Overkill’s The Walking Dead Review
The Walking Dead continues to struggle for representation in the video game space, but Payday 2 developers Overkill hope to change that with the PC release of Overkill’s The Walking Dead. Featuring a number of elements similar to Payday, does it do Robert Kirkman’s famous writings justice?
Overkill’s The Walking Dead Review
While the game dons the branding of The Walking Dead, it doesn’t offer much for fans of the franchise. A shallow story with meaningless characters plague users between each stage, as repetitive cutscenes play time and time again. If you were looking for the emotionally charged characters and relationships amidst a post-apocalyptic wasteland of struggling survival seen in the show, you’ll be disappointed. Overkill’s The Walking Dead does very little to pay homage to that which it is based, but it does at least offer a decent zombie-style world for players to sink their teeth into.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead takes clear inspiration from the Payday series. It is a session-based cooperative game where players pick a class, a loadout, and a mission – rinse and repeat. The promise of more unique and powerful gear was enough to ensure Payday 2’s success, and it’s obvious from the start that the developers want to replicate that formula with The Walking Dead. Thankfully, especially for those that enjoyed the Payday games, this is one aspect of the formula that works well in this new setting. Players can choose a melee weapon, a primary gun, and a secondary gun, as well as various tools that help complete objectives and reward better loot in missions. Each of these items can be heavily customized and upgraded, with rewards depending on the progress and difficulty of the mission.
Multiple difficulty settings provide plenty of replay value, even for an “episodic” style game that only currently features a single session. The Normal difficulty setting proves to be a challenge for a group of survivors lacking experience and communication, while the Overkill difficulty is enough to challenge even the most skilled and cooperative of teams. If nothing else, the satisfaction of completing a tough mission on Overkill offers a sense of accomplishment and success that will stay with me much longer than I’ll keep the game installed.
The mission variety offers objectives of varying difficultly and pacing, breaking up much of the monotonous grind with dynamic objectives and enemies. It’s unavoidable that you will play through the same mission more than half a dozen times, so to have certain aspects and routes change through each playthrough is a great remedy to the repetition. Unfortunately, there are far bigger problems here.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead’s biggest problem is the combat, specifically the combat surrounding firearms. The melee combat itself is solid, rewarding strategic decisions over that of just mashing buttons. However, as soon as the guns are drawn, everything feels hollow, with each bullet lacking any feeling of impact or severity. The boom of a shotgun decimating a target at point-blank range in the back was instead a pop, followed by the disappointing realization that the victim was actually indeed shooting me, despite not even facing my direction.
One of Payday’s biggest problems was its AI, and the team appears to have done very little to improve that here. The Walkers will walk in a straight line to the nearest enemy they can see or hear…and that’s about it. Lackluster AI actually works quite well here as, well, they are zombies. Nobody really expects or wants them to be intelligent, but when it comes to the different groups of humans you encounter, it’s abysmal. They will spot you through objects, shoot you through walls, shoot you while facing another direction entirely, and hit you with near perfect accuracy while surrounded by starving hordes of the undead. You’ll struggle to find such a poor example of AI in a video game released in 2018.
Thankfully, there’s a mixture of features outside of missions that help redeem the games more innovative aspects. Each player is responsible for the upkeep of a camp, a small area littered with survivors you’ve rescued on your encounters. You can assign survivors to work at specific stations, providing you buffs during your missions, and can even send them out on recon missions that can provide additional resources or rare weapons and modifications. Many aspects of camps can be upgraded, which prove to be vital for the defensive missions where you are attacked by other families or waves of Walkers – some of which are brutally difficult. These features all feel somewhat lacking, in an almost closed-beta lacking content kind of way. There’s plenty of potential here, but as it is, it’s not enough.
The Walking Dead is a franchise with such massive potential in the video game space, and Overkill’s The Walking Dead shares much of that potential. Blasting through the higher difficulty levels with friends is great fun, and the initial few hours are a pleasure, but once you get into the meat of the game and its myriad of glaring issues, it quickly becomes apparent that this game is not living up to its own potential.