I'm fresh off an incredible high from watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead, the last episode before the Season 3 finale - so excuse me in advance if this sounds a little more "fanboy-ish" then usual. But man, was that episode epic. It was such a great showcase of the Dixon brothers, who have been awesome together since being reunited earlier in the season. Because of tonight's episode, it was quite clear to me that tonight was the night to write about The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
Well, that, and I've been playing a LOT of it since last night. Sometimes the stars just align in this crazy, random universe.
So we all kind of know the back story of this game, right? I don't mean the storyline of the game, but the critical scrutiny it recieved before its release? Well, if not, I'll give you the Cliffs Notes version.
First, several months ago, a fake trailer of the game surfaced on the internet that showed very rough and early game play footage of the game, which was only a few seconds long anyway. The internet immediately erupted in skepticism and negativity towards this game that was months away from being released. It was all down hill from there.
The week before the release, it was noted by several gaming websites that review copies of the game weren't being sent out until the day of its release, which instantly started the chatter of the old additive that "if a publisher won't send review copies out early, it's because they are hiding something and want people to buy the game before the reviews shun it and point out everything terribly wrong with it, which usually means the game is fundamentally broken." Now, this isn't hard science, but a well-know and even more well-believed theory that not only journalist subscribe to, but now the common consumer. In other words, the premature judgment of games based on reviewers not getting early copies has soiled the marketplace and the corrupted the minds of those who implicitly follow the guide of said reviewers.
I, too, fell victim to this, and I'm not proud of it.
I was excited about this game pretty much since it was announced. I'm a huge fan of The Walking Dead universe, and I just want to explore and enjoy everything that continues to expand this amazing story. When I heard all the negativity surrounding this game, I started loosing enthusiasm for it, and even considered not even giving it a shot. And that's because of the reviewers on the internet who feel entitled and deserving to play every game early, not realizing that there may be other reasons for not getting what they expect to get because of their credentials. Those poor, poor game journalists.
Anyway, I had a change of heart, and realized it was completely unfair to judge this game based on precedents that really bad games set for this type of situation. Again, I am a fan of all things Walking Dead, and it would take a straight-up broken game for me to not be able to find enjoyment in it. Also, Mrs. Noyse doesn't exactly like video games - like, at all - but she does love The Walking Dead probably more than me, so I saw this as an opportunity to connect with her using something she really enjoys to bring her into my little video game world.
I'm glad to report that it worked.
I started playing the game last night, after she got home from a Girls Night Out, just to see if she had any interest in it. Not even interested as in she would play it, but not sit in the other room while I was playing games type of interest. Also, I was hoping to have some good discussion about the story of the game and the universe just in case the game really was bad.
In all honesty, it's not a great game. It has its flaws, technically speaking. The shading, textures and coloring seem off at times, especially in the living people. Its a tad bit glitchy at times, but never game breaking bad. The AI of the walkers seems dumbed WAY down, but hey, they are walkers after all. Maybe they are just too smart on the show? Who are we to say how walkers should act, right? Also, the melee combat gets repetitive at times, but only when you are killing them one after the other. If you break up your chains of massacre with assassination kills or even firearm kills, the grinding feel of killing them doesn't seem that bad. And of course, you could always just sneak or run past them if you so choose.
The story is a prequel of when the show started, as you play as Daryl right when the outbreak is starting to get bad. You are in search of your big brother Meryl, in hopes of finding a partner in crime to survive this world that is going to hell quickly. You have to scavenge for supplies while traveling the roads of Georgia, meeting up with survivors along the way that can help your quest, but are always in danger of being killed by the environment or dismissed from the group by you, the player, based on a lack of seats in the vehicle you are driving. You travel from destination from destination, but you always run the risk of breaking down midway through your trip, forcing you get out and scavenge for fuel or car batteries or whatever else you may need to get back on the road. From what I could tell, this encounters and totally random, which is nice and refreshing.
The walkers themselves are pretty easy to kill and avoid if need be, but once a heard gets a whiff of your scent, its a footrace to shelter, which only lasts for so long as they will eventually break down the doors and get in if possible. The game really forces you to play stealthy and smartly, not just a rogue killing machine, which is how I imagine is the only good way of surviving in a real zombie apocalypse anyway, while also being true to the show and comics.
Don't think it's just a cake walk, though. While the game feels relatively easy if you are paying attention, there are plenty of jump-out-of-your-seat moments where walkers will spring to action or shamble from behind something undetected until it grabs you. I literally jumped several of times, cussing a few times and wanting to throw the controller out of fear on more than one occasion. While some of the moments felt cheep, I thoroughly enjoyed them none the less. It is a zombie game, after all! I WANT to be scared!
Going back to playing the game with the wife looking on, she enjoyed the experience. The fact that she loves Norman Reedus was a giant plus, but she enjoyed the story of how the Dixon brothers came to be apart of the group. She liked the universe and the idea of it all, and was offering suggestions on where I should go, what decisions I should make and what she would have done differently if she were making the game.
As they say in the biz, that is the epitome of S-U-C-C-E-S-S.
Again, it's not a great game. But it is far from a fatally flawed, broke bad game. Of course, I may enjoy it more than the average gamer or overly critical reviewer, but that's solely because of the individual experience I am having with the game based on how strongly I like the universe it is apart of. Survival Instinct is made for fans of the The Walking Dead, by fans of the Walking Dead. Maybe the developers were rushed or didn't have the resources to make a Game of the Year contended, but you can see and feel their love for the universe in everything they did. And that's what it comes down to. They knew they wouldn't reach mainstream appeal to the casual gamers or hardcore FPS players, but if they could connect with fans of The Walking Dead, they did their job.
Consider it a job well done, from my perspective at least.
On a final note, while this second to last episode of Season 3 tonight was amazing and a fantastic set up from the FINAL SHOWDOWN, I'm sad because I will be on vacation as of first thing Thursday morning with no way of watching the finale until I make it back from the Magic Kingdom the following Wednesday. While I will still be posting blogs (HOPEFULLY!) and tweeting out a million pictures from our adventure, I will try to stay as far away from reading twitter feeds as possible for fear of the conclusion to Season 3 being spoiled. I realized we scheduled this vacation on during the finale after the fact, also forgetting that we leave just after BioShock Infinite is released, meaning that will be sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get home for almost a week.
Man, I have horrible planning sometimes. Stars weren't aligned for me this time, unfortunately.
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Games played for project : 365