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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

[Review] ‘The Walking Dead: Onslaught’ Brings More Undead Slaughter to PSVR With Middling Results

The Walking Dead takes another trip to the world of virtual reality with Survios’ The Walking Dead: Onslaught. Will it be another worthy video game adaptation of the popular zombie epic? 

After the well-received Saints and Sinners, this latest video game adaptation is based on the AMC TV show, and puts you in the grubby boots of its stars. Here you can wield Michonne’s katana, blast Walkers with Rick Grimes’ revolver, and ventilate undead heads with Daryl Dixon’s crossbow, but this isn’t just a shooting gallery, as Onslaught also focuses on another key aspect of the show, the growth of a community in the wake of the Saviours storyline.

The game is split into two distinct kinds of play as a result. You’ll go out on missions that benefit Alexandria where you fight off shambling undead whilst looking for supplies and the like. All the while, a horde is closing in, giving a sense of urgency to what is rather a rather basic rinse and repeat mission structure. There is a campaign that focuses on Daryl Dixon, which gives a narrative incentive to repeat these patterns. It’s a brief, but brand new, story set in the world of the AMC show that involves a botched supply run and an encounter with a stranger. It isn’t much more than the kind of filler you’d find in an episode of the show, but it’s nice to have a stronger narrative encouragement than ‘get these things, don’t get eaten’, even if that is a perfectly fine way to encourage you.

While the premise is simple, the execution of it is smartly done. After choosing your preferred VR control setup and running through the basics of movement and combat, you’re thrust into a small-scale example of how to use your newfound skills in a proper environment.

You use the Move wands as hands, and can use them to move forward by swinging your arms. Despite the fairly limiting nature of the wands in representing hand movement, Servios have done a decent job. In melee combat for instance, you can push a Walker away or grab it by the neck in the correct context, and use your other hand to drive a knife through the rotting ghoul’s skull. It’s a touch fiddly at first, but as you mesh together the different combat options and get a grip on movement, there’s a simple thrill from escaping gnashing jaws with a well-timed blade through the forehead of a Walker. 

Gun combat also requires two hands. You can steady aim by bringing up one hand under the other, and reach down for ammo at your hip, and manually slot it into your gun. Shotguns require cocking, and bows need drawing back too. It adds to the immersion of struggling through, and escaping from, the mass of undead, and does a hell of a job in replicating the tension of such a battle from the show. While the game may not be as fluid as that, it’s impressive all the same.

Melee combat tends to suit the early parts of missions more, when you have a bit of distance on the emerging horde and can afford to dip in and out of buildings to grab supplies and fight off the odd straggler. It attracts less attention, and gets you in the rhythm of killing on the move. Once things get dicey, and you inevitably find yourself cornered, flicking between shoving, stabbing, and shooting becomes a familiar routine.

The issue with the upping of intensity is that none of the control options is especially handy for getting out of the way of the horde, and as such, wrestling with those controls can be quite tiring. By the time you’ve fought through undead, ran from danger repeatedly, and pilfered all you can, it won’t be all that surprising to find yourself a bit worn out. After all, it’s a lot of arm-swinging and head-popping. Some of that fruitlessly too, as the PSVR’s motion-tracking isn’t the most consistent.

It’s a good job you get a break in between runs then. Using the loot gathered on your runs, the town of Alexandria can be upgraded and restored to its former glory. It’s not an especially deep town management sim by any means, but it adds a tangible reward for your hard-earned battles. Alexandria is essentially a living museum you can wander about and tinker with. It’s nice enough, but it needs some life injected into it.

The major stopping point in this role-playing of the TV show is the visual presentation. Onslaught is, to put it kindly, a rugged-looking game. The color palette is naturally in keeping with the muted browns of the show, but it’s not the best look for the rather identikit streets you explore. The size of objects in the game world is a tad erratic, which also doesn’t do Onslaught any favors when it comes to maintaining immersion during lulls in the action.

Characters just about look like their real-life counterparts in a fuzzy kind of way, but considering we have seen what a high-fidelity Norman Reedus looks like, seeing this smudgy version of him is a very noticeable downgrade. This is offset by having the voice talents from the show involved, at least. 

So The Walking Dead: Onslaught is by no means the worst video game adaptation of the hit graphic novel, nor the worst based on the TV show version (both honors go to 2013’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct), but it does fall well short of the natural standout (Telltale’s series) and more importantly, a bit behind VR stablemate Saints & Sinners. The combat is handled well, and replicates the frantic dexterity of the show’s protagonists when everything is going to hell. It’s just not particularly pleasant to look at or otherwise maneuver around. A strange complaint for what is already known as a dreary brown world of blood and rot? Sure, but even a dreary brown world of blood and rot can be better presented than it is in Onslaught. When you chuck in a non-event of a story, it leaves a slight taste of frustration.

I’m probably being a bit more down on it than it deserves, because this is a good zombie-smashing VR game, but it’s just good enough that the grievances I have with it feel magnified somewhat. I want it to be that little bit better than it is, but I’ll not deny that it may be easier for some to overlook these relatively minor faults.

The Walking Dead: Onslaught review code for PSVR provide by the publisher.

The Walking Dead: Onslaught is out now for PSVR and Compatible VR Headsets on PC.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/video-games/3634061/review-walking-dead-onslaught-brings-undead-slaughter-psvr-middling-results/

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