When it comes to zombie-themed franchises The Walking Dead has to be one of the most popular, gracing comic books, TV and videogames over the years. Virtual reality (VR) fans were already treated to one title earlier in 2020 and now it’s time for another, The Walking Dead Onslaught. With two videogames based on the same franchise arriving in the same year it’s inevitable that comparisons are going to be made, so can the VR powerhouse that is Survios (Raw Data, Sprint Vector, Creed: Rise to Glory) offer up something new and refreshing for gamers.
Firstly, The Walking Dead Onslaught sets itself apart thanks to Survios’ collaboration with AMC – who makes the TV show. Therefore, whether you’ve seen a couple of episodes or watched every season as a die-hard fan you’ll know the Rick, Daryl, Michonne and some of the other characters. This does help that sense of being dropped into The Walking Dead universe, naturally feeling at home with these characters who’ve been trying to survive for years. That being said, you can still enjoy what’s going on if you’ve never seen the show, you’ll just miss the easter eggs. One problem for newbies is that none of the other characters really get introduced other than Daryl who’s most definitely the star of the experience.
The Walking Dead Onslaught is split into two distinct sections, its story-driven campaign following Daryl running around outside of the walls of Alexandria – your survivors encampment – and the Scavenger missions which are all about looking for as much stuff as possible whilst not getting gnawed on by a walker. In between these you can take a breather in Alexandria, crafting more buildings or upgrading your weapons with all the useful junk you find. But that is about it. There’s no making friends with any of the survivors or having a wander around the town as it grows, it’s a very self-contained bubble.
This is because The Walking Dead Onslaught is very much focused on action, grabbing a selection of weapons and killing as many walkers as possible – whilst maybe finding the odd item along the way. When it comes to Daryl’s story Survios has set it out so you can’t blast through it in one shot, to unlock the next chapter you need to find an allotted amount of survivors in the Scavenger missions. It’s a nice touch so that you have to explore the videogame and see what other elements have to offer. Plus Daryl is known for being quite moody so a different zombie mission is a nice change of pace!
Daryl’s campaign is a straight up linear story arc, A to B, with little in the way of exploration. Survios did manage to draft in Norman Reedus from the show to reprise his role for this VR outing, narrating throughout with hints about where to go – which aren’t really needed. While a boon for the developers, fans will instantly notice some of the other famous characters weren’t so lucky, making their scenes a little weird as the voice doesn’t match the face.
The core of gameplay really revolves around the Scavenger missions which are designed to be replayed so you can gain more loot, upgrade, build and so on. However, once you start playing these and get to grips with the mechanics, the well-designed environments and walkers start becoming a little hollow. At first The Walking Dead Onslaught starts off really well, with a decent tutorial taking you through all the movement and interaction methods so you can have a comfortable experience. Then those first few encounters are really heart pounding, as you grab a walker by the neck and lunge the knife into its head. All as gruesome and visceral as you’d hope and expect.
It’s not long before you start to realise the knife is good, really good, in fact way too good. There’s no need to grab a walker, just dash the knife in its head and move on – the knife also never gets stuck. As mentioned, because The Walking Dead Onslaught is action-oriented there’s no need to worry about stamina or durability, you never get tired and the blade never wears out. As you’d imagine this can get repetitive and boring. Swapping weapons, the standard pistol takes several headshots and the lever-action rifle is just pointless as it’s too slow. Other weapons like the crossbow are fun but why worry about running out of ammo and reloading. Side note, the machete works just as well if the knife is a little small.
Therefore in a videogame which should have elements of horror and dread, when suddenly finding a horde of walkers there is none. 10/15 undead blocking your way, no problem, a few quick stabs and you’re on your way. The Walking Dead Onslaught also lacks any stealth or survival elements to keep the gameplay varied. There’s no backpack or any sort of storage to worry about, pick up as much as you like and it all magically gets stowed away, plus there are no hip holsters or pockets, you can hold up to four weapons all selected via a weapon wheel. This method does give a nice uncluttered view of the world even if there is less to interact with.
Speed is of the essence in the Scavenger missions due to a feature called ‘The Horde’. Unlike the campaign where you can wander at your own pace, in these free form missions a giant red wall which is meant to convey a massive horde of walkers continually pushes you through the level. Presumably it’s meant to enhance that impression of threat yet all it does is chip away at your health until you die or get out, removing the enjoyment of exploration and replacing it with feeling rushed – like when staff want you out their store after closing time.
There’s been so much anticipation for The Walking Dead Onslaught thanks to Survios’ excellent back catalogue that it was predictable expectations were high. The studio has continued its high production values with a great looking VR game, a superb soundtrack and of course the official affiliation to entice fans. Yet there are clearly deficiencies in the gameplay such as the most dangerous knife ever created to the overall lack of depth. The Walking Dead Onslaught isn’t a bad videogame, it just doesn’t do anything special.