I’ve killed a lot of zombies in VR. I’ve blown them up, cut them to pieces, shot their heads off, and spent my fair share running away from them across a multitude of games. But The Walking Dead: Onslaught by Survios may have my favorite combat system to deal with the undead that I’ve seen yet.
As an officially licensed game that is being created in partnership with AMC, Survios is able to actually leverage the brand itself. This means that players will walk in the shoes of Rick, Michonne, Daryl, and Carol across a post-apocalyptic world overrun with walkers. It’s got a campaign, replayable missions, upgrade mechanics, visceral melee, a litany of guns, and up to four-player co-op to boot.
During my demo at E3 2019 I played as Rick. It was an average length demo, about 15-20 minutes long, and I got to see a handgun, shotgun, and assault rifle, as well as a machete and the iconic barbed wire bat, Lucille. Both the shotgun and Lucille were major stand outs for me.
Rather than using traditional analog stick-based movement, I decided to instead try their fluid locomotion system that’s been adapted from Creed: Rise to Glory. Using this method, you hold down both the A and Y button the Touch controllers (I played my demo on an original Oculus Rift) and swing your arms as if you were running. It worked well enough, but this method prevented me from shooting and moving at the same time which was a bit frustrating.
Core gameplay was extremely familiar in that you swing melee weapons and aim down the sights to shoot guns. They aren’t reinventing the way you kill zombies in this game, but are instead evolving the way in which they die. You can lop off arms at specific joints, chop off hands, slice heads off at the neck, cut off legs, and even carve things into their rotting skin if you want. When you stab through their body blades can get stuck, requiring you to grab onto the body with your free hand and yank it out. You can even grab them by the neck and do Rick’s iconic knife to the skull stab to finish them off.
It’s gory, bloody, and a bit unsettling even after years of video game desensitization, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. However, part of me does worry that it may be leveraging The Walking Dead name in a way that’s proven to fail in the past.
If you look at TellTale’s Walking Dead series, arguably one of the best licensed video game series of all-time, clearly they have an intimate understanding of the source material and told a moving, deeply engaging story with real human emotion. That’s the thing about The Walking Dead: it’s a story about humans and the cost of survival, the zombies are just a plot device. It’s not actually about killing zombies.
In this way, The Walking Dead: Onslaught misses the mark — but at least they’ve made the virtual violence fun as far as I can tell.
My demo was just single player, but I can only imagine how much more chaotic and fun it would be in co-op. Survios explained that there will be skills to upgrade as a progression mechanic, but I didn’t get to see any of that. You get scores based on your performance in the mission and rank up with XP, so that’s all built into the design already. Scattered across levels I found lots of fuel and food and other types of loot as well.
The Walking Dead: Onslaught feels like the mechanical culmination of all of Survios’ past games into one well-crafted package. It’s got the co-op mission structure of Raw Data, the melee feedback of Creed, the movement style of Sprint Vector, plus zombies. The campaign is said to be seven missions long and should last around four hours, which is a decent length for something that is supposed to be replayed. There’s going to be a horde mode as well.
At the end of my mission I had to literally cut through a mass of zombies to get to the extraction point and I mowed them down like a machine wielding Lucille. It felt great as the blood splattered across my view. No two zombies ever seemed to die the exact same way.
Survios told me that The Walking Dead: Onslaught is coming to all major PC VR platforms and PSVR. We asked about a Quest version, but didn’t really get a definitive answer. Let us know what you think of the game down in the comments below!