It does the interesting things horribly and standard genre fare worse. Survival Instinct is an ugly train wreck.
The Walking Dead series is not a typical zombie story. Instead of focusing on the zombies themselves the story is focused on the characters and their relationship with both the living and the dead. This unique mixture of written drama and intense action has made The Walking Dead one of the number one shows right now. With the success of both the comic and AMC TV show fans expected a video game adaptation of the series with the same gut wrenching drama and violence the series is praised for and that's exactly what they got with Telltale's 'The Walking Dead', a game which received multiple Game of the Year awards and it's arguably the most successful episodic video game of all time.
While Telltale's 'The Walking Dead' got most of its praise for its extremely well written drama actually playing the Walking Dead was a bit of a chore as most adventure games aren't built for action beyond the quick time event. When Activision gained the rights for the TV show version of the Walking Dead their mission was to make an FPS action game within the Walking Dead universe that surpassed Telltale as the better of the two games. Imagine a gripping tale of the Walking Dead from the creators of Call of Duty, the most successful first person shooter franchise of all time. That game would make fans of The Walking Dead want to chew their teeth down and digest it but instead The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts would make those same people spit out in disgust.
The game stars Daryl Dixon, one of the most popular characters on the show, during the initial outbreak of walkers. The first part of the story is to find your brother and fellow TV show character Merle Dixon. Both characters are voiced by their TV show actors Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker giving their best “We're doing this for a paycheck” impressions as their performance is flat with little to no effort. I hope you like these two characters because not only do none of the original TV cast make an appearance but none of the characters from the TV series make an appearance. Two characters from the show are mentioned but it doesn't mean anything and doesn't lead to anything. The story itself is not even close to the chops of the TV show with such interesting plot threads like “How Daryl Got His Crossbow” or “How Merle Got His Baggy Of Prescription Medication”. The worst part of the story is that multiple times in the game they'll start something that would be borderline interesting and immediately forget about it. The first piece of dialogue that start this plot thread will be more often than not the last piece of dialogue on the subject and never mentioned again.
Of course being that this IS The Walking Dead you can of course assume that there will be zombies and plenty of them. During each mission the player must scavenge for fuel, food and weapons while sneaking past walkers. The first half of the game is more or less a stealth game as you do not have many weapons or items in your inventory. This is an refreshing change of pace from other zombie titles such as ZombiU or Dead Island which are more much more action based than Survival Instincts. In Survival Instincts when you're being attacked by two or more Walkers you are in serious trouble. But this is not the praise you think it is as the combat is as smooth as sandpaper. In ZombiU for example if you're attacked by a horde of zombies you can jump over cars and make barricades. In Survival Instincts you won't be able to jump on top of anything as there is invisible walls everywhere and you won't be able to barricade yourself in as one zombie can take out a wooden door or fence in a matter of seconds. Your best chance to hope they get stuck on a piece of geometry, that is of course if you haven't died already which you'll being doing a lot of in this game. But don't worry, by the end of he game Survival Instincts turns completely into action mode when you find the Sledgehammer, a weapon so over powered you'll be using it over the horde of guns and ammo you have collected throughout your travel, as if Zeus gave you Mjölnir himself.
Speaking of travel, another unique mechanic that Survival Instincts manages to completely ruin is traveling. In Survival Instincts your overall mission objective is to evacuate the area from checkpoints and holdouts throughout the state. This leads to the Travel system. Basically you choose where to go, usually between two options and those two option will give you different missions, giving Survival Instincts some replay value (though why you would want to play though this again is beyond me). When you've select your destination you have a choice between going on the highways, the streets or the back alleys.These 3 options will use different amounts of fuel and has different chances of scavenging or breaking down. The only problem with this system is that it doesn't matter how much fuel you have you'll have to stop at one point. This system was designed to reward players who have found more fuel but the punishment for having no fuel is the same as the reward for having lots of fuel, going though a small level to either collect fuel, a car part or just scavenge None of these options are fun and often reuse the same levels.
During your traveling you'll find other survivors who will join you on your journey. These survivors can be equipped with weapons and sent out on missions to gather supplies for you, much like the MSF from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker though much more watered down. But it's pretty pointless sending these people out as the risk far outweighs the reward as these survivors would came back with 2 pistol ammo and 4 shotgun ammo unlike you who would come back with a shotgun, a pistol, 20 pistol ammo and a grenade. Of course if those survivors died the weapons they have on them will die with them.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts is the worst kind of bad game as it tries to do something unique and different but messes it up so badly that it will make you all the more sad that you're actually playing it. But even doing standard genre fare, it fails to bring it home from the graphics that looks like a HD port of a Dreamcast game, to the complete lack of sound from most of the melee weapons. No multiplayer at all despite being the perfect premise with the two brothers and the game has as little connection to the show as possible. You know as much about the Dixon brothers now as you did last year. The fact that The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts went from $50 to $20 on Steam before launch shows you the quality of this game better than I can.
Though it does have the best ever ladder climbing mechanic so it's got that going for it.