As a huge fan of Left 4 Dead and an avid fan of PAYDAY 2, a combination of the two sounded like it would be fun, but unfortunately OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead is more of a disappointment than anything. The game may look good, but the underlying gameplay is a mess of unsatisfying combat and repetitive mission design only made worse by the numerous technical issues.
Decent visuals. OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead may have some gameplay issues, but at least it looks good when doing so. The models look nice, the textures are clean, and the different environments are actually populated. Considering just how much there is to look at, I was also surprised by how well the game ran. Even at max settings, I only had a couple fps drops during my time my time with the game — it is pretty well-optimized in that regard. Visually, the game may not be the best-looking in the genre, but it is definitely not bad and provides for a decent aesthetic when combined with the game’s nice music.
Good gunplay. For all that the game does wrong when it comes to combat (more on that later), it has some surprisingly good gunplay. There was never a moment where I felt cheated when it came to shooting or being shot at. Hit registration is solid, the recoil feels great, and the variety of choices when it comes to weapons gives the player a lot of options to suit his/her playstyle. While there may not be a whole lot of ammo to go around, at least the gunplay is polished enough to make every shot count.
Unsatisfying combat. To me, the game’s greatest issue is that the combat is simply not satisfying. Due to the shortage of ammo in most levels, I had to resort to a melee combat style: hacking zombies several times with a pickaxe or machete until my stamina ran out, backing up until the stamina regenerated, and then repeating the process. It was a very dull cycle, especially so when the zombies infinitely respawn. In some levels I would find myself repeating this cycle for upwards of fifteen or so minutes at a time. Now if the combat was actually satisfying, this may not be so much a problem, but unfortunately, killing the same type of zombie over and over really just does not cut it, especially when there is no reward for doing so — it just feels like mindless killing.
Repetitive gameplay. This is more of an extension to the previous point, but there is even more repetition to this game outside of just its combat. The different mission types all seem to require some form of boring repetition, whether that be bouncing back and forth between entry points in defense missions, grabbing supply bags one by one and running them to and from a truck in supply missions, or even hunting down fuses or gas to open a door in story missions. All of these tasks lose their appeal early on, especially when they are constantly repeated across every mission. What makes it even worse is that many of these missions repeat across the same map. For example, I had to complete both a regular story mission and supply mission on the same map in order to advance the story. There is simply not enough variety in the game, which, when coupled with the unsatisfying combat, really brings down the whole experience.
Spotty matchmaking. On top of the gameplay issues, OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead has a couple issues when it comes to matchmaking. First of all, the game makes it very difficult to find and maintain a decent squad. The only way to queue up with other players is through direct invitation or to queue up for a specific mission and hope that someone else is doing the same. Unfortunately, even though I played the game during peak hours (such as Sunday afternoon), I only managed to match with maybe six or seven players total, and only in certain missions. For example, I never managed to find players for defense missions, making those much more difficult to get through. Even when queuing up for a specific mission, the game sets the lobby timer to just two minutes, hardly enough time to find even one other player. Fortunately, players can join while the mission is in-progress, but once the mission is over, the game does not appear to provide any means of allowing the party to stick together, instead booting everyone back to the map separately. The lack of a “stay together” option seems really odd given just how much this game emphasizes its co-op elements.
On top of all of this, I ran into some technical issues with the game’s matchmaking system, specifically with being placed into missions that I did not queue for. For example, I queued for a regular story mission, but somehow ended up joining a party with another guy in his hub world. Overall, while the lack of players may not be entirely the game’s fault, these other issues can and should be sorted out, especially so because this is a game that cannot truly be played offline.
Unnecessary hub world. I quite like the idea of hub worlds in games, especially when the genre calls for it. However, OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead is a prime example of how NOT to do a hub world. The hub world in this game serves as a place for players to accept new missions, purchase upgrades, and store items, all features that could just have easily been placed on the game’s main menu — it is the definition of unnecessary. What makes it so much worse though is the fact that it has to be queued for just like a regular story mission. I have to go through the process of selecting the hub world, waiting in a lobby for other players to possibly join, and then waiting for the hub world itself to load. I have the game installed on an M.2 SSD, so the loading times were not that bad for me, but I have seen complaints of excessively long loading times on the Steam community for the game, so I can only imagine how much more painful it must be for those that have it installed on a traditional hard drive. On top of that, most of the time I went to the hub world, I would just load in, accept the next quest, and then exit immediately. Considering the process I have to go through in order to do so, it just feels like a massive waste of time. The game really should have just made these features available from the main menu rather than shoehorning them into a completely unnecessary hub world.
Decent amount of bugs. I have seen a lot of discussion on how buggy this game is, so it was rather fortunate that I only ran into a few bugs during my time with the game. Some of the bugs I ran into included: completing the vaulting animation over an object but not actually vaulting over it, zombies zipping across the screen, and getting smacked by an enemy facing the opposite direction. Additionally, although not necessarily a bug, I found the way in which zombies grab the player to be rather inconsistent. It seemed that most zombies could only grab the player when right in front of him/her, but there were several instances where I was grabbed from what seemed to be an unfair distance, enough for me to vocally question how that just happened. Hopefully these issues can be smoothed out with time, but as it stands, the game does have a decent amount of bugs to it.
I was really looking forward to this game, but OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead simply has too many issues to recommend. Unsatisfying combat, repetitive gameplay, spotty matchmaking, and quite a few bugs make this a really hard sell, even if you have friends to play the game with. At the very least, the bugs will likely be patched, but many of the game’s issues are core to its design, so I will just stick with Left 4 Dead for now.
You can buy OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.