After our hands on demo during Gamescom 2019, Survios’ The Walking Dead: Onslaught became one of our most eagerly anticipated VR titles. Did it live up to the anticipation? We had to wait over a year due to some delays, but the game is finally here. It’s out for PC-based headsets as well, but we tried it out on a PlayStation VR system.
Obviously we’ve seen the release of the excellent Saints & Sinners since we played Onslaught for the first time, but where that game was based on the comics it’s worth noting that Survios’ take on the franchise is based on the television series and features the characters and actors that AMC has been bringing to our screens for a number of years now. Actors like Norman Reedus even lend their voices to their characters in the game, though others are competently handled by voice actors.
The narrative for Onslaught takes place during the six year period that the TV series skipped over, making this a companion piece for the franchise as a whole. You’ll find yourself assuming control of some of the show’s major characters during this period as well, including Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and Reedus’ Daryl Dixon. Gameplay regularly shifts between more narrative-driven missions (like Daryl tracking down a missing girl) and missions where your main objective is to secure supplies for the town of Alexandria, which is in need of rebuilding. There’s plenty of diversity in the locations you visit, as going on story missions or venturing out for supplies means you’ll be heading into forests, deserted neighborhoods and abandoned military bases, just to name a few.
Missions are on a timer, urging you to move forward before the zombie hordes move in and overwhelm you. In some cases, the horde is already upon you, and you just need to survive before help arrives – you’re in contact via radio so there’s an exact timer that helps you in knowing how long you need to last in those situations. Having to push forward means that stealth is rarely an option for a long period of time, so you’ll instead be focusing much more on combat – which ranges from melee to ranged, but with an emphasis on melee.
This is largely because weapons and ammo are in limited supply, and melee combat with a knife is perfectly functional for nearly all situations. There’s a good amount of diversity to the melee combat as well, with the option to shove zombies backwards to get them to tumble over and give you a bit of time – especially if their stumbling takes down a few more of the undead in the process. You can also do the exact opposite by grabbing them and pulling them in – of course with the intent of driving a knife into their skulls. Somewhere in between is the ability to use a knife to stab or even dismember enemies, and mixing things up is certainly fun for a while even though things do get a little repetitive if you’re not careful. The action is gory and fun, but if you play the entire six to eight hour campaign in one sitting it’s going to start feeling like a grind after a while.
Not having read the comics but being a fan of the TV show certainly made me appreciate the way that the license has been implemented for The Walking Dead: Onslaught. Many of the locations you see will look familiar, and having the likenesses and voices of the actual actors in place helps in transporting you to the Walking Dead universe. The visuals are sufficient and character models in particular look good, but the environments are lacking in detail and color – a sign that VR is in need of more horsepower at this point.
The controls, using a pair of Move controllers, work great, at least as long as you’re stuck in place and working with motion controls to fight off zombies and/or reload your weapons. Movement’s always been an issue on PSVR (except for Aim-supported titles), and Onslaught is no different in that it has two options for movement that both don’t feel ideal. One uses button presses instead of the thumbstick that’s missing on the Move, while the other is a motion-oriented system that requires you to swing your arms back and forward to move. It’s a bit like the system in Sprint Vector, which is also by Survios, but it feels more awkward here because of the need to stop moving and turn and/or fight, whereas Sprint Vector was all about constant forward/vertical motion. The controls are functional, but can also be a bit of a struggle, especially in the more hectic scenes where zombies come at you from all sides. I couldn’t help but wonder how awesome a zombie game designed with room scale mechanics would be, and definitely hope we’ll see a team like Survios tackle that at some point.
This is definitely a game built around the license, and it provides plenty of fan service in the process. VR gamers who enjoy the television show will absolutely love interacting with the environments and characters, and they will forgive the somewhat repetitive gameplay loop. Others will be less forgiving, and point towards generally better horror-like experiences like Resident Evil VII or even the Saints & Sinners game that came out earlier. Fun, but mostly if you’re a fan already.