Going into E3 2018, one of the games I was cautiously optimistic for was Overkill’s The Walking Dead. It was easy to be excited as both a lover of zombie fiction and a fan of the show, but I also remember how the last Walking Dead first-person shooter outing—The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct—went.
That optimism dropped sharply, however, when I saw the gameplay reveal during the pre-E3 PC Gamer keynote. That video made me feel like the game might be an action-packed, guns blazin’ type of experience—exactly what I didn’t want from such a project.
While I didn’t see enough of the game to make any promises on how it’s going to turn out, what I can tell you is that, after going hands-on with Overkill’s The Walking Dead at E3, at least some of my hope has been restored.
After picking our characters (I went with Maya, the medic of the group) and load outs, we selected a part of Washington D.C. to travel to (Georgetown, I believe it was). Our goal there was to regain our camp’s water purifier that had been stolen by a rival faction, and when the game loaded up, the dev team member that was playing with us offered a recommendation that I wasn’t expecting: don’t use your guns.
In Overkill’s The Walking Dead, all kinds of noises can catch the attention of foes both living and undead, so he recommended that we try to be stealthy for as long as possible. Being noticed by standard human foes brings expected results—one enemy alerts their comrades, and suddenly you’re in a shootout with a growing group of people all firing in your direction—but it’s the zombie side of things where it gets really interesting. At the top of the screen is a horde meter that shows has restless the walking dead are, and the more that meter builds due to what’s going on, the more dangerous and numerous the zombie hordes get.
So, in those early moments, we stuck to melee weapons, which definitely felt like it put us at a disadvantage when fighting off more than a few zombies (who aren’t necessarily out even when they’ve been downed). We were also able to outfit our guns with silencers in the load-out screen, but as I (and my teammates) would soon learn, silencers definitely don’t last forever. As opposed to what I’d assumed from that gameplay reveal trailer, we made use of a lot more stealth and thoughtful attacks than I was expecting, with a few puzzle elements scattered along the way.
It’s hard for me to say how “open world” the game is going to be, but I do know that there was some freedom in the paths we were taking to reach the enemy encampment. Chatting with another Overkill team member after my demo, he talked about how players will be able to travel around the city not just for missions, but also simply to go out to kill a few zombies or find supplies. Player will also have a home base they can return to, which will build up as the story progresses and you rescue more community members. So, the game definitely won’t be a linear experience for anyone with that worry, and some of the aspects people like me usually expect from zombie survival games seem like they’ll be in place.
There still a lot that I want to know about (or see of) Overkill’s The Walking Dead, but I walked away from my appointment once again excited to see how things are going to turn out. My demo with the game legitimately was interesting and enjoyable, but it’s really going to depend on how those elements I saw blend with others I didn’t, and if the gameplay holds up over much longer periods of time.