Overkill’s The Walking Dead is just around the corner, and fortunately enough I got my hands on a beta key. I should obviously start by saying the things I talk about are subject to change, but since the game is so close to launch, I think I got a pretty good idea of what this game is going to be. So, let’s get right into it.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is a four player co-op fps game that takes place in The Walking Dead universe and is made by the creators of Payday 2. This game is about going through levels, killing zombies and other humans, and trying to make it out the other side. There is a small story being told about how a much larger group than yours known as ‘The Family’ is going against you for not taking up their terms on giving them food, so every mission I played was either dealing with something The Family was doing to you or sticking it to them by taking something of theirs.
While I did enjoy the fact that they are trying to tell a story, it really played second fiddle to the gameplay. And how is the gameplay? Actually, it was quite a lot of fun. The biggest thing that both shocked me and made me fall in love with this game is how difficult killing zombies can be. With other zombie games, I usually hit a point where I’m just mowing them down without breaking a sweat, but I never hit that point with my time in this game. There are a lot of zombies that spawn in an area, and you have to spend your time with each one. There were a lot of tense moments throughout my time with zombies, and I liked that a lot. I even remember moments where our whole team got backed up against a wall poking at the zombies, and those moments felt like movie moments. This does lead to moments where you can spend a good amount of time just poking at the zombies, but I still enjoyed those moments just the same. But while I did enjoy zombie combat, I did have some issues with it.
Sometimes, a zombie will grab you. This will give you two options: shove him and lose a lot of health or stab him and have the chance to be tackled and put into a down state. The issue I had with this was that the zombie grabs were way too powerful. The zombie grabbing you alone could take a whole chunk of health, and if you shove the zombie it could take another chunk. I hope this is better balanced because I often felt that was a cheap move for us to lose health. Also, the game has a meter where noises like gunshots or traps would fill the meter, and when that meter filled a horde of zombies constantly spawned to your location. While I thought it was cool at first, I soon found the meter to be frustrating. Whenever I fought humans, they would just shoot like it’s Call of Duty, which frustrated me because they would fill that meter up super fast. It baffles me that they do this because they are smart enough to survive for this long, but they are dumb enough to just spray and let the zombies swarm. On top of that, there were moments when I was in the area where I could see humans near a giant zombie cage, and while I would love to unleash those zombies on the humans,I couldn’t because they would just create a lot of noise. I think if the meter was on a cooldown, then it would be much better.
When it came to human vs. human, I found them to be pretty difficult too. I wouldn’t say they are the most advanced AI, but they did move around a lot and I found myself constantly flanked. Plus, in this game getting shot really felt like something. It wasn’t like Payday where you can just shrug it off. But just like the zombies, I had issues with them as well. Like I said earlier, these guys are bozos and shoot like they have unlimited ammo with no silencer. After each encounter with humans, I usually end with the meter being filled and zombies swarming the area. Also, I think stealth is too difficult. I try to stealth these guys every time, but they could always see me from a mile away and I found it surprisingly difficult to get one hit headshots with them. I like the difficulty on enemies, I just wish they were smarter.
If you have every played Payday 2 before, then you have a general sense of the level design. It’s trying to get from point a to point b with some hurdles in the way, but those hurdles are a bit randomized for more replayability. Still, I thought the levels in this game were really cool. Scavenging is a big deal in this game, so I spent a lot time combing over the level looking for stuff. Just like in Payday there are hurdles to jump through, but I thought these hurdles were cooler to unlock. Drilling the door isn’t as fun as trying to scavenge around and look for parts to fix a forklift that will lift the door. But the one thing that really surprised me is how different the levels could be. This only happened to me once, but I went back and played one of the levels and found my route in the first part of the level to be completely different. I really hope all of the other levels are like this, but I never had anything quite like that with Payday.
