The Walking Dead has had mixed success in video games over the years, with the beloved Telltale Games’ series earning PLENTY of accolades across its multiple seasons but the not-so highly regarded The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct and Overkill’s The Walking Dead doing VERY little to excite fans. Thankfully, 2020 has been a bit kinder so far, with the series’ virtual reality debut Saints and Sinners met with plenty of praise when it launched earlier this year.
Now, virtual reality specialists Survios are here with their take on the famed franchise, with The Walking Dead: Onslaught taking closer inspiration from the TV show by putting you in the action somewhere between season eight and nine. It makes for a pretty enjoyable experience too, though a needless emphasis on grinding and some repetitive mechanics do see the game falling a little short in some places.
Whilst The Walking Dead: Onslaught does take place within Alexandria during a specific point of the TV show and sees you take on the role of familiar characters as they look to reinforce their safe haven, it also has a more story-driven element that sees everyone’s favourite badass zombie-killer Daryl Dixon helping a woman find her young daughter. Daryl is actually voiced by Norman Reedus in the game too, so those who enjoyed his gruffled tones in Death Stranding will be glad to hear his voice all over again in the role that he is best known for. There’s a decent little story being told too, with it capturing the vibe of the minor side-plots that are ever-present throughout the TV show that display the suffering that the zombie-filled world has brought to everyday individuals.
The Walking Dead: Onslaught plays out exactly how you’d expect a virtual reality adaptation of the TV show to feel, with players working through Daryl’s story whilst also helping reinforce Alexandria, head out on supply runs, and, of course, kill plenty of zombies. It absolutely nails the essence of the TV show perfectly, whilst getting to see familiar faces show up adds an air of authenticity to it that will certainly tick plenty of boxes with fans.
Of course, virtual reality titles such as The Walking Dead: Onslaught that have an emphasis placed on exploration and combat can be a little unsatisfying to play if there isn’t a good control scheme attached to the experience. Fortunately, with VR veterans Survios behind the game, there’s a diverse selection of options in place that include the comfortable but immersion-breaking teleportation as well as free-movement that allows you to stroll around carefree (if your stomach can handle it). Hacking, slashing, and shooting all flow perfectly in-game and feel satisfying to pull off too, whilst being able to set a left-handed mode was perfect for lefties like myself who can often be left to struggle in some virtual reality titles.
Don’t get me wrong, movement will take some getting used to thanks to the lack of sticks on the PlayStation Move controllers and there was the occasional moment where the PlayStation camera’s tracking didn’t pick up more of my intricate and quick movements, but ultimately it works really well and will feel accessible to just about anyone who decides to embark on this zombie-killing adventure. Just make sure to watch out for some areas of the environment that can be easy to get stuck in if you make too many frantic movements when in a showdown with a zombie…
Speaking of zombie-killing, there’s absolutely no denying that it feels good to clear out the undead in The Walking Dead: Onslaught. There is a wide-range of weaponry to unlock that is made up of both close-ranged melee weapons and firearms (don’t worry, the crossbow is here too), so you’ve got the option to get up close and personal or pick off walkers from afar. Of course, ammo is scarce in the world of The Walking Dead, so it’s best to keep it for the more desperate situations if you can…
Sneaking up and dropping a blade in a zombie’s skull feels grotesquely satisfying though, as does slicing through them with a big fire axe or pushing them away from you when they get a little close for comfort. We’ve got the chance to kill plenty of zombies in virtual reality titles over the years, but there’s something about it here that just feels oddly authentic – maybe it’s because The Walking Dead feels like the most significant example of zombies in pop-culture at the moment, so re-creating its showdowns with the undead just feels right.
Unfortunately, whilst the gameplay itself is pretty satisfying, The Walking Dead: Onslaught is guilty of feeling a bit repetitive over time. There’s a big emphasis placed on heading on supply runs, not only to progress the story but also to expand Alexandria, but they end up feeling like a bit of a grind thanks to the fact that you’re doing a lot of the same things and re-visiting a lot of the same areas over and over again. Sure, there is the story to play through that at least adds a bit more context to the zombie-killing, but new missions are only actually accessible once you’ve done additional supply runs.
To the game’s credit, the fact that you’re often working on a timer or have an impending horde of walkers on your tail does manage to capture the desperate sense of urgency that we’ve seen so many times on the show nicely… I just wish that it felt more varied and a little bit less grindey in its approach. The fact that the game adopts a battle royale-style mechanic with its incoming zombies could feel a bit underwhelming too, with the zombie horde being represented by an ever-approaching red cloud that causes your health to dwindle away if you get caught in it. Whilst I understand that having hundreds of zombies on-screen would be difficult to pull off on the more limited virtual reality headsets, it does break the tension completely and makes the threat feel a lot less immersive.
Whilst The Walking Dead: Onslaught’s showdowns with zombies offer plenty of thrills, the repetitive nature of its mission design could grow a little tiresome after a while. Having to grind supply grinds to progress the story could be a bit of a drag, especially since they often consisted of the same tasks in the same areas over and over again. The way that the zombie horde is represented by a red cloud could be a little lame too, even if there wasn’t really a shortage of bite-happy zombies around you looking to get a chunk of your flesh for lunch.
Still, with intensely satisfying zombie-killing action and an authentic world based around the TV show, there is plenty here for fans to enjoy. Just be ready to do a lot of the same things over and over again as you progress through its gruesome escapade.
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), PC VR