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The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct Review

  • First Released Mar 19, 2013
  • Reviewed Mar 25, 2013
  • X360

It's not zombies you need worry about in the painfully dull The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.

If you're worried about the zombie apocalypse, don't be. It's really nothing to get worked up over. Sure, humankind will find itself beset by legions of ravenous undead, but they'll be incredibly polite undead. Zombies will wait patiently for you to cave their heads in with a hammer, will file into a neat line before attacking, and will give up on chasing you after so much as three meters of exhausted shambling. At least that's how the zombie apocalypse looks according to The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, a dull and toothless action game that presents a few interesting ideas but leaves them wallowing in a sea of shoddy execution.

Not to be confused with Telltale's stellar adventure series starring an ensemble of original characters, Survival Instinct is a prequel to the Walking Dead television series that focuses on leather-vest aficionados Daryl and Merle Dixon. Both characters are voiced by the actors who portray them on the show, which is the only instance in which this game flirts with anything resembling a high production value. The bulk of Survival Instinct--a campaign lasting maybe five hours--is a drab and hurriedly told story of Daryl and Merle navigating the Georgia countryside on a road trip gone to hell.

This is a stealth-oriented take on first-person action in which you (playing as Daryl) creep through one zombie-infested town after another in search of whatever medicine or car part you need in order to make it to Atlanta. Each mission tends to involve you running into one of the few survivors left in a particular town. These survivors then ask you to go retrieve something in exchange for giving you precisely what it is that you need. If there was ever a game composed entirely of fetch quests, this is it.

There's an initial focus on moving both swiftly and silently: too much noise draws the attention of walkers, but lingering around for any length of time allows them to sniff you out. Or at least that's how it goes early on. You eventually realize that these zombies are so utterly feckless and predictable that each mission becomes less of a stealthy crawl and more of a routine trudge. Sneak up on zombies, and they can be instantly executed with a knife to the back of the head. Make too much noise, and you simply shove them back and go for the brain uncontested. If they happen to get their hands on you, the game triggers a quick-time event that allows you to kill them almost instantly. Each choice can be exploited to your heart's content, resulting in an unsatisfying lack of fear or tension. It's not so much a zombie apocalypse as it is a zombie inconvenience.

In this game, zombies have a habit of walking up to you and waiting for you to attack. They're very kind that way.
In this game, zombies have a habit of walking up to you and waiting for you to attack. They're very kind that way.

Early on, you at least have to make do with improvised weapons like hammers and machetes that force you to hack away at walkers before they fall cold and limp to the ground. There are also basic firearms, which you can use only sparingly thanks to limited ammo and the fact that each shot produces enough sound to wake the neighborhood--one of the more clever touches in the game. Halfway through the campaign, however, you hit a point at which the weapon selection renders an already dead-simple combat system almost entirely devoid of challenge.

The main offenders are the crossbow and the fire axe: the former allows you to take silent headshots from afar and retrieve your ammo, while the latter lets you instantly lop off a walker's head (which, in fairness, is actually a lot of fun--this game does viscera rather well). Combine this arsenal with easily exploitable zombie behavior, and you can absolutely steamroll your way through the entire second half of the game. What should be a terrifying exercise in survival is instead a protracted game of Whac-A-Mole, only with more blood and exposed brain tissue.

One of the truly maddening things about the game is that there are some genuinely interesting ideas floating on the periphery that could have made for a novel experience if there were any real undercurrent of tension to make you care about them. One example is the way you look at a map and choose which route to navigate between missions. Take the highway, and you conserve fuel, but you don't have much chance to find an untouched residential area to search for supplies. Take the winding back roads, and it's just the opposite: you burn through fuel, but you can often find a treasure trove of health items, ammo, and other resources.

Features like managing survivors would be interesting if you had any reason to care about resources.
Features like managing survivors would be interesting if you had any reason to care about resources.

The problem is that every zombie in the game is so innocuous that you quickly reach a point where you cease caring about any resources. It's the same issue with the survivor system, a mechanic that lets you recruit followers that you can send out on missions to scavenge supplies while you're busy with your own work. These are concepts that could have added a novel layer of strategy to the first-person action, but they wind up feeling like a chore considering you're more or less the Rambo of the zombie apocalypse.

