Having a girlfriend who writes and reviews games is indeed very cool, it’s made even better when she comes to you and says, “I have no idea how to review this game.” We’ve been fans of The Walking Dead for a while, and finished catching up some time ago, so when we saw the trailer for Overkill’s The Walking Dead we were both intrigued. Tacita more because she thought she could play it single-player. Upon discovering it was a co-op FPS, she needed my help.
Like many players these days, I intended to wait and check out the reviews before buying the game but I knew what I was looking for. A survivalist game with the tension of the series. I wanted walkers powerful enough that actually presented a threat and meant you had to work as a team without them becoming a minor nuisance as the game progressed.
The game introduces you to four playable characters, Maya, Aidan, Grant and Heather, all with different perks and benefits, with a possible two other unlockable characters. The game advises you start with a couple of Aidan’s or Maya’s since Aidan has a bit more health and Maya can drop a med bad for the whole team.
As far as actual story goes, there’s not much. You’re in The Walking Dead world and pretty much expected to know what’s what. The Family, (very much like The Saviors from the series), require 50% of your loot and are the main antagonist group. In all honesty, it would have been nice to have seen Overkill do something a little different than re-hash the same narrative, but maybe there were contractual obligations at play.
When it came to actually fighting The Family, the combat is very similar to the walkers. You feel the need to treat them with a certain level of respect otherwise you’ll find yourself dead very quickly. This is good but with the lack of emphasis on story, I found myself mowing them down with little after thought.
The game runs like your average structured mission co-op. You pick your character, team up with others and head into battle to find The Family’s hideout or defend your camp etc. Throughout each mission, Anderson your camp leader drops hints and messages through your radio chat. “You can build defenses to protect the camp, go pick the stuff up!” “Grab some ammo while you still have a chance!” which is fairly useful and restocking your planks are crucial to keep the gates closed.
My main beef with the gameplay is there is no tutorial. You’re dropped into the first mission and there’s little guidance as to how to play, how upgrades work, progression etc, which ends up giving off a very ropey feel. The lack of tutorial and perhaps limited understanding of how exactly you play the game could play quite a large role in putting a lot of people off. I walked into a building that was too dark and didn’t know what the torch button was, or even if I had a torch, all the while zombies are oncoming. I happened to click the right key but you can’t rely on gamers to figure that out, it’s unpolished. I did find if you re-play the first mission a little later on, it seems you’re given more time to collect yourself and figure out what the hell to do before the zombies are on you.
It would’ve been better to have a 5-10 minute mission laying out how the mechanics and upgrades work, and possibly a small break down of how all the different classes are unique. Later on I found a tutorial video in the settings menu which would have been great at the start of the game rather than me stumbling across it.
Your skill progression is also linked to your camp progression and both must be upgraded at the same time to progress your character skills. You also find as the game progresses the more survivors you get the more the upkeep of your camp will cost, which seems a bit pointless.
Combat itself is fun, on the whole, it requires you to work as a team and punishes you for not. It becomes apparent very quickly that everything gets a lot harder if you don’t work together.
A large element of combat is, of course, the crafting ability. It’s relatively basic but it does give you the ability to re-stock yourself and does make scavenging important. Again, it would’ve been great if this had been explained at the beginning.
As far as healing goes, it’s really important to have Maya on your team and communicate when you need her to drop one of her backpacks to heal. You’re certainly fragile enough and Overkill does well to make you feel like the worlds against you in this apocalypse. You can also craft health packs which proves very useful for getting out of a dire situation.
When it comes to upgrades, it seems every gun has 3-5 upgrade slots and by doing missions you gain some of these upgrades. My issue so far with the upgrade system is that it’s so badly laid out and badly explained that its nearly impossible to find out how it works and how it functions. How can I be a valuable member of the team if I’m stumbling around?
Not to mention the guns create noise which in turn feels up a noise meter and it’s not long before you’ve got a horde on your hands. This means guns are basically redundant you’re reduced to melee weapons which are time-consuming and not really very funny at the moment.
Mechanics and Controls
The run and gun system and the couple of perks such as Aidan’s heal, and throwing flash-bangs you get at the beginning are useful and easy to use, but a lot of the other mechanics aren’t explained so you find yourself muddling through. In terms of controls and actually fighting the zombies, they’re okay but they’re not spectacular either.
The Co-op system could’ve done with an in-built voice chat since not being able to communicate with your team makes the whole experience harder, but I guess if you’ve got Discord or Steam then you’ve covered. Ultimately the game is much harder to play with strangers you don’t know and would be much better in a team of 4 friends.
Graphics and Music/Atmosphere
The performance and graphics seem good, I think that’s probably because the maps aren’t that big, that being said, there wasn’t a performance/graphics drop when I was staring down 40 zombies.
The truth of it is I’ve got to agree with most of the reviews about Overkill so far. Ultimately the game feels unpolished and the lack of tutorial means you’re struggling your way through most of the missions. Camp maintenance becomes tedious after time and any resources you do collect goes towards its upkeep. You occasionally end up having to repeat certain missions just to get the goods and the bugs are annoying. Perhaps if there’s four of you and you’re looking for a game to chill with on a Friday night and kill some zombies then it’ll do the job, if not, I’d give this one a pass and look for something better.