The adventures of Rick Grimes and his band of not-so-merry men (and women) have become a true cultural institution over the 10 seasons (and counting) of the AMC series, not to mention the original Robert Kirkman graphic novels. The series has been hugely influential in gaming circles too, inspiring a legion of zombie games, including the excellent Telltale adventure series and the recent Saints and Sinners VR game.
The key selling point for Onslaught is that it is an official product, and therefore features characters from the series itself, with Daryl, Rick, Carol, Michonne, and Eugene all playing a part here. Developers Survios have also created the narrative in collaboration with the show’s writers, so it all looks set to be a great addition to the series… or does it?
I still find the whole experience of VR gaming to be fresh and exciting and will freely admit that even relatively shallow games can be enjoyable due to the increased immersion. It’s therefore particularly damning when I say that The Walking Dead Onslaught is woefully short of content and feels like a repetitive grind through a limited set of assets. While the somewhat procedurally generated supply runs promise unending gameplay, the whole package is just dull and disappointing.
The much-heralded storyline developed with the TV show’s writers is paper-thin and wouldn’t amount to more than a disposable sub-story in a filler episode. The whole premise is that Daryl is separated from the rest of the crew and gets caught up in a woman’s search for her daughter. In the process he must travel through a series of identikit environments and deliver some truly uninspiring dialogue, only for the story to not even resolve at the end. Yes, Daryl is voiced by Norman Reedus, but the whole thing is so generic and predictable that it feel like a waste. To make matters worse, series fans can’t even just power through the story mode as you have to unlock each chapter through playing the rudimentary survival part. It’s no surprise that Andrew Lincoln has no part in it – Rick instead being played by a replacement actor.
You begin both story and survival modes with basic weaponry – a knife and a pistol at first – but slowly unlock more effective weapons as you find them out in the wild. There are a decent range of eighteen melee and ranged weapons, with some melee options like crowbars and pipe wrenches that are only available when salvaged within a level. Unfortunately some of these weapons are so over-powered that there is little incentive outside of a trophy for using anything else. Once you find a machete and a fire axe, you’re golden and can take on hordes of walkers with little risk. The guns are effective, but the obligatory scarcity of ammo makes them a last resort to reserve for the largest hordes. This is a real shame as the gunplay is pretty enjoyable, as it so often is in VR.
On a more positive note, there are various accessibility options available to players with different levels of VR experience. Movement can be through teleport or direct control, view changes can be adjusted, and there is an option for the left-handed too. This is good to see and shows Survios’ rich experience in the VR field. I used the direct control and navigating the spaces using the Move controller’s buttons was fairly intuitive, although there were some frantic moments when I got stuck on scenery with walkers shambling towards me.
You make good use of both hands throughout the game, as your dominant hand holds weapons whilst your off-hand can collect items, grab and push walkers, or be used to support your primary in adding stability and strength to your attacks. I didn’t have any major issues with the controls, aside from a few tracking drops which could easily have been due to over-exuberance on my part. Melee weapons can be swung or stabbed at enemies and dismemberment is frequent. Simply poking a walker in the head with a sharp weapon is so effective that you don’t really need to be swinging anything too vigorously.
To unlock the story you have to grind through the supply runs and level up Alexandria. You collect a range of items in supply runs from foodstuffs to building materials and these all have uses in developing your home. Food unlocks new town members who can be recruited to staff the five buildings and increase the effectiveness of things like ammo and health pickups. These new town members are also the currency which opens up new story chapters. Other items open up improvements to the buildings and weapon upgrades. This adds length to the game if you are aiming for the platinum, but it feels like grinding busywork rather than genuine content. The grind is exacerbated by the limited range of environments and over-familiar feel of everything.