Survival Instinct makes use of a blend of game mechanics that are featured in many genres from standard FPS titles to tactical stealth games and survival horror releases. Players can tackle each of the game's many levels and areas as they see fit, utilizing any combination of stealthy carefulness or reckless abandon with firearms.
Throughout the game players make use of a myriad of weapons including melee weapons like blades and blunt weapons as well as firearms like pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and, of course, crossbows.
The game features a very basic HUD interface with a dynamic targeting crosshair that adjusts depending on what kind of weapon is equipped–melee weapons feature a broad reticule and firearms feature a more refined crosshair. Additionally players can look down the sights of all firearms for better aim, and certain weapons like the bolt-action hunting rifle, military assault rifle, and crossbow have scopes to help accuracy.
Also featured in the general HUD is a basic compass which points to mission objectives and guides players throughout the game. The absence of any sort of indicators or additional tips and guidelines is a bit frustrating at first, but their absence does add to the realistic and gritty feel to the game.
Players must use their own sense to survive, and must think on their feet and pay close attention to their surroundings. Next to the compass is a simple Condition meter, which is this game's health rating.
The game's controls are pretty straight forward and the multi-axis control scheme is your standard FPS layout, with your basic jumping and action buttons here and there. One of the most important features players will make use of in the game is the shove button (RB), which stuns zombies for a brief moment and allows gamers to deliver the lethal blow or even retreat.
That single second can often be the difference between life and death, and often players can mix up their attacks with intermittent stuns to gain valuable time.
Once gamers are acclimated to Survival Instinct's fast-paced gameplay they will get used to constantly looking all around and paying close attention to the sounds that zombies make. Eventually it becomes second nature, however this game puts emphasis on strategic gameplay and stealth, and in nearly every situation it pays to take the sneaky route.
The walkers in the game are just like they are in the show: they are attracted from sound, smell, sight and even proximity. That being said, players can often sneak up on zombies once their back is turned and take them out with a quick execution. Gunshots, especially in repetition, can sign your death certificate as the noise can attract up to a dozen or so zombies to your position, putting you in a very risky scenario.
When behind a zombie players can quickly execute them with a clean knife to the head–a quite brutal animation that you'll have to get used to–which is the most efficient way to kill a single zombie. For groups, though, players must use a bit of tactics and opportunism by utilizing their surroundings–funneling enemies into corridors to avoid being surrounded, etc.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct features a variety of in-game weapons to dispatch zombies with, each with their own stats and utility. Often it is vital to use mostly melee weapons, so its best to get used to using them early on as ammo can be scarce and food to heal yourself (after a horde of zombies comes at you from firing a gun) is even scarcer. The melee weapons have the following stats: Range, Damage and Swing Speed. The firearms have Damage, Reload Speed, and
Throughout the game players must scavenge for supplies such as ammo, weapons, fuel and food. Fuel is needed to power vehicles in order to make progress to the next area, whereas food is extremely essential as its the only way to heal your Condition.
There are two types of food; MRE's which heal a moderate amount of Condition and a bit of Stamina, and Sports Drinks which heal a bit of Condition but a moderate amount of Stamina. Stamina is used when sprinting–something players will be doing frequently–which can only be done in short spurts until Daryl becomes winded. When exhausted, sweat actually pours down the screen, indicating that players have to rest a bit before they can start running again.
Using a Sports Drink will restore stamina and alleviate the rest period, allowing players to keep sprinting away from oncoming walkers.
Often gamers will have to choose which items to keep and which to drop, as Daryl can only carry 10 items at once. Items can be stored in a vehicle, who's storage capacity differs from vehicle to vehicle. The vehicles themselves range in different ways as well, with differing fuel efficiencies, seat counts, and inventory capacities.
As players progress they will come across many survivors, many of which can be recruited to join your group. Some of the characters that are featured in both main quests and optional side missions are related to some of the show's characters; in the suburbs Daryl comes across the father of Amy and Andrea, and at the very end in Firesign Stadium Dr. Jenner's wife is flown away in a helicopter.
It is very important to make good use of your survivors in this game. Each character has their own particular backstory and bio, as well as their own weapon proficiencies and attributes such as "Reckless", "Weak", "Tough" or "Stealthy". Stealthy characters, for example, will keep to the shadows more often and lower the team's overall Scavenge Risk, whereas reckless characters will take more damage and can raise the risk rate.
It's also important to equip your team of survivors to match their proficiencies–if a survivor prefers pistols or shotguns make sure they have one equipped, ditto for blade or blunt weapons.
Before every main mission players can assess their group of survivors in a dynamic interface and assign them to different tasks. Healing your group with MRE's is also important, as they have a limited amount of Condition and can die.
Assigning the group for specific tasks such as finding fuel, ammo or food is a great way not only to earn vital resources but to experience the game at its fullest. Some areas are more dangerous to scavenge than others, and every level has a varying Scavenge Risk rate that determines the danger.
Having a team of survivors go out on a scavenge run lowers the risk rate, as does equipping them with their preferred weapon types. Sometimes it's best not to send them out and have them stay at the car, as they can die like anyone else in the game.
Overall the game has a very gritty and raw feeling to it, however the in-game graphics and animations aren't very fluid and feel unfinished. While the game does incorporate some of the show's main elements and themes, it leaves much to be desired, and soon gamers will find themselves bored with the monotony of slaying countless zombies over and over.
The story and cinematic cut scenes that accompany gameplay are somewhat enjoyable, however the characters feel more like rendered AI rather than people you'd actually care about. The game's graphic and gory nature seems tacked on and actually works against the gameplay rather than helping it, as it lacks originality.
Essentially gamers slice and dice hundreds of undead walkers, collect items, and move on to the next level.
One of the more original aspects of Survival Instinct, however, is the way that players actually progress onward. The game features a system where players can map out their route and choose which path to take, and which roads they'd like to travel by. In any given route there are three different road types to take, each with their own balanced features.
The only downside is that the driving sequences are basically loading screens and you don't get to actually control the vehicle, but instead watch a limited cinematic scene where the characters sometimes interact with one another.
While traveling throughout the zombie-infested wasteland of Georgia the car can actually breakdown along the way, forcing players to search the nearby area for parts like radiators and hoses. This is also true of the vehicle runs out of gas. There are also optional areas from time to time that players can choose to search for supplies or move on to their destination.