Overkill’s Walking Dead has been a long time coming. The Payday 2 developers announced the game based on the comic series way back in 2014, and after a series of delays, it has finally landed and we have finally been able to tackle it. Maybe a few more delays were needed, to be honest…
The game follows a group of original survivors for the Anderson camps and opens with a rival faction known as “The Family” stealing your water purifier. The first mission will revolve around facing The Family to get the purifier back to your base, triggering an all out war as a result. Along the way you’ll meet new survivors and new enemy factions to deal with.
The Walking Dead franchise prides itself on having memorable characters and solid development, something that this game unfortunately lacks. None of the characters are fleshed out, and by the end of the roughly 10 hour story I knew nothing about them, even forgetting most of their names. Story cutscenes play in pre-rendered stlylised cinematics with below average voice acting that completely destroy any good story beats this game could possibly offer.
When you start the game, you’ll have the choice of 4 characters, each with his/her own skill trees and abilities. Maya, the team’s medic, can deploy first aid kits and is more proficient with revolvers and SMGs. I stuck with Maya mostly due to the aforementioned individual skill tree system. I didn’t want to repeat missions with other characters for the sake of grinding. As you progress through the campaign, you can actually meet new survivors to play as, but I didn’t feel compelled to switch classes.
Combat is as basic as it gets. Melee takes the vast majority of the gameplay and it’s just too basic for its own good. Left click for a melee attack, hold it for a heavy attack and right click to shove enemies. Shooting isn’t any better, as a lot of the guns don’t feel very accurate or powerful, with a few exceptions. The SMGs in particular do not feel satisfying to use, as they lack any impact and I feel like I’m missing shots I should be hitting a lot of the time.
Most of the missions rely on stealth and making as little noise as possible. The more noise that you make, the more walkers get attracted to your location. The idea is to encourage stealthier gameplay and avoiding using firearms for as long as possible. You do get a suppressor that will break after a few shots so it’s highly recommended to use these on human enemies.
Problems arise when you encounter an enemy faction. If the enemies see you or a zombie gets close to them, they will just open fire and make as much noise as possible. The enemies don’t use suppressors or even try to do things quietly, and they seem to have supernatural powers at times. In one instance I opened a gate full of walkers then hid nearby. The Family seemed to know where I was without actually seeing me.
The game’s opening missions are the bog standard zombie defense that has you sprinting around collecting wooden panels to close the gates before too many zombies get through. It’s a dull experience that sets a really low bar for the rest of the game. Other defense modes have you surviving against waves of The Family members, stopping them from stealing supplies and planting bombs. They are equally as dull. Thankfully, things get better when some Left 4 Dead-style levels get introduced.
They are far from perfect, but these levels are where Overkill’s The Walking Dead gets to show some potential. The level design is fine for the most part, but they don’t do much to differentiate from each other, they are all structurally identical. Little things such as random shortcuts, loot and objectives are what differ one level from the other, and I have to admit that they were nice overall touches. One of the best missions involved the group traversing a subway to reach camp. It’s full of walkers and we are being hunted by human enemies. It was tense like a Walking Dead game should be, and by far the most interesting mission in the game.
By themselves, walkers aren’t threatening, often going down easily in one bat swing, but as a horde comes and backs you into a corner, the tension really rises, and getting out of brutal situations feels satisfying: this is when the game is at its absolute best. The Walking Dead as a whole has moments that just shine through. One of the most memorable moments had my group slowly pushing our way down an alleyway as a horde of walkers were coming in from both sides. It was a close call and the non-scripted nature of that event made it much more exciting: it’s a shame these moments don’t happen nowhere near as often.
Without friends, you are prone to suffer the awful matchmaking system. I’ve been grouped with people who just wanted to sabotage the level by wildly firing their guns, or players who just rushed to the end of the level without looting for supplies. What makes the matchmaking all the worse is the lack of voice chat. It’s highly recommended that you try and find a good group because the solo experience is painful. The game is not balanced for solo players in mind, since the difficulty doesn’t seem to scale with how many players there are. It’s way too easy to be overrun by a horde of walkers. Some levels are certainly doable on your own, but I wouldn’t recommend it. An easy solution to this is reducing the size of the horde and how many human enemies spawn in the level.
The loot progression system feels incredibly awkward at times, since it borrows the “power level” from games like Destiny. Overkill’s The Walking Dead’s endgame consists of repeating the same missions over and over again to level up and collect more powerful weapons. It gets to the point that shooting an enemy in the head with a revolver won’t kill it because its “power level” is too low. Base management also exists, but the game forces this onto you too much. As you progress through the game, you can meet and recruit survivors to bring back to base and then send out on their own missions to collect supplies, giving you some bonuses. You upgrade your base to unlock new parts of the skill tree, as well as new missions.
Visually, Overkill’s TWD is a good looking game. The highly detailed environments are great to look at and the zombie models look amazing, especially when there’s a huge horde of them right next to you, although animations are stiff and the survivor character models look lifeless. For the most part, the game actually ran fine on my computer, but there were lots of bugs and technical issues: Long loading times, getting caught on the environment, the always online requirement and the UI just not appearing, just to name a few. I’ve also seen a multitude of people complaining about the game constantly crashing, but this hasn’t happened to me in my 20 hours spent with it.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is an interesting game, I won’t deny. The co-op experience might be good but everything else just falls flat. Then again, knowing how Overkill has managed to improve Payday 2 with lots of updates over the years, I’m still slightly optimistic about this game’s future. If you want to pick this up, wait for a sale.
Nails what a Walking Dead game should look like, but it doesn’t stand out elsewhere. The level design can often be a bit generic.
The combat is passable at best, but there were bunch of design decisions I was definitely not a fan of.
Guns don’t sound impactful and the voice acting isn’t great. By the way, no voice chat.
Brief moments of excellence show the game’s potential, but these are few and far between. Looking forward to future updates, though.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is available now on PC.
A copy of Overkill’s The Walking Dead was provided by the publisher.