Overkill’s The Walking Dead: Beta Impressions

Developed by Overkill Studios (in case you missed that in the title of the game), Overkill’s The Walking Dead is supposed to be set in the post apocalyptic universe created by Robert Kirkman for the comics and TV series, only this time you’ll be in and around the DC area. Overkill is most notably known for developing the Payday FPS games where you play on a team of criminals attempting to rob a bank and get past the “Coppers” to get away with your score. I sat down with a friend who was also very excited to get his hands on this and play it and we were looking forward to playing through the story campaign together but after playing the beta for a bit this weekend we’re now holding off on purchasing the game for a while to see if things get better.
 

The Good

  • Game looks alright, the visuals won’t blow you away but they’re really not bad.  Thought it sounded ok, again, it doesn’t stand out in anyway but is ok here as well.
  • Exploring and scavenging for stuff was cool and I do like the look and feel of the environments.

 

The Bad

  • While being grabbed by a walker, the kill mechanic has you stab them in the head about 8 times in the head to kill them (ok I exaggerate, more like 4) but the animation takes so long that if there is another zombie anywhere near you then you know you’re going down to the ground and being overrun.
  • Positioning for stealth kills has to be near perfect though this could easily be improved by allowing you to do it anytime you’re within range of a walker that is as of yet unaware of you rather than just when you’re directly behind them at just the right position.
  • Walkers silently open doors. Yes you read that right, they don’t break them down but instead open doors you’ve closed and with no in-game mechanic to lock or board them up. You may find that even though you’ve closed a door, while you turned around to scavenge real quick before moving into another room, when you turn back around you could be met with several walkers that snuck up behind you and are now getting busy trying to tackle you down and munch on you. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could attempt to lock or bar the door and they then broke through after a short period of time. At least then you’d have some kind of warning. There are some places in the game you can do that but if they’re going to let the walkers just open the door then it would be nice to have a way to slow them down a bit.
  • There were times when walkers would turn up in some levels in areas that were previously clear with no discernible way for them to have gotten there leading us to believe the game had spawned them into the level at that spot. When wandering through a town this might not be that big of a deal but when defending your camp and you’re maintaining the gates to keep them out but then some mysteriously come out of a building behind you that was clear with no other openings from the outside where the horde was is rather frustrating.

 

  • You’re only allowed to take one “game mechanic” item and are severely penalized if the objectives don’t use that item. By that I mean that you are forced to work your way through/around a horde just because you don’t “x” mechanic item. The game allows you to play as a single player, or a team of 2 – 4 but mechanics like this that are intended to encourage teamwork and diversifying your team severely penalize players without a full team.
  • There are booby traps in the game that you can’t bypass if you don’t have said skill item…like a line of bottles that when walking through makes noise and alerts stuff, attempting to jump over them fails (and that’s just dumb). Apparently, the only way to enter that area and not set off the bottles is with wire clippers…uhm I guess I’m not smart enough to just step over? I was told that you could attack them with a melee weapon to disable them (if you don’t have the clippers) and that would make less noise than tripping over them but that seems to still be counter-intuitive to a game that punishes you for not being stealthy.

 

The Truly Ugly

  • The way Stamina works is beyond overly aggressive, you swing your weapon 4 or 5 times and are too tired to swing again.  It will regen quickly when resting after a short cooldown but in this type of game it leads to you getting over run far too easily, especially when considering the other issues with melee combat.  
  • Hits to the head with melee (even if it cuts off a third of their head) still doesn’t always kill a walker. This is especially frustrating when you can kill it from behind with a single stab to the head and while I understand it is meant to allow you to gain the upper hand with a sneak attack per se, it is still a frustrating experience.
  • Pushing a zombie off you costs health? What…the…actual…#^@%? I’m clearly holding them off at arms length based on what I can see in the animation so how am I losing so much of my health the instant I push them away? Seemed like poor implementation of a way to make you take damage without any real reason why other than to punish you for getting too close to a walker.
  • In another mission early on they put you up against a human gang with automatic rifles and don’t give you much ammo, you can’t loot ammo from them, though you might get 1 or two rounds from each kill sometimes but not always, and you also cannot pick up their weapons when you take them out. The gang keeps shooting even if they can’t see you so they attract the horde of walkers, which logically I understand. However what it leads to is you being penalized for the AI just wasting ammo shooting up the area because they saw you somewhere a few minutes ago. If/when you run out of ammo you’re especially screwed as some of them are either up in areas you can’t get to in order to engage in melee with them or they’ll see you long before you close the distance and shoot you down. I didn’t get to see if the zombies attacked the other human faction (gang) or not, but the other humans were certainly not concerned about attracting the horde.  So basically, you need to Leroy Jenkins the gang if you in any way break stealth at any time (which will lead you to getting shot) to take them down quickly because if you don’t you’ll have to deal with them plus the horde of walkers they’ll drawn in.
  • Speaking of the horde, if you ever max out the horde meter at the top, just give up and start over. Trying to survive that is a truly maddening and ultimately futile/frustrating endeavor.

 

Other Thoughts

I liked them having zombies in SWAT gear that were harder to kill as it added a nice little additional challenge to the encounters. Bloaters that explode when shot and make it impossible to see for a short period of time felt a bit “outside the lore” but I probably would have been ok with them if the melee system wasn’t so bad. Between the crappy way that melee and “finishing” kills are implemented it just doesn’t feel like a Walking Dead experience to me.
 
I read a little about weapon degradation and how it is implemented in the game. It made me think of Morgan, I mean Morgan has been using the same walking stick for how many seasons now? So if I’m playing in this same universe why don’t my items last like that? Don’t get me wrong, I’d be ok with some things breaking down but certainly not every weapon. To be fair, I’m not a big fan of those systems in games anyway. I feel like devs often implement them on weapons what shouldn’t have it (like a crowbar that breaks after “x” number of strikes) or ramp up the degradation far beyond anything logical in order to artificially increase the difficulty or grind to a game. I would have been ok with the occasional time a weapon gets stuck in a zombie and you have to either take a second to pull it out or just abandon it till you clear the area out and then go back and pick it up.
 
Now of course some of the…we’ll call them “challenges”, I mentioned above may be mitigated by having a full team of 4 people and being higher level but I feel like the game itself still needs some more polish and melee combat needs some serious adjusting before it would be enjoyable enough to spend the full price tag on.
 
Yes this is a beta and not the final release version, likely not even the latest beta version they’re working off internally, but that means something different nowadays than it used to. Betas today are now more often about advertising or stress testing servers for player load than working out bugs in a game or testing gameplay mechanics, especially if it is an open beta this close to launch of the title.
 
I can’t recommend this game at launch to players but if you’re still interested in checking it out I highly recommend watching streams of it before purchasing and reading a few other reviews as well to help you decide before buying.

 

Drac just wants to play games on his PC (and occasionally a console), but somehow found himself roped in writing and talking about them as well. Don’t expect anything high-brow though, Drac is just your “common man” gamer and he speaks from that perspective.