As a big fan of The Walking Dead in all its forms, I entered the Gamescom presentation of this survival-FPS with one hope: that the doubt I’ve felt since Activision announced the game last month will be put down for good by a crossbow bolt to the brain. By the close of the session, I’m heartened by some of what I’ve seen and heard, but the doubt still lingers. I wish I could say otherwise, I really do.
The presentation is hosted by developer Terminal Reality’s principal effects artist, Glenn Gamble, which seems an apt name for someone working on an attempt to marry a franchise associated with strong narrative with a genre that often eschews it. The biggest disappointment thrown up by the session is that it’s presented via a series of static screenshots, despite Gamble stating that a playable build exists (and is in fact where the screenshots have come from).
A gameplay video could have done much to reassure me that comments made earlier this year by franchise creator Robert Kirkman (during which he said a straight-up run and gun FPS of The Walking Dead “would be pointless”) need not apply to Terminal Reality’s efforts. However, as the presentation plays out, Gamble raises some interesting concepts that the team are working into The Walking Dead. It suggest the developer agrees that if it’s to make this project work, it needs more meat on its bones than a straight-up, gung-ho shooter can offer.
First, the choice of character: Daryl Dixon, who so far has existed only in The Walking Dead AMC TV series, was introduced to the fiction as something of a loose cannon. His evolution through series one and two has seen him become the show’s rough diamond; the bad boy with a heart who’s not afraid to do what it takes to get the job done and survive in a world that’s gone to hell
If you watch the show and play the game you’ll get a much deeper and broader sense of his character.
“He’s a survivalist, which is a huge part of the show as well as the game,” posits Gamble. “His evolution of character through season two has let us work with AMC to try, with our story, to plant those seeds of change earlier on. So now, if you watch the show and play the game you’ll get a much deeper and broader sense of his character."
If Daryl is a survivalist then his brother Merle is, frankly, an ass. A highly strung fellow of low moral fibre, Merle will be along for the ride as a companion to the player. This concept of companions, which will take in various other survivor NPCs met along the way, is a second positive factor.
Each survivor NPC has skills that can aid the player and while the NPCs do not appear to join in the zombie killing (all of the screens show only Daryl embarking on missions into towns to gather resources), they contribute to the group and introduce an element of resource management and survival considerations.
In addition to skills, the NPCs also have their own back-stories, as well as pros and cons that must be balanced when considering whether to take them with you: one guy might have a medical background which will be useful when you’re able to source medicinal items, but he’s also an extra mouth to feed, which will necessitate more food to be sourced when Daryl heads into a town.
I wish we had co-op, but the decision was that since it’s easier to tell a better story with single-player than with multiplayer.
Vehicles, too, have their own attributes to be considered as you try to make your way across state for a currently unknown reason. Some vehicles will offer bountiful passenger space (think along the lines of the RV that belonged to poor old Dale) but will guzzle more gas; a pick-up truck, meanwhile, has plenty of room in the back for equipment and resources, but only limited space for survivors.
Despite the seemingly blatant potential for co-op play presented by the two brother set-up, Gamble reveals, somewhat wistfully, that the team believe a single-player-only experience will serve them better from a narrative standpoint.
“I wish we had co-op, but the decision was that since it’s easier to tell a better story with single-player than with multiplayer, we decided to go with the single-player,” says Gamble. “That’s because story is bullet point number one; bullet point two is survival; bullet point three is the walkers”
Unlike the comics and TV show where it’s the living that can provide the greatest threat, it appears from Gamble’s presentation that it will be the walkers that the player will have to be most wary of. Gamble describes them as being “super environmentally aware”, able to see, hear and even smell the player. So, while sneaking past a lone walker may seem sensible, it leaves one more to add to a potential horde if you’re foolish enough to cause a commotion within earshot of the walking cadaver later on.
Overall, the survival elements, resource management and strong narrative aspects suggested by the presentation cast The Walking Dead in a positive light and do much to encourage hope that maybe wanton zombie slaying will come a distant second to the focus on survival. In-game footage and, ultimately, hands-on time with this survival-FPS will be necessary to ascertain whether Terminal Reality can deliver on the concepts introduced here. Until then, despite wishing it were otherwise, the doubt will continue to gnaw at me.
Stace Harman is a freelance contributor to IGN and is convinced that zombies will one day inherent the Earth. You can follow him on Twitter.
Source : feeds[dot]ign[dot]com