In-game, Walking Dead also has some other cool things. The four characters in this game are actually different in terms of their attributes, and that can be seen with what item they carry. In this game, each character has their own unique item (molotov for the old guy, etc.) that can be crafted. Throughout the level, you can find four different components, and these components can be used to either craft the character’s specific item, bandages, or a third item. I thought the crafting aspect is really cool, but I did have an issue where there was always one item that never quite spawned as much. The other interesting thing this game has are the third item I talked about. This third item starts out as a lock pick, but as you start upgrading you get access to different items like various kits, wire cutters, and so forth. The level is scattered with things to interact with that are locked unless you have the right item. A poorly fixed chain link fence? Can cut it with wire cutters. A lock on a box or a gate? Depends on what type of lock. I thought this aspect was really cool, and having teammates equip different items always helps.
The biggest place where this game falters is whenever you play solo. I know, playing solo in a co-op game isn’t as great, but I can usually find some fun playing solo depending on the game. This game really can’t be played solo. There are too many zombies and too many humans to deal with. While I did have a better control over the noise situation, I just found my solo experience to be dull and frustrating. Plus, mix that with some of the aspects I talked about earlier (the third item that unlock specific things, zombie tackles, etc.) and I believe this is one of the worst co-op game to play solo. Also, there are these non-story missions called Samson Bros., in which every time I played it the level didn’t change. The objective changed, but it was in the same place every single time. Finally, I had some technical issues with the game. The game never crashed or anything like that, but it never ran great, the loading screens were long, and for some weird reason I couldn’t change my controls. Overall, I would say the gameplay is quite good. It falters here and there, but killing zombies never got old and its difficulty got me and my friends to really work as a team and not just scatter and do our own thing.
When it comes to co-op games, the meta game is just as important as game itself. If a co-op game offers some levels (no matter how good they are) and nothing else, then I’m out because I don’t see myself playing that game after beating the levels. I think Payday 2 did a good job at offering reasons to go back and keep playing. And I think this game does too. It’s hard to tell how fleshed out everything will be from the beta, but from what I’ve played I can think of multiple reasons to go back. This game takes a scavenging approach to everything. The meta game relies on three different components, and these components are scavenged in the game. These components are used to upgrade the camp, buy some gear from a vendor, and general upkeep. The game goes on a three day cycle (in which only missions where you succeed count as a day) and after those three days resources are spent on upkeep. Upkeep keeps morale high with the survivors you find in some of the levels, though I have no clue what it does. Also, you can send survivors on missions or have them work around your camp which will give you various boosts in-game. There are so many meta game mechanics in this game, that it almost got overwhelming at times, and I loved that.
I did hit some snags with the meta game though. Despite offering around a couple dozen of perks to unlock, character leveling is painfully slow. I played the game for around nine hours, and I only got two characters to level two. After each mission, I had to load into my camp and interact with a quest giver, something that got annoying really fast. Also, despite upgrading the camp I never noticed any visual improvement which kind of sucked. There isn’t really a lot to do in HQ and I wished everything that you could do was something you could just interact with in a menu. Some of the stuff like inventory can be interacted with, but not everything. Finally, I thought matchmaking could’ve been a little clearer. Overall, I think the game offers a really strong meta game that gives plenty of reason to go back.
One last thing I want to talk about is my caution for the game. The game itself can be great and all, but I know how Overkill works. The thing I am cautious about is how they will support the game after launch. While they have supported the PC version of Payday 2 throughout the years really well, I also know they treated every other version of the game as well as Raid WW2 like crap. They would release them, maybe fix the game’s issues, then leave them. I know that their will be a second and maybe even a third season of content for this game, but I still don’t think I can hold them to that. I believe that they will support the game well enough (especially considering the fact that I believe they just finished Payday 2), but only time will tell.
In conclusion, I am actually kind of hyped for this game. This is a co-op FPS, and in some sense if you played one you played them all, but I think this game has something to offer. It’s gameplay is fun and its meta game is healthy. I’m still cautiously optimistic as to how they will support the game and if they iron out any of the issues I found in the game, but in the end I would say I am more optimistic on the game after playing it than I was before.