The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

Gamescom 2012: The Walking Dead: Video Game First Look Preview - The Satisfying Squelch

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AMC's The Walking Dead TV series has become something of a phenomenon, attracting millions of viewers with each episode, while popularising the original long-running graphic novels. Of course, because we're so completely awesome, we were into The Walking Dead comic books long before the series came about, so naturally we've been utterly enthralled by Telltale's episodic game on XBLA. But it was only a matter of time before a game based upon the hit TV show came about, and Ghostbusters: The Video Game and Kinect Star Wars developer Terminal Reality is on development duties, using its proprietary Infernal Engine to bring the first-person shooter to life.

As game presentations go, The Walking Dead: Video Game's showing at Gamescom was certainly unusual. The developer had no gameplay footage to show, and nary even a trailer in sight to demonstrate the game in motion. Instead, we were presented with a few screenshots (two of which we've embedded in this preview) taken from what we assume is very early code, and some information on the ideas that the Texas-based developer is bringing to the table. It sounds like there are some neat mechanics lined up for The Walking Dead: Video Game, but until we actually see them in action, it's hard to tell exactly how well they'll be implemented.

Revolving around story and survival, The Walking Dead: Video Game is set during Rick Grimes' coma, directly after the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, so is a prequel of sorts to the TV show. You're cast as the Dixon brothers, Daryl and Merle (played by Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker in the show) before they hooked up with the group, so you'll find yourself out on your own (playing solo as Daryl), shooting your way through walkers and driving vehicles from point to point on a road trip across the USA. Consequently, you'll learn how Daryl came to acquire his trusty crossbow and how he managed to survive prior to his appearance in the TV series.

There'll be resource management involved as you make your journey in whatever vehicle you can commandeer and more than a little undead slaughter. Starting with a pick-up truck, you'll come across a variety of road events as you travel, like the traffic jam in season 2. The choices you make will determine the path that you take through the narrative, so should you encounter something like the aforementioned traffic jam, you can backtrack, push on through the zombie hordes or take the long way around. All the time, you're burning fuel, ploughing through your resources and expending ammunition, so there's a strategical element to surviving in The Walking Dead.

Do you choose to find a new car? And if you switch up your vehicle, do you opt for reliability, performance or speed at the expense of space for supplies, or do you go for something with plenty of room and better fuel consumption? Whatever the case, you'll run into fellow survivors along the way, who you'll be able to rescue and bring aboard as allies who'll run errands for you. Sending members of your group off on missions, you can run a risk assessment that'll show you the odds of them returning alive.

We're shown a few screenshots taken from the game, depicting a street scene where Daryl finds himself out of gas. There's a host of visual signifiers in the shot, including the bold gas station sign, some billowing black smoke in the background, a pharmacy, a general store and buzzards ominously circling overhead. You can go scavenging for food from the general store and grab medical supplies at the pharmacy, but you risk being cornered and corralled in the store by walkers.

Walkers are a hidden threat and can emerge from absolutely anywhere, so even if the street seems completely isolated, they could crawl out from under cars, shamble from out of alleyways, pop out from hidden nooks in buildings or from behind fences or trees. Guns, as ever in The Walking Dead, are a last resort, as they can attract more walkers making things almost completely insurmountable. Terminal Reality has been working hard to ensure that vast numbers of walkers can be on-screen at any one time too, with a diversity of parts being combined to make each and every walker almost completely unique.

The finished game will feature tall, short, fat, thin, male and female walkers, with a range of different appearances. Apparently, no two walkers will look or indeed walk alike, and the studio has been animating its zombies using motion-capture and creating “the satisfying squish” sound of putrid undead flesh to ensure that each and every kill is as visceral, violent and gory as you'd hope. This used over $100 worth of fruit and vegetable produce, which the team set to work smashing up with various blunt objects to create its old-skool foley art, achieving the sweet sound of squelch.

Killing the brain is still the order of the day, and when guns or a crossbow bolt won't cut it during a close-quarters encounter, there's a grappling system that gives you a choice in an up-close situation. You can opt for brute force to go for a louder, longer kill that could leave you vulnerable afterwards, or you can try for a skill kill, which is more difficult and puts you in greater physical danger, but it's faster and quieter. Walkers are “the intelligent undead”, says Terminal Reality, so they'll be able to hear and smell you, using advanced situational and environmental AI to hunt you down. They'll be totally relentless too, meaning they'll crawl after you with no legs and attempt to take a chunk out of you by any means necessary.

Terminal Reality tells us that it has more emergent scares than planned scares in The Walking Dead: Video Game, which should ensure that you're constantly kept on your toes, with your crossbow – or whatever weapon of choice you have at the time – primed and ready. As far as its ideas and mechanics are concerned, Terminal Reality looks to be on the right track with The Walking Dead, but until we actually see some gameplay footage or get a bit of hands-on time, it's hard, nay impossible to tell how it'll pan out. Early indications are positive though, and it looks like more than just the usual quick buck tie-in. With fan favourite Daryl Dixon at the centre of the solo adventure too, you can expect crowd-pleasing crossbow fun aplenty too. Promising stuff for sure, but let's see some gameplay now, yeah?

The Walking Dead: Video Game is out in 2013.


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Game Info
Terminal Reality


US March 19, 2013
Europe March 22, 2013

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