Another The Walking Dead game, huh? Almost seems… kind of quaint at this point. Years ago, waves of zombie media hit the shelves with the smash success of The Walking Dead. The tide of undead swelled, rose, crashed, and inevitably fell. Zombies certainly haven’t gone anywhere, but the hordes have thinned. Seems like a new The Walking Dead game is about four years too late. Which it kind of is. Announced back in 2014, OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead has been delayed twice since it was supposed to come out in 2016.
I honestly thought that OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead would one day make it onto a list of “Horror Games We Never Got.” Two whole years of radio silence is enough time to declare most games lost at sea. So imagine my surprise when the good people over at 505 Games sent me an enthusiastic invite to check out the game in a hands-on demo at E3 2018. Not a trailer, not a hands-off presentation, but actually play the game. Having played it, I can confidently say that Overkill’s The Walking Dead isn’t dead on arrival.
So, I’m sure you have some questions. Mainly, “Is this Left 4 Dead?” The answer is no. Aside from being a four-player cooperative shooter with zombies, not at all. This game is a very different beast. Players familiar with OVERKILL’s previous game, Payday 2, will immediately spot more similarities with that. Starting each round, you’ll pick one of four characters. Each character has their own special skill, but can be loaded out to serve one of any number of roles. If you want to learn about each of the characters, you can check out each of their individual character trailers:
So how on earth does this feel like Payday 2? Well just like Payday 2, you’ll need a wide variety of skills if you want to tackle the challenges of OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead. My limited hands on time was spent with three other noobs unfamiliar with the mechanics, and things went poorly. The first big decision is the toolkit you bring. The world of OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead is just as deadly as the zombies, full of traps and hidden pathways. So if you don’t have the trap disarming tool, you might find your chest full of buckshot and your feet caught in a bear trap. If you don’t bring the wirecutters, you won’t be able to make it through fences or barbed wire. Overall, there’s enough variety to make every tool useful and cooperation necessary.
OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead is broken down into various bite-sized missions, with objectives ranging from defending a stronghold to raiding an enemy stronghold. I didn’t get to see a lot of potential missions in my brief demo, but I’d be surprised if OVERKILL didn’t deliver in this department. Missions are broken down into a series of sub-objectives, like finding the fuses to open a gate or gas to run a generator. It’s pretty recognizable stuff, but requires some teamwork if you want things to go smoothly. I had to get all the fuses for the generator in my playthrough, and got my leg stuck in many a beatrap doing so.
But hey, who cares about all that fancy shmancy teamwork. Communication is for nerds, you just want to shoot zombies! Well, remember when I said that this isn’t Left 4 Dead? Shooting zombies is a key part of OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead, but don’t expect to go in guns blazing. Zombies are easy enough to dispatch, but bullets are harder to come by. In my runthrough, I was constantly scrounging for just one or two more shotgun shells to get me through the next engagement. You have a melee weapon to fall back on, but you won’t be chopping your way through the hordes. It takes several solid thwacks to the dome to take a walker down, and your limited stamina means you can’t go all Hattori Hanzo. Zombies also hit you way harder than I expected, taking out a third of my health with each bite. If you’re not careful, even a handful of zombies can overwhelm you.
You’ll also want to make sure you have enough bullets for when you run into human enemies. This is another major way that OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead sets itself apart from Left 4 Dead. Gameplay changes dramatically when you find yourself pitted against a group of bandits. Generally held up in some kind of fortified position, these survivors will test your shooter skills as they flank you, flush you out with grenades, and take you down. They’re smarter than zombies, but in my playthrough their main purpose was to heavily mix-up the gameplay. You can do some clever stuff like take down their zombie defenses if you’re sneaky, but my teammates seemed to all be auditioning for a death metal band and I didn’t get to actually try the stealth routes myself.
Even with my teammates doing their best to celebrate the Fourth of July with their footsteps and gunshots, it was plain to see that stealth is your friend in OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead. You start off each level armed with silencers, but these degrade quickly in a heated firefight. You’ll want to keep your eye out for alternate paths and dish out sneak attacks when needed to clear your way. This is where your tools will come in handy. Use your wire cutters to make a path through a fence, then your toolkit to disarm the explosive traps in your way. Stealth and tripwires don’t work well together.
The demo ended while I was busy looking for some belt to run a generator as my teammates all competed to see who could bleed out the fastest. Overall, I left with the sense that I wished I was playing with more experienced players. Which is a good thing. I want my cooperative shooters to require some real cooperation. This isn’t a brainless, drop in and shoot some zombies run-and-gun experience. One of the best parts about Payday 2 was playing with an experienced group. Once everyone knows their role, heists run like a well-oiled machine. That’s the kind of feeling I got with OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead. When everyone knows their job, you can become the deadliest band in the apocalypse.
Stay tuned for more news, and check out my full review for OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead when it drops on November 6th (8th worldwide) on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. For all our E3 coverage, make sure to follow our social media tag #DreadE3 and you can also read all our other coverage right here!