Let me start by saying, playing video games with people online is far from my thing. All my favorite gaming experiences are drivne by story, making them often times a one-person affair. Which is why I didn’t know how I’d feel coming out of my time playing Overkill’s The Walking Dead at E3. A four-player first-person shooter set in the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. The same team that made the Payday game series, Overkill Software along with Starbreeze Studios, Overkill’s The Walking Dead put you in the shoes of one of four original characters Aiden, Heather, Maya, and Grant.
I jumped into a slice of the game’s Georgetown setting with two strangers who were also checking out the game and a developer leading us. Playing as Aiden meant I was the team’s “tank” character who can take more damage than the other three and carry more objects such as fuel canisters. Each of the four characters has some unique trait about them incorporated with their backstory trailer. For instance, Maya’s days as a surgeon makes her the team’s medic and can heal characters faster than the rest. And believe me…you will get knocked down in this game.
Our group started in a suburban sector of the city and immediately players can see multiple walkers in the distance. The danger in this world hits almost instantly so you’ll need to approach every corner and patch of grass carefully. If you’re feeling brave, you have the option to take on hordes with your rifles, pistols, and melee weapons such as spears or machetes. But if you want to progress, you’ll need to get creative.
My session opted to try and sneak through an apartment building in order to get around the street littered with the undead. A path that proved to have challenges of its own as tight corridors made it hard to maneuver around teammates to battle enemies because the Starbreeze team mentioned in the game that you do have the option of turning on teammates. I can be Shane!
Once we made it through the building and into an alley with multiple garage doors, some of the games specific skills came into play. Each player can carry specific equipment that opens new avenues. As Aiden, I opted to carry wire cutters that allowed me to open chain link fences to avoid certain dangers but other characters could have taken a lockpick set or tools that build and fix various equipment. Just like Rick Grimes and his followers, you’ll need to search cars, homes, and just about anything you’ve seen Walking Dead characters look through for various supplies, medical equipment, and materials needed to fix other random things for some mission objectives.
As we searched the garages, a feeling of panic sets in when the roll-up doors crawl open to either reveal a seemingly safe place to search or a cage full of walkers waiting to rip your throat out. It’s here that we got our first taste of up close and personal combat. Using the bat, my character could push off walkers if they piled on too much but everytime you swing your weapon or use it as a shield it takes a players stamina. Draining your meter in the wrong situation is disastrous in this game so you’ll need to think twice about stage diving into a pile of walkers.
Just as with The Walking Dead’s comic book roadmap of every possible thing that can go wrong in the apocalypse, the danger isn’t just the undead.
Trying to sneak through grassy fields isn’t always a viable option as you may encounter a random bear trap. To get caught might mean you’ll need to fight off enemies while an ally pries the trap open but I can’t imagine what a single player could do in that situation without help.
The Walking Dead universe is best known for having charismatic and often times heinous villains such as Negan, The Governor, or if you’re a fan of Fear The Walking Dead on AMC that turd who nearly let John Dory die, Alicia. Overkill and Starbreeze understand this touchstone of the source material and have a villain character of their own to antagonize our group. This game puts you in the middle of a war for survival as Anderson, who leads your group in the narrative, is in a battle of attrition with a woman named Raina who leads a legion of scavengers known as The Family.
Most of the game’s plot is about building your camp by recruiting survivors you find throughout the missions and fortifying your group with supplies. It’s reminiscent of The Last of Us multiplayer meta game where gathering supplies earned you more survivors to join your camp. The Family will not only try to beat you to supply runs but they’ll also try to take what you have by force. Fighting human enemies is a stark contrast from single note zombies. A.I of these mercenaries is daunting at times, especially because the game at some points mixes the danger because too much gunfire attracts nearby zombies. Though they don’t discriminate against who they eat and can prove an asset when taking on groups of human enemies, trying to be in a gunfight with one of The Family while having to manage the additional incoming threat of the undead is a real Walking Dead experience of –damned if you do, damned if you don’t–.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is more than Payday or Valve’s Left For Dead with a bit of story. It takes the soul of its source material into the game. You’ll find yourself in dire situations where strategy and communication are the only tools you can rely on, not just a hail of bullets. That also leaves me with a bit of pause.
In talking to developers after my demo, I still couldn’t see this game being able to be played by a single-player who doesn’t want to go online with friends. According to Starbreeze, the game will reduce the number of threats to a manageable quantity should you choose to do this as a single-player, but are very adamant those who play with friends and online will get the truest Walking Dead feeling in video games so far.
I left my session still with a bit of skepticism as to whether the game can be the quality solitary experience I want such as The Division surprisingly was, but I do know that if playing shooters while talking to friends online is your thing then you’ll have fun with Overkill’s The Walking Dead.
The game’s publisher 505 Games also dropped news today of a November 6, 2018 release date for North and South America and November 8 for the rest of the world. In addition to the release, 505 Games are putting out a special steel book edition of the game which will come with four collector Deads illustrated by comic book artist Dan Panosian.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead will be available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC this Fall.