The Walking Dead Onslaught

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Survios
Release Date: Sept. 29, 2020


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PS VR Review - 'The Walking Dead: Onslaught'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 13, 2020 @ 12:05 a.m. PDT

Fight your fears head-on in The Walking Dead Onslaught as you assume the roles of their favorite survivors from the TV series, struggling against the relentless walker threat while confronting both the horrors and humanity of this apocalyptic world.

We already have a PSVR game for The Walking Dead. Subtitled Saints & Sinners, it was based on the entire universe and was rare in that it was done like a traditional game. With a runtime in the double digits, loads of side-quests, and deeper combat, it became another title that properly showed off how VR can enhance a modern game experience. Less than a year later, we have The Walking Dead: Onslaught, a game that is a very different experience altogether.

Onslaught is based on "The Walking Dead" show on the AMC network, rather than the comic, and it's set after the big war in Alexandria. You start off in the role of Rick Grimes, the new leader of Alexandria on a mission to find Daryl Dixon. Finding him is easy, but he is injured in the escape. While overseeing the rebuilding of the town, you ask Daryl to recount why he left the settlement in the first place, a conversation that eventually leads to the both of you trying to find a woman who might still be in danger.

The overall goal is to rebuild the town of Alexandria, and that's mainly accomplished through supply runs. Prepping for these runs is always the same in that you choose your location and difficulty level, which modifies the number of supplies you'll encounter and the toughness of the walkers you face. From there, you choose a loadout of up to four weapons, each of which can be modified with extra stun power or a larger damage output — if you can find the ingredients to perform the mod. From there, you go to the van and choose whether to play as Carol, Daryl, Michonne or Rick, and then you're off to the drop zone.

Supply runs are split into one of two mission types. The first is like a survival mode, so you're dropped in an area and, for a set amount of time, you're asked to stay alive while hordes of walkers descend upon you. During that time, you'll dart from place to place getting ammo, supplies and weapons until the timer expires and a van appears, forcing you to make a dash for the van to escape.

The second type is more like a race, as the areas are longer and there's no formal timer. You'll still go from place to place gathering up ammo, supplies and weapons, but you'll have more buildings to go through and you'll still face walkers. In lieu of a timer, you have a red line behind you that represents the herd headed your way. Having the herd reach you doesn't mean instant death, but it means that your life is constantly being sapped until you escape the area, similar to how the storm circle works in Fortnite or a battle royale game.

Whether you survive or die in a supply run, you'll always come away with some items that you can use in the rebuilding of Alexandria or modification of your weapons. You'll sometimes nab survivors, which help to open up more areas for supply runs and create/upgrade buildings that provide benefits, such as increased stats. Even failure can lead to benefits, so each run feels worthwhile. While you have a good number of areas to go through, the locales and their layouts are static, so the area isn't as endless as you'd be led to believe.

The nature of the runs means that they're good for short bursts of gameplay; the variety of levels, even without procedural generation, means there's a good amount of content to go through before it becomes stale. The movement and combat systems are decently implemented thanks to the number of available options. Movement can either be done by swinging the left Move controller like you're walking or by using the less motion-sickness-inducing, point-and-click method, although the latter can get iffy due to the slow movement cursor speed. There are also some motion sickness prevention options, like a darkening of the sides while in constant motion and the presence of whoosh-like streaks. You will get annoyed at picking up items, since the game seems to only register you picking up something if you're directly on top of the container or are very close to the object you're aiming for.

Shooting is fine and familiar if you've played a VR shooter before, and while the notion of reloading by reaching for your side and loading a clip or flicking your gun down looks cool, you'll mostly rely on melee weapons due to the scarcity of ammo. While it isn't as meaty and fulfilling as in Saints & Sinners, the melee attacks are fun, since knives and cleavers can get lodged in walkers. You can also push walkers away or grab them by the throat to bring them in close for a good head stab, but you can't rely on this too much, since the hit detection doesn't always register and they can bite you if you miss.

In between supply runs and town building, you can talk to Daryl to recount his story, and those levels are very different from the supply runs. The levels are more linear, which has the unfortunate side effect of revealing invisible walls in levels and some pathing issues that become more apparent if you're using cursor movement. Time isn't a factor, so you can do plenty of exploration at your leisure, and there's more walker variety, so you can now face ones that are armed or move faster. These story chapters can't be done in one go, so you'll experience some decent breaks between chapters that might stagger the flow too much for one's liking.

One element that turns Onslaught from a decent diversion to an infuriating journey is triggers. Instead of having environmental triggers like you passing into a specific area before the next events unfold, most of the triggers center around you killing every walker in the area or picking up every possible object before the next beat happens. This gets bothersome when the one thing you need is both seemingly unimportant and hidden away somewhere, but it becomes even more annoying, since the game gives you such a large travel area before stopping forward movement; it gives you way too much space to backtrack, only with more walkers present. It becomes even more infuriating, since there are sections where you need to find a key item but can't actually use it until you find the trigger point and see a prompt to find the item. More than once, this mishandling of triggers resulted in unrecognized acquisition of key items, forcing the player to replay over 30 minutes of gameplay in the hopes that things will work the second time. When you consider how VR play is always recommended for shorter sessions compared to traditional gaming, that wasted time becomes a big deterrent for the game.

The presentation in Onslaught is fine, especially when considering the low resolution of the PSVR headset. The character models look fine as far as their faces go, but lip movement isn't pronounced. Humans animate just fine, but their proportions aren't quite right, even though the walkers look normal. The environments look decent, with a mix of ruined cities and the wooded outdoors comprising a bulk of the settings. There are some oddities, like very low-polygon wrecked cars complete with angular tires that clip into other cars, some light bleed at the bottom of buildings in dark areas, and some very muddy textures on natural elements, but signs are very clean otherwise. The damage system is more pronounced on corpses if you decide to carve them up with your knife.

By comparison, the sound fares much better. The sounds for every weapon are great, with the guns having some real kick to them. The music also sounds like it came directly from the show, so expect tense moments whenever it plays, but there are lots of quiet moments otherwise. The voices are mostly hits, with some of the original cast coming back to reprise their roles. Rick's voice actor can be hit-and-miss, depending on the line.

On its own, The Walking Dead: Onslaught isn't a bad title. The gameplay is decent enough if you wanted something with a little more substance than the first crop of PSVR titles, and the length is more in line with a traditional modern title versus a VR-specific offering. The problem is that the bugs with hit detection and checkpoint triggering are enough to sap away any of the fun that the game could have provided. The other problem is that we aren't that far removed from The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, a much more satisfying experience that feels like what all VR games should aspire to. This probably would have gotten a higher recommendation if the release dates were reversed, but as it stands now, this is more for the TV show fan who wants a fun diversion, as long as they're willing to accept some big issues; this isn't suited for someone who's looking for the next big VR milestone title.

Score: 5.5/10

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