks to access new areas though. I appreciated this system, as it gave different groups new ways of approaching an encounter. You can find materials and use these to create new grenades, throwable knives, and tools so you can keep in the fight and get new supplies.
The mission started and the game crashed. This isn't exactly a fantastic opening. I understand that this happens, but it feels like it should be worked out by now. So we reload and try again. Right away someone throws a grenade and the game crashes again. Next to me was our video editor Alex Parker, playing a game with different players. His game crashed too. There's no polite way to put this: Overkill's The Walking Dead is simply not ready for prime time.
It's a bit of a shame as once we could actually play the game I could see some nice things going on. There's a melee system that forced me to take each zombie on carefully. I had to manage stamina, and zombies can easily grab you and deal massive chunks of damage. Stealth is encouraged, as attracting a swarm is basically a death penalty. Every time you set off a car alarm, throw a grenade, fire a gun, or more, you attract the attention of the hoard. While the game nor developers were specific on what would happen if you filled up the hoard meter, I got the impression it was very bad.
When it all works this is actually pretty interesting. It's a much more tactical take on Left 4 Dead. You can't simply run out with guns and shoot everything. Rather you need to advance slowly and make use of stealth kills. I'd honestly find this a great take on the genre... if it worked.
You see, the issues go beyond the crashes. The enemy AI is simply not up to the task. I often found zombies staring at walls or stuck in corners, oblivious to anything going on around them. You could excuse this as normal zombie behavior, but it extended to human enemies too. At one point I got to a rooftop and started sniping a group of human enemies. They just stood there, letting themselves be shot and only reacting by turning to whoever just dropped dead. In addition to this, the game is glitchy. While I didn't personally encounter it, I heard stories on the show floor of people falling through maps, spawning inside of other characters, and being caught in infinite death loops.
Everything about Overkill's The Walking Dead makes it feel like all the good ideas are there, but the game is simply not ready. I'm hopeful that there's enough time before launch that it can be fixed up and reworked into a better product. For now, I'd just keep a wary eye on it.
Overkill's The Walking Dead is launching November 6th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.