The Walking Dead Onslaught has some big boots to fill after it’s sister Virtual Reality game, Saints And Sinners, ended up becoming a defining title for the potential of VR gaming. Whilst Saints and Sinners told a story separate from any existing Walking Dead canon, one of the key differences that allows Onslaught to stand independent of this comparison is it’s close ties to the AMC TV show, giving players the opportunity to step into the shoes of Rick, Daryl, Michonne, and Carol, as they blitz through a much more arcadey, action-oriented story taking place between the eighth and ninth seasons. Despite the potential of this premise, Onslaught’s narrative doesn’t go anywhere remotely interesting, and to compare its sporadic, thinly stretched story to a wild goose chase would be a disservice to the agility and wit of a goose.
Though, it must be said, grabbing zombies by their neck and ramming a machete down their throats remains one of the most satisfying experiences to be had in VR - even if Onslaught does milk it a bit.
A Dead-On-Arrival Narrative
After a brief - if rather boring - tutorial, Onslaught starts off rather promisingly, thrusting the player into the shoes of Rick Grimes, as he follows a trail of crossbow bolts that hopefully lead to the disappeared emo-biker Daryl, who’s been missing for several days. Whilst this rescue mission proves to be a rather compelling quest to kick off the narrative, it’s one that is, disappointingly, instantly resolved, with the rest of the story instead being told through frustratingly slow-paced flashback missions which add up to a thinly stretched 6 hour campaign.
Despite the plot point of Daryl’s sudden abandonment from the group, and the sheer room for storytelling between the year long gap of seasons 8 and 9, Onslaught bafflingly doesn’t go anywhere exciting with these prospects, instead telling a very basic and bland story that makes me wonder why they even bothered tying it into the events of the show at all. Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride and Josh McDermitt return to voice their roles as Daryl, Carol and Eugine respectively - but it doesn't really seem worth it. Carol has no role in the story outside of tending to plants in the background, and Eugene simply provides awkward one-liners as players open and close missions. Reedus's presence is definitely welcome given the focus on Daryl's flashbacks, but he's not really given anything interesting or exciting to deliver. Daryl narrates the flashbacks at an excruciatingly slow pace, with each mission barely furthering the advancement of the plot beyond moving from one destroyed barn to another, and finding a new weapon along the way.
This slow pace is made even more frustrating by the extent to which these missions are gated by progression elsewhere in the game. Daryl pulls a George R. R. Martin and insists that the audience wait a frustrating amount of time before he reveals the next chapter of his adventure, requiring the player to earn enough supplies in the arcadey, if rather repetitive, Supply Run mode. Unlike Daryl’s adventure, this mode lacks any story element, instead requiring the player to race against a slowly advancing horde with the goal to collect as much food, ammo and upgrade currency as they can.
As well as fighting off the several walkers that litter the streets, these frantic rushes through abandoned stores and beaten down houses are made even more hectic by the looming presence of the constantly advancing horde. Players have to make sure that they’re staying ahead of the horde as they’re diving in and out of houses, adding a refreshingly exciting layer of pressure that actually led to several narrow escapes, and is certainly the closest Onslaught come to adding any threat of difficulty.
Grabbing zombies by their neck and ramming a machete down their throats remains one of the most satisfying experiences to be had in VR - even if Onslaught does milk it a bit.
Though the supply run mode feels like a chore when you’re just wanting to see the campaign through to it’s end, it’s definitely a fun, short-burst experience to drop in and out of occasionally, thanks to developer Survios’s spot-on nailing of an ever satisfying combat system.
Combat Has Meat On Its Bones
Stopping a zombie in its tracks by grabbing it's neck and throwing it around a bit before putting it out of its misery is a great interaction to show friends in a party setting, and the sound design of a well aimed machete swing remains satisfying even on your 500th zombie kill. That’s a relief, because you’ll be doing a lot of melee kills. Though Onslaught features an accurate and intuitive gunplay mechanic, it is disappointingly underpowered, to the point where some undead will take up to 5 headshots to be downed. The result of this is that the choice to use any ranged weapon is rather foolish when you have a one-hit killing machine that never runs out of ammo. This definitely doesn’t take away from how fun it is - it’s just not particularly viable.
Resources collected from Supply Runs are able to be spent on either upgrades for your steadily growing arsenal of weapons, or on rebuilding the growing community of Alexandria. Certain survivors will offer to build new facilities around the town that offer slight player buffs, though these ultimately amount to be relatively useless statistics that never really make a difference to gameplay given how fundamentally simple general combat is.
Aside from occasionally missing a rather hasty neck-lunge, this combat system is impressively responsive, and the fact that it offers joystick and teleportation controls for movement makes the game quite accessible for any players new to VR. While it’s graphics aren’t anything especially impressive - it’s most notable sin being the lazy and and honestly laughable 2D texture for the steadily advancing zombie herd - my experience with Onslaught was entirely bug-free, and constantly ran smoothly, which is something to be proud of in the VR department.
If you’re looking for a compelling story within the Walking Dead universe, Onslaught is definitely not the experience to sink your teeth into. Though, if you’re looking more for a sturdy and fantastically satisfying zombie killing simulator, you might find some meat on its bones.
TechRaptor reviewed The Walking Dead: Onslaught on PC using a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 with PSVR.
- Satisfying Zombie Crushing
- Technically Succint
- Enjoyable Arcade Mode
- Wasted Narrative Potential
- Overly Simple Combat System