We’re at a point now where I think everyone and their dog has at least heard of The Walking Dead. If not, where have you been? Sweeping generalisations aside, until this season at least The Walking Dead has consistently been king of the 18-49 (age) demographic, which is mightily impressive for a show in its eighth season. Whether or not it should have ended a couple of years ago is a matter up for debate.
Overkill tells us however that their first-person shooter rendition of the The Walking Dead is based on Robert Kirkman’s comic universe, rather than the TV show that has slightly strayed off from the graphic script. Truth be told, if the game wasn’t bearing this title, you would never know it was based off the same story – aside from the “Walker” name being assigned to the zombies. I’m still unsure if I’m disappointed by this or not: We have had other Walking Dead tie-ins (that dreadful Daryl Dixon one comes to mind), and a game like this might have been a good opportunity to fit Rick and co. in.
I know why they haven’t chosen this route, however, and it’s because you’re following a totally new story in Washington D.C., with four different playable characters. Aidan, Maya, Grant and Heather make up the ensemble, each having varying abilities. For show watchers, Aidan reminds me most of Morgan. Every game I was in, whoever was controlling him wielded a stick, but unfortunately without the flip flopping between “I am good” and “I am evil again”. Sorry if you don’t watch Walking Dead, just skip to the next paragraph. “You know what it is.”
Maya was my personal go-to, as using a silenced submachine gun was really my most enjoyable way to play. I don’t have the patience for baseball bats or snipers; I tend to end up in situations with a lot of Walkers following me, and a bat just doesn’t cut it. Speaking of snipers, if that is your thang, you’ll want to be going for Grant. He’s older, but he’s described as the “tactical” one. Lastly, if you want a bit of crossbow action, you’ll be plopping for Heather. A ginger haired feisty scout, and she has a pickaxe too.
There are a few different flavours of walkers as well. The one I imagine tasting the absolute worst would be the bloater, which is exactly as you would expect it to be. Shoot its head a few times and it’ll explode, leaving a lovely pus and blood pool on the floor. If you’re too close, it’ll spray onto your face and leave you dazed for a few seconds. There’s the token armoured walker too, requiring shots at its helmet to fire it off before the head is exposed. This one kept reminding me of Darth Vader without his helmet. The rest of them are pretty standard.
If you’ve played Overkill’s previous games, namely Payday, you’ll know what to expect gameplay-wise from The Walking Dead. It follows a similar pattern: Four players completing objectives co-operatively in a varying set of missions. There is more variety this time though than in Payday, with some missions having you sneak around to retrieve objects stolen by the antagonist group The Family, or simply defending your base from Walkers.
I almost shit myself as I was playing in one mission, in a dark room and my headphones on. I was crouched, sneaking around some Walkers, and I accidentally tried to look inside a parked car for some ammo…yeah, don’t do that. The alarm went off and boom, Walkers descended on us from every which way. Thankfully for me, there was no voice chat so they couldn’t voice their displeasure.
In the beta, there were only a few missions to choose from. Each one will give you a bit more of the story between your camp and The Family. You’ll also meet some survivors along the way, who get added to your own camp. From your camp, you can buy weapons and, more importantly, keep it strengthened against outside attacks using camp supplies that you’ll find scattered throughout levels. Survivors who join you can be sent out on missions to collect supplies, and can also find “Expeditions” as they are out in a fallen Washington D.C.
These Expeditions vary in objective, from assassinations to simple supply runs. Your survivors can be killed when you send them out on missions, so you need to be careful you’re picking the right people for the job. If camp morale gets too low, which can happen if you don’t collect enough loot and struggle to pay upkeep at your camp, your survivors will say adios. Plenty to keep you up at night.
What I did find very impressive was the graphical lighting. I reported on this earlier this year after a dev diary, and you can really tell that a lot of work has gone into it; there is a small diner you can walk through in one of the missions with the blinds drawn down, and you can see the light rays coming through in the musty, still air. When in night time, light sources are vital and bounce around rooms excellently well. Elsewhere, the graphics are pretty much as you would expect: Nothing groundbreaking, some of the assets could be better quality (like the pumpkins in my camp), but when you’re fighting hordes of walkers, you don’t notice.
I did enjoy the beta, and I have been watching this game closely all year. I am actually quite surprised that there isn’t a battle royale mode – not that I’m complaining. For me, it worked best when defending against hordes of walkers, although perhaps that’s my inner Call of Duty Zombies fanboy. I’m looking forward to the full game to see what the extra missions will bring, and how the camp functions properly.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is due for released on 6th November on PC. Those on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will need to wait until 6th February in the Americas and the 8th February in Europe before you can battle The Family and the undead.