When there is no more room in hell, Rick Grimes will leave the series. But none of that really matters to Overkill’s The Walking Dead.
While it’s based on AMC’s series, this first-person shooter takes place in and around Washington D.C., thereby avoiding any cross-media continuity issues. The game has long been in development by Overkill, creators of bank-robbing multiplayer game Payday. The Walking Dead has recently entered and I’ve had the chance to delve into the zombie-slaughtering action. The good news is, it’s Payday with zombies. The bad news is, it’s Payday with zombies.
Leaping into the game after a brief spell in the lobby, during which time I resisted the urge to start giving out The Walking Dead spoilers, I found myself tangling with the living dead. Overkill hasn’t broken with canon and given their zombies a speed boost – they’re reasonably slow, but get enough of them together and they’ll gnaw your face off. Headshots kill them instantly, as you might expect if you’ve any knowledge of zombie lore.
Luckily, your in-game character always seems to aim for that general area, or automatically manages to take them down if you swipe away at them enough times. It’s an odd but not unwelcome concession that, at least, prevents your game from ending prematurely. Though the game does complicate matters by throwing more zombies at you the more noise you make. Aside from making you feel like Daryl Dixon, the game’s shambler-slaughtering crossbow is a great way of dealing with the dead without causing too much ruckus.
Working with other players in The Walking Dead feels suitably rewarding, particularly when I ended up flat on my back, the dead all around me. A quick revive and I was ready to go, likewise those who I later brought back from the brink of death. Other players aside, the game pitches you against human NPCs, which leads to some entertaining moments where my team had to deal with the dead at our backs while also taking out a pair of human snipers.
When it launches, The Walking Dead will feature a single-player mode, but it’s clear that, like Payday, the game is designed to be a co-operative effort. The defence missions were a lot of fun, with the dead pouring in as you struggled to see off the dead at the gates, roaming freely round the level. However, the objective missions were less so. Rather than give the player free reign, the objective levels in the beta were fairly linear and split into sections, with tasks to complete, such as collecting cogs to open a gate. The game’s music tried to ramp up the tension, but with the game corralling me it never quite worked.
Still, The Walking Dead at least looks pretty enough, and it’s certainly more visually appealing than previous trailers have made it look.
If you’re a Payday fan, signs are that you probably won’t be disappointed. But I’m not quite sure where the game’s four-year development time has gone, and despite the title, it didn’t really give me much of a Walking Dead vibe. Nevertheless, if co-operative zombie-shooting is your thing then you’ll be able to slaughter some walkers when the game lands on Steam in November and hits the Xbox and PS4 in February.