For a game that bears the word "survival" in its title, there's nothing life-threatening about this journey through the Georgia countryside. It's too bad, because this isn't a game without strengths. Some of the melee weapons can be really satisfying to use, and there are some clever ideas about how people would manage the logistics of a road trip during a zombie apocalypse. But the whole thing is just so dull and tedious that it captures all the worst qualities of a road trip, but none of the exciting ones.

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The Good
Some melee weapons can be satisfying to use
Interesting resource management
The Bad
Absolutely no sense of tension or challenge
Lackluster zombie AI leads to tedious encounters
Short, drab campaign
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341 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for thecman25

The game isnt that bad, more open world levels, more items, more stuff would do this game good

Avatar image for Ezioprez9709

Another movie/tv show based game to add to the notorious list...

Avatar image for Zekethompson22

Fanboys should not even buy this.

Avatar image for crash_cutta

it should be illegal for stores to sell this crap for 50 plus dollars without it having a review posted. I've wasted my money on this b.s. I should of bought it used from gamestop.

Avatar image for SoNin360

Omg a 4, dats 2 hi, gs was paid 4 teh reveiw

Avatar image for Kuhlio13

I cant believe I paid $50 for this crap.

Avatar image for TheEveryMan


Ah ha ha. Bad call, very bad call.

Avatar image for PotHeel

<Insert random rant about RE6 here>

Avatar image for wolfmgs

dudes if you ask why RE6 is 4.5 and this is 4 the answer is simply its cuz kevin vanord reviewed RE6 if he ever reviewed this game he will give it like 2 or 3

Avatar image for Diogladius

Gamespot fails at scoring games. They gave RE6 a 4.5 and this a 4. RE6 was way better than this steaming pile. RE6 had a few issues but I really enjoyed playing it CO-op with a friend.

How is it these 2 games are even in the same Ball Park.

Avatar image for happypanda53

yeah i pretty much knew what i was getting into when i picked this up. i should have trusted my gamer instinct. guess i was hoping against hope that this would actually be good. oh well, atleast its easy trophies.

Avatar image for GasparNolasco

I like that, by Gamespot logic, this unfinished mess is just 0.5 points worse than RE6.

Avatar image for Defenseman13

So... it's worse than the season 3 "finale"?

Avatar image for Outatomomega

It's not surprising, judging by the trailers this game was doomed to fail. However look on the bright side, you can purchasing The Walking Dead by Telltale Games for less and that is an outstanding game.

Avatar image for punksterdaddy

Hmmm... I am not that surprised really. It just doesn't seem like much effort went into making it good?

A 4.0 is probably generous, RE6 got a 4.5 and although it is a bad game, it looks way better than this?

I was considering buying it but no longer.

Avatar image for gantarat

@punksterdaddy KEVIN give 4.5 because capcom make game not Cg-movie.

Avatar image for jark888

The first lame Walking Dead. Good job Activistion!

Avatar image for AlexFili

While I would disagree with the scoring of 4.0, it is indeed a rushed game and does have problems. That said I found it quite fun and while short, does have a few original ideas. I'd give it 6.0 and recommend buyers wait for a price drop

Avatar image for starbar111

You know what is funny, ebay is awash with copies of this game with the description: "played once" - says it all really.

Avatar image for Codester_41

"Just get the game done and get it out so we can still cash in on the poor suckers brain-washed by this show before they realize it sucks now!"

Avatar image for AlexFili

@Codester_41 Well it was because a main character dies, but that's no excuse

Avatar image for jameswebster101

Activision will put out anything these day, they are not the company they used to be...

Avatar image for xsnrgman

@jameswebster101 Tell me about it. I miss David Crane and games like Pitfall and River Raid and...whatever else I can't remember. :-(

Avatar image for Rioichi21Cooper

A fair review, I can't believe people are paying over £30 for this crap on PSN though!

Avatar image for al-hasan-faroq2

The show is getting stale as well.

Avatar image for xsnrgman

@al-hasan-faroq2 Not as stale as Activision's newest games. Why bother with a Battlefield 4? They see money in their eyes $_$ with sheep that play COD and Battlefield type games.

