When character cinematic trailers started coming out for Overkill’s The Walking Dead, I was so hyped for it. I’ve always had a soft spot for zombie apocalypse games and this was no different. The trailers introduced us to four characters that we would fall in love with through the game - Heather’s still my favourite because she’s a badass; and that this would be the next co-op shooter game that me and three other friends of mine would be playing hours and hours on end.
Well, that didn’t happen and Overkill’s The Walking Dead wasn’t that game, not yet at least.
The game starts off with a cinematic introducing the main antagonist, The Family, who is basically a rival clan within Washington D.C. Then, without any real tutorial, you pick your character and go into the first mission .The opening mission will have you surviving waves of zombies and closing off points of entry to your home base. This loop lasts for a number of waves depending on your difficulty.
Right off the bat, you’ll get a taste of the gunplay. In essence, Overkill’s The Walking Dead is a 4-player co-op shooter - emphasis on the co-op, because even on Normal difficulty, teamwork is of utmost importance. You’ll laugh as you headshot a small group of zombie but when all the gates are down and they’re funneling in from all directions, you’ll legitimately fear the walking dead. Overkill was successful in making the game fun but challenging by having the zombies be slow but they become a formidable force in groups. They even threw in riot-armoured zombies and explosive Bloaters to shake it up further.
There is also a degree of ammo management - meaning every shot counts and every headshot counts even more. Even with an automatic weapon, you’ll find yourself closing the distance to get proper shots which really kept me engaged. Mechanically, the gunplay is solid but shooting is more methodical than your average shooter.
The praise ends there for gameplay - there’s a lot of things that could go wrong during a mission but once you and your teammates get it down to a tee, it just becomes repetitive since missions can be replayed. I definitely see some Payday DNA in this game - when everyone knows what they’re doing, it becomes a little mindless. Even the mid-mission puzzles or scavenger hunts don’t serve well for engagement with its repetition and redundancy.
Also, there isn’t a semblance of a tutorial in this game. In the first mission - and second where they just replace the zombies with armed NPCs - they don’t explicitly tell you that you have to board up the gates. Especially in the beginning when you’re not familiar with the UI yet, it took a while to figure out the icons they have on screen.
The third mission was worse. In this one, they introduced the stealth mechanics where you had to sneak your way into the enemy camp and steal back some water filters. The only indication was the circular noise meter at the top of the screen. The transition between the gun-blazing of the first two missions to a sneaky stealth mission was too jarring and you’ll be left wondering why you’re being surrounded by hordes of zombies. I learned after a few failed attempts that melee was crucial in stealth missions.
You’re supposed to fire your weapon as little as you can and use melee more but even the slashing and bashing of the melee weapons don’t offer that satisfying impact that it should have as compared to something like the bone-crunching hit from a baseball bat in Left 4 Dead.
Loot and Weapons
There’s no microtransactions in this game! Hopefully it stays that way. When you complete missions, you will be rewarded with loot based on the difficulty and you can also find additional weapons or mods during the missions as pick-ups - so keep an eye out. This feels like a more organic way to getting loots and modding out your weapon kits. I just wish loot drops would scale with my level. At level 2, I found a level 5 SMG and, lacking the levels, I had to grind and grind with my starter weapon until I could eventually use it. There wasn’t a consistent power progression for my character. Or, I could maybe just chalk it up to poor RNG on my end.
There isn’t any weapon limitations for the characters - you can use them with any weapon but they each have their own weapon specialisations so if you equip them with anything other than that, you’re not taking advantage of their class. For example, if I equip Maya, who specialises in SMGs, with a shotgun, she’ll lose essential buffs that she has for the SMG which is somewhat limiting since the buffs become more and more powerful as her level progresses - this forces you to equip those specific weapons to truly utilise your character to its fullest.
Skills and Leveling
There are some RPG elements in this co-op shooter. Your characters level up as you play them individually, but even that doesn’t unlock the skill trees for them. Along the way during mission or after completing them, you’ll have salvage or supplies that you must use to upgrade certain sections of your camp that corresponds to each of the playable characters. Using Maya the medic as an example again, to unlock the second tier of her skills you have to upgrade the Clinic to level 2 as well - and so on and so forth. I think this is a great system - it fits in with the post apocalyptic zombie universe and it adds another base management layer to the game. These resources are also used for upkeep for your base camp which deducts your supplies every 3 turns or missions.
Survivors are also a form of resource in this game - you can assign them on missions to get supplies, or to a workstation in your camp to give additional buffs for you during your missions; like better health regeneration and longer survival duration when downed. It’s another great system to give you that added boost you need during a mission but there’s somewhat of a disconnect between you, your base and the survivors. Your home base, Anderson Camp, is a level you can load in on your own and it’s basically the first two missions but with sections closed off. The disconnect is that you don’t see the improvements you’ve made to your camp anywhere. The survivors, of which you are only notified that you found some after missions, are not seen roaming the base. This might be a feature Overkill will implement in the future but as of now, the base is lacking of life.
So far, matchmaking hasn’t been a problem for me despite the various reports of long matchmaking times. I did however encounter dropouts, which is when the host loses connections, the entire team is kicked out as well - so there isn’t really a host transfer system in place yet. So fair warning if you get disconnected in the final stretch of a mission like I did. Hopefully Overkill can would put this system in place immediately because it was definitely pretty frustrating to depend solely on one host and their connection speed. Which also meant that hosts with poor internet speed will cause lag for the entire team. On my end, it was bad as everything in the game stopped moving while I aimlessly roamed around for a solid few minutes.
With the cinematic trailers they released prior to its release, it really set an expectation that the game would dwell deeper into the characters and the more human elements within post-apocalyptic zombie world - much like the TV or comic series. However, the game puts you at a certain point of the story without much context - even the events of the opening cinematic actually happened in the middle of the plotline which is confusing to say the least. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much character backstory and development as well.
Each map in the game is considered an episode and the story is told through blood-stained in-game cutscenes which are not as engaging - I’d know because I had to go back to them to be reminded of the story at all. The game did manage to have some twists and turns that I totally did not foresee and it did pull me back into the story a bit - don’t worry, no spoilers. The plot will progress in seasons and currently season 2 episode 1 is available.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead was successful in making a fun and challenging co-op zombie shooter for four friends with solid gameplay mechanics and leveling system but the weapon level scaling, server issues and a weak plot has really held it back. The Standard edition and Deluxe edition go for MYR 95 and 130 respectively with a recent addition of the Starter edition at MYR 51. I don’t recommend buying the game at full price and definitely not “cheaper” Starter edition which only gives you access to the current Season 1 and not any following seasons as well as no Season 2 weapons. Right now, you also cannot upgrade to other editions from the Starter edition. With patches already coming in though, Overkill’s The Walking Dead isn’t really there yet, but it could.
Overkill's The Walking Dead is available on Steam at RM51 for the Starter Edition, RM95 for the Standard Edition and RM130 for the Deluxe Edition.