Overkill’s The Walking Dead Review | xGamers
Often when you review a video game based upon a popular media franchise, you have to make extensive references to the universe built by that foundation while also critiquing the final product as both a game and some kind of approximation of its ability to pull it off for both fans and gamers.
Yet, when it comes to Overkill’s The Walking Dead, it is really more necessary to discuss the game’s development history - troubled and halted - as well as its ties to the now-finished graphic novel series The Walking Dead.
You see, Overkill’s The Walking isn’t just a disappointment as a game but it is also a marked failure in terms of bringing to life the rich and detailed universe of The Walking Dead. Populated with layered characters and complex scenarios, the graphic novels and the television show on AMC are both known for offering high stakes drama and action.
Unfortunately, for Overkill’s The Walking Dead, it seems that all of the high stakes drama and action occurred in actually bringing the game to audiences rather than being a part of the broken, disjointed experience that is the game itself.
Naturally, making a game that cashes in on both The Walking Dead’s popularity as well as gamers’ insatiable appetite for zombie and survival themed titles, Overkill’s concept makes perfect sense.
In many ways, it would seem to be a failure of developing the concept and implementing it in a way that provided a quality experience for audiences.
Yet this doesn’t really encapsulate the totality of the story behind the development of the game which may have ultimately doomed it to failure. Most zombie games are of a certain type, whether it is a survival horror game like Resident Evil or a crafting exploration type of game like Minecraft and Project Zomboid.
The problem is that developers often want to marry the crafting and exploration type of zombie horror with an action-oriented Resident Evil-style game. Resident Evil itself has changed a lot over its life, but most people still associate it with its roots as tank-control-laden zombie horror with B-movie plots and cheesy dialogue. Overkill’s The Walking Dead feels like an earnest version of those early RE games.
When it comes to The Walking Dead, the exploration and crafting concept works well within the universe established by the graphic novels. It is Overkill’s attempt at throwing everything into The Walking Dead that it could that led to a bloated and broken game.
Had the developers focused on the basic, foundational gameplay mechanics necessary to make this kind of game work, it could have been a different story. Instead, the game is what happens when hubris and inability meet each other and have a love child.
The development of Overkill’s The Walking Dead is a story in itself. Going in and out of production for years starting in 2015, the game’s eventual release in 2018 looked more like a game hot five years ago. One should never judge a book by its cover, but its hard not to judge Overkill’s TWD by that exact metric. The graphics are sloppy and garish. The characters look at times like they would be perfectly at home on a Dreamcast disc.
Even though the creators were allowed to do whatever they wanted in terms of TWD’s IP, the game’s continual delays only added to its increasing irrelevance to consumers.
It was never irrelevant for Starbreeze Studios who took a lot of the blame for the game’s failure.
In fact, it was the very dismal reception of the game both in terms of sales and critically in the form of reviews that led to Starbreeze Studios losing the license to TWD entirely.
Of course, without the license to make future content, the game was officially ended with console versions of the game permanently canned.
This abrupt and shattering development not only crippled most of the game’s future but also insured that the devs couldn’t continue to fix existing issues on what was released. Not that it mattered, anyway, as the Steam sales were not enough to keep Starbreeze from reorganizing its business to avoid imminent collapse.
Initially slated as a narrative sliced into multiple seasons, the commercial reception of the game doomed that concept and gamers were treated to one installment in the planned epic.
As far as stories go, Overkill’s The Walking Dead remains true to the graphic novels in terms of tone if not anywhere close as far as narrative quality is concerned. The story won’t bore you but it won’t pull you along either.
There’s little motivation to figure out what’s going on in the game’s world because you already know if you are familiar with TWD and you likely don’t care otherwise.
The game doesn’t do a lot to give you reasons to care but the story is never offensive or cliche ridden and tedious. The story isn’t the best but it isn’t trying to be. What it wants to be is something between the television show, the graphic novels, and Telltale’s excellent series.
As far as video game stories go, it’s really not that bad at all. Fans of TWD will find many points of contact with the lore they already know but you don’t need to be familiar with the graphic novels or the television show to enjoy what’s on offer here.
There is a feeling throughout that something bigger was planned but we’ll never see those future seasons. That tension makes the narrative awkward but doesn’t hurt it otherwise.
Knowing that most of the story will never be told, what else are we left with as far as this game goes? Well, graphically, it looks like something circa 2013 to 2015 at the latest.
Many critics have rightly pointed out that it looks like Payday 2 and that is strikingly true.
The reason for that is because Payday 2 was initially used to show proof of concept for the game that eventually developed into Overkill’s The Walking Dead.
The only problem is that it looks like the Payday 2 build became more than just a proof of concept and instead served as the bones for building the full TWD game.
Had it come out when it was initially planned, graphics would not have been an issue and any resemblance to Payday 2 wouldn’t matter as much.
But in 2018 many people found themselves comparing a new game to something that came out some time ago.
All of that is a long way of saying the graphics won’t impress you or endear the game to you but they get the job done.
And that leaves us with the gameplay.
What have we got here? A combination of tank control-like mechanics and quicksand movement.
The game is like one of those nightmares where you struggle to get anywhere and it will make you absolutely terrified...of playing it any further.
One thing the game get so painfully right is the gunplay element.
That’s fast, fun, and snappy. If only the whole game that surrounded it weren’t a complete mess.
So, aside from the gun mechanics being decent, that means that movement, interaction, and general game mechanics are not up to par.
They’re not up to snuff for 2015 and they’re not any good for 2018-2019.
It isn’t hard to see why this game ended up being such a burden for Starbreeze Studios - there’s no “there” there.
Because of that, the only other audience out there for this game are mainly TWD fans.
But, since it isn’t really connected, there’s absolutely zero incentive for them to buy the game.
That means that both major audiences for this title really have no compelling reason to get it.
These reasons could be why the plug was pulled on the whole project or it could just be that it was never going to work out to start.
Like we said in the beginning, Overkill’s The Walking Dead was likely doomed to failure during development and almost nothing before or since could save it from being mediocre at best.
Coming late in The Walking Dead’s relevance as a television show and almost releasing at the end of the graphic novels as well, Overkill’s The Walking Dead feels like a game out place and out of time.
It also shows how the developers ran out of time in many ways and, though we’ll never know what they wanted to do with this narrative in the end, we do know that what we have now is nothing close to what we wanted or needed.
Should you buy this game? Even if you are a devoted fan of The Walking Dead, we think this is a tough purchase to justify. It’s a bad product, plain and simple. Bad games are not only hard to beat but they also offer you no real reason to want to finish them in the first place. That’s much the case here as the game is not compelling on its own nor as a TWD property. It’s just a bust.