Avatar image for Codester_41

@xsnrgman - I'm hoping you know that Activision didn't make battlefield.

Avatar image for Assertonsin

@xsnrgman @Codester_41 I hope you know that Activision doesn't make games. They publish them.

Avatar image for AlexFili

@xsnrgman @Codester_41 Activision just published it. They didn't develop the game

Avatar image for xsnrgman

@Codester_41 @xsnrgman It doesn't matter! They don't really make anything any more and none of it is good.

Avatar image for depman1972

The game actually looks good, 4.0 rating doesn't seem fair tho'

Avatar image for AlexFili

@depman1972 I'd give it 6.0

Avatar image for RobDev

@depman1972 This reviewer has actually PLAYED the game instead of just looking at it!

Avatar image for Darmage

@depman1972 Lol no it doesn't. You so funny.

Avatar image for xsnrgman

@Darmage @depman1972 Agree...maybe a 5.0. :-|

Avatar image for xsnrgman

@Darmage @depman1972 NOT!

Avatar image for coolmath4life

Looks like crap, won't waste my money, nor will I support this company, I don't mind COD but that's what they should try to innovate on, not go for quick cash grabs. Proud 360 owner, I'm voting with my wallet... and it's a no - go.

Avatar image for wyan_

I liked this game. At worst it's a 6.5 out of 10. For me it's an 8 because I am a zombie fanatic. Sure, there are many things that could have been done better, but it's a superior survival horror effort compared to Capcom's latest efforts. I think part of the reason it worked for me is because in the second level, (3rd if counting the intro) I fucked up extremely bad and had droves of zombies chasing me. I died horribly and that scared the crap out of me. For most of the game after that, (yes I fucked up again) I played very carefully and stealthily, almost like I was going for a Grand Master rating in the game Tenchu. I ended the game with enough guns, ammo and health items to open my very own surplus e-store, but that's what happens in any survival horror I play.

Avatar image for AlexFili

@wyan_ It is fun but it is just too damn short and is too needlessly difficult

Avatar image for GameCaperz

Avatar image for jonathan112382

i knew it would be wack

Avatar image for erix43

They just wanted a quick paycheck. Notice no one ever hyped it up or the lack of advertisements for it? This one came out of nowhere it seemed....

Avatar image for expeditopaz2008

Since the first preview I knew it was a bomb...

Avatar image for Daian

This game is so bad it's not even funny.

Avatar image for moathfaleh_94


Avatar image for xolivierx

why is there such a decay in the quality of games these past years. The more and more empty shells are being released. I understand graphics are important but I would rather play a game with ok graphics than another picture perfect game with boring gameplay, broken AI and dumb story. Enough of this already

Avatar image for Saketume


This game had neither graphics or gameplay. But after having tried it I can see it had the potential to become a decent zombie game.

The problem is of course the license. It's obvious that, in fear of losing buyers, they rushed the game so it would be out before Merle kicked the bucket in the TV series.

Avatar image for TheNubMaster

@xolivierx Sadly i can say i know people who would choose the better graphics over the better gameplay. I personally though would always rather have better gameplay over graphics.

Avatar image for highlanderjimd

@xolivierx ps3 and 360 gamers. most of them are screaming dribbling idiots these days, thats who the money men aim at. Lots of indie games are far FAR superior to so called big releases these days. Expect another gaming bust soon, about time too imo. We can have another golden age like the 80s and 90s

Avatar image for pupp3t_mast3r

@xolivierx Too many publishers and IP''s that have a lot of resources but lack any experience in implementation or innovation. However there has been a steady increase from Indie developers so expect to see some brand new publishers replacing the current leaders of the gaming market in the next few years.

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct More Info

  • First Released Mar 19, 2013
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 2 more
    • Wii U
    • Xbox 360
    The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a do-whatever-you-need-to-survive first-person action game based on AMC's Emmy Award-winning TV series. The game follows the survivor Daryl Dixon and his overbearing brother Merle on a haunting, unforgiving journey across the Georgia countryside.
    Average Rating425 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
    Developed by:
    Terminal Reality
    Published by:
    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