Instinct Review

Terrible AI and indecipherable dialogue are just two of the many problems afflicting this zombie shooter.

Instinct is a Resident Evil rip-off with a first-person perspective that's a good 10 years too late for the party. This creation of the aptly named Russian developer Digital Spray Studios has more problems than just copying the story and bad guys from a game with a best-before date that expired in the 1990s. Everything here is ineptly made and annoying, from the dumb zombie foes to the terrible level design. Throw in big performance problems that regularly turn battles into slideshows and you've got yet another atrocity good for a trifecta of crap.

The storyline appears to be a garden-variety zombie caper, with you guiding three Russian commandos on a search-and-destroy mission to a secret facility in North Korea. You start off facing run-of-the-mill soldiers, but immediately run into what looks to be the undead as soon as you enter the base. Or so it seems. The plot continually bounces back and forth in time, with cutscenes filling in the backstory only after you've completed missions. While this style of storytelling might work well in the hands of a competent storyteller, it's just confusing here. You start off watching a clip of a drunken Russian soldier taking out a TV a la Elvis and then plunge right into the invasion of some kind of military base. If not for the blurbs on the box cover and in the manual, you wouldn't have a clue what's going on until wrapping up at least three levels.

Meet one of the least scary zombies in gaming history. Tracksuits might be pretty frightening to fashionistas, but not to anybody else.
Meet one of the least scary zombies in gaming history. Tracksuits might be pretty frightening to fashionistas, but not to anybody else.

Another big problem is the developer's decision to leave all of the dialogue in the original Russian. While it's sweet of Digital Spray to save us from what would no doubt have been mangled English dubbed by family and friends of the development team, not being able to understand anything said by your comrades in the middle of firefights isn't a great alternative. Bringing up a separate journal screen with subtitled dialogue is the only way to figure out what your pals are saying, and this is tantamount to suicide since the action continues in the background while you're trying to read. By the time you've gotten an idea of what you're supposed to be doing, the zombies on your heels will usually have caught up to you and started busily pounding on your skull. Not fun.

But this handicap is one of the few things that makes combat in Instinct remotely challenging. Enemy soldiers are total morons who frequently take cover behind explosive barrels. These barrels can typically be found adjacent to all soldiers, so it's a lot easier to just target them whenever spotted and then rely on the ensuing ka-boom to take out any bad guys in the neighborhood. Shooting soldiers directly isn't nearly as effective or as satisfying, as they absorb a ridiculous number of rounds before eating the pavement and show absolutely no signs of being shot even while you're riddling them with bullets. Not surprisingly, the zombies are pretty stupid, too, although at least they have the excuse of being the victims of a mind-destroying experiment gone horribly wrong. Regardless, they pretty much line up to be gunned down. They pose a threat only when they attack in large numbers, and even then you can still blast them to bits without much of a hassle as long as you've got a little room to fall back whenever you need to reload a weapon.

More difficulty is provided by the level design, although that's largely because of the typically terrible layout. Most of the rooms and corridors all look the same, making it easy to get turned around. Getting lost is an impossibility due to the small size of the levels, at least, although you'll sure get bored looking at the same grey metal walls, gas tanks, and explosive barrels over and over again. It's also hard to figure out what you're supposed to do in spots. Levers are never highlighted, so you can readily miss a switch that needs to be pulled to open a door. Sometimes zombie attacks are only triggered by entering a certain part of a level. You can wander around for ages looking for a door that doesn't exist only to eventually get attacked out of nowhere by finally walking into the right place.

Visuals are noteworthy solely for what have to be the least scary zombies in gaming history. Many of them are clad in tracksuits, so at times it seems like you're being attacked by packs of old-school rappers. Few details have been incorporated in the zombie models, either. Their bodies are blurry and their faces are pale blobs distinguished by rolled-up eyes and bulging veins only visible in extreme close-ups. Digital Spray has tried to give the game something of a unique look through a comic-book display mode, although all this does is outline everything with thin white lines that obscure much of the scenery. Both the regular and comic-book graphics have serious performance issues, as well. The frame rate tends to plummet when a fair number of enemies are onscreen, particularly in wide-open settings. And little hitches and flat-out long freezes are common when simply turning around during battles.

It's awfully polite of those enemy soldiers to position themselves so close to explosive barrels.
It's awfully polite of those enemy soldiers to position themselves so close to explosive barrels.

But at least bits of the audio can be effective, particularly the music. Even though the score lapses into dreary, driving techno typical of yesterday's shooters when in the middle of firefights, the atmospheric music played when creeping around in the dark on zombie levels is truly spine-tingling. Toss in some squelching footfalls when you walk through gore, the satisfying boom of your shotgun, and the efficient rat-a-tat-tat of your automatic weapons and you've got a pretty decent-sounding shooter.

Still, the many flaws in Instinct outweigh a few creepy tunes and shotgun blasts. All of the above details should be more than enough to scare you off, but if you need further evidence, please take note that saves take really long to load, there are no multiplayer modes, and that the game is copy-protected by Starforce.

The Good
Some spooky music at times
The Bad
Confusing storytelling due to time-shifting cutscenes and Russian dialogue
Dumb AI and positioning makes it seem like enemies want you to kill them
Repetitive, dull level design
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Instinct (2007) More Info

  • First Released Aug 22, 2007
    • PC
    Instinct is an FPS game in which your squad must infiltrate a Korean government bunker where a virus is being developed.
    Average Rating203 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Digital Spray Studios, Newtonic Studio
    Published by:
    Digital Spray Studios, Wild Hare Entertainment
    First-Person, Shooter, 3D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language