The Teardown: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct


Millions upon millions of people flock to AMC’s The Walking Dead each week, much like an actual flock of zombies. Millions of people also flocked to Telltale Games’ brilliant adventure game based on the series. You’d think going two for two would be a good place to call it quits but that would just leave you and me with any sense in this situation. Some individuals lacking foresight and good ideas disagreed and that’s how The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct got pushed out of a crusty sphincter and plopped onto shelves.

I know I make a lot of poop jokes in this column. A lot. I guarantee that at least three jokes involving poo will get edited out of this specific piece, but this is the closest games I’ve played in a while that actually resembles a pile of number two. It’s extremely brown, dry, and covered in a lot of blood.

This looks a lot like my senior picture in high school.
This looks a lot like my senior picture in high school.

By that, I mean that the game’s color palette is made up exclusively of a fairly accurate crap shade of brown that only gets its only color from the blood that splashes out of each debrained zombie. Maybe they aren’t even zombies. These could just be what regular people from Detroit look like. I don’t know. I’ve never even been there.

The redneck main characters do sort of look like Detroit people, although with heavy dose of homoerotic tension in every scene. I don’t watch the show but these two hillbilly survivalists, Merle and Daryl (aw how cute, their names rhyme), spend the whole game looking for each other and argue in between the implied gay sex scenes. That’s about as much as I could gather from the barren plot that mainly pushes you to gather gasoline and car parts. I assumed it was a love story and a poorly glued together one at that.

Wait a minute…

Upon further research, I just found out that Merle and Daryl are actually brothers. I still stand by what I said because an incestous love story is more interesting than whatever I was actually supposed to be paying attention to. And besides, they are from the south. Incest is basically a right of passage there. It’s frowned upon to not take your sister to prom and almost impregnate her.

Not pictured: the million other zombies right behind you.
Not pictured: the million other zombies right behind you.

These inbred twins travel from one ugly city to the next looking for gas and – you guessed it – each is filled with zombies, which is where the game crumbles. The game can’t figure out whether it wants you to kill or fear the flocks of zombies so it haphazardly keeps one foot in each ideal. Given that you can endure the sluggish controls, you can easily pimp slap a walking corpse to its second death but the game cheats when faced with greater numbers in order to artificially inject some difficulty.

If you wander too close, you’ll get grabbed and enter one of the most broken game mechanics within the past decade. As you grapple with these Detroit people (remember that joke?), a cursor appears that you have to line up with a target that allows you to murder a single zombie. You’ll do it again. And again. And again. And again. And again until you frustratingly perish in this conga line of death or escape through a succession of lucky strikes.  I made up for the lack of consistency in this mechanic with my consistent stream of obscenities because fuck this stupid garbage shit for garbage people.

I too have bled out of my ass on a truck in the middle of nowhere. Don't ask.
I too have bled out of my ass on a truck in the middle of nowhere. Don’t ask.

I don’t feel for the garbage people who purposely bought this game. They deserved what is coming to them. I do, however, feel for the people who accidentally purchased this instead of the other infinitely better Walking Dead game. That would be like expecting a steak dinner but instead getting just about anything from Arby’s. And that’s what this disaster is in a nutshell: an Arby’s when compared to the fine dining that is the other Walking Dead game, the television show, or the comic book series. You have three other brilliant ways to absorb this franchise. Don’t make Survival Instinct the one you choose.