[Early Impressions] Overkill’s ‘The Walking Dead’ Nails the TV Show’s Grit, But Frustrates With Repetition

A co-op shooter set in The Walking Dead universe? From the makers of Payday? Read why that’s both exciting and frustrating in our first impressions of Overkill’s The Walking Dead.

While many have been following Overkill’s The Walking Dead with a keen interest, others may be surprised to hear that the game has already launched, at least for PC players. It’s been an alarmingly quiet launch for a game that’s been hyped up for more than four years, attached to one of the biggest names in television. As long-time fans of the show, we were curious to see how this latest video game adaptation shapes up.

For those who have absolutely no idea who Overkill are, they’re the team that brought us Payday, an incredibly popular co-operative shooter in which you and a gang of up to three friends stage a series of daring heists. Its sequel, Payday 2, is still among one of the most played online games in circulation so when it was announced Overkill would be taking a swing at The Walking Dead, it was hard not to get excited.

Sticking to what the studio knows best, this is another first-person shooter strictly focused on 4-player co-op. While it can be run solo, Overkill has geared the core gameplay and level design in a way that makes it almost impossible to progress as a sole survivor. The sheer number of enemies, both living and dead, as well as the way objectives are structured demands a full squad of four, ideally communicating with one another.

Overkill’s The Walking Dead focuses on an entirely new cast of characters – a band of survivors protecting their Washington settlement from zombies and a rival faction calling themselves The Family. From what we’ve seen, Overkill has made an effort to flesh out this change of setting and those key characters who inhabit it, but not in a way that’s particularly memorable or impactful.

The four main protagonists each belong to a specific class with their own unique perks, abilities, and weapon proficiencies. It’s a choice that ultimately determines your role in combat – whether you want to get up close, pick enemies off from afar, or support your squad with buffs and items. Starting out, you’ll feel somewhat underpowered though as you complete missions and rank up, characters will grow stronger and more versatile.

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In many ways, these design choices mirror that of Payday 2 and it’s true that, in broad strokes, The Walking Dead can feel like somewhat of a zombie-themed reskin of Overkill’s flagship shooter. However, the overall flow and feel of combat, paired with the gritty post-apocalyptic setting, help obscure any overlap.

Fighting the undead usually goes one of two ways. You and your fellow survivors can either go for the efficient route, performing stealth takedowns and going unnoticed. Then there’s the more direct approach, hacking, slashing, swinging, and shooting. It depends on the scenario, as well as who you’re teamed up with.

However, some missions demand a quieter, more methodical approach. When coming up against The Family, you’ll need to change gears, using cover and limiting exposure as you would in a normal shooter. Make too much noise, and you’ll also fill a meter that populates the entire level with more walkers. Go in all guns blazing and you’ll quickly find your backs against the wall.

The Walking Dead tries to keep you plugged in, even between missions. You can spend any resources found on camp upgrades, recruit survivors, and send them on missions. It’s similar to the metagame Naughty Dog featured in The Last of Us and one that has you thinking about more than just gunning down zombies when out in the field.

It’s a brutal, fairly unforgiving co-op experience that’s rough around the edges and isn’t as fully-featured as some might expect (there’s no in-game voice chat, for example. Time to jump on Skype/Discord!). That said, our first impressions of Overkill’s The Walking Dead are mostly positive, overall. It successfully nails that grit of the television show and while the game can become repetitive – even frustrating – in spots, it’s a rewarding co-op shooter and one that will hopefully be refined to work out some of those awkward kinks. If you’re considering taking the plunge, just make sure you have friends to watch your six.

Overkill’s The Walking Dead code provided by the publisher.

Overkill’s The Walking Dead is out now on PC.