If you’ve been looking for a polished game that lets you kill hundreds of zombies, look no further. The Walking Dead: Assault has you surrounded.
This squad-based tactical game is based on Robert Kirkman’s award-winning Walking Dead comics, which also inspired the AMC television series and the recent adventure game from Telltale Games. You play the survivors that appear in the comics as they move through 11 maps, killing ‘walkers’ and looting supplies.
Please remove your shoes before coming inside.
Each survivor has a ranged attack, a melee attack, a special ability, and a team bonus that improves the abilities of his or her fellow survivors. The special abilities are often appropriate to the characters– Rick’s police training helps him get headshots on the walkers, while the more emotional Shane goes berserk and deals double damage with his shotgun. The characters’ pistols and rifles also have distinct ranges, and managing your weapons fire is a key part of the game’s tactics.
Fortunately, the characters and their abilities are easy to manage. The Walking Dead: Assault has a well-designed interface that similar games should look to for inspiration. Individual characters can be moved around with double-taps. The group moves as a whole when you tap and hold a spot on the map. (The pathing is excellent, with characters and zombies moving smoothly around most obstacles.) The survivors automatically shoot or use their melee weapons whenever a walker gets within range, and special abilities are conveniently listed on the right side of the screen.
Even the scenery works for the player. The camera controls are fantastic– you can zoom in and turn the image using the usual iOS gestures, and the game smoothly responds to put the camera exactly where you want it. The graphics are also in a black-and-white style reminiscent of the comic, with little splashes of color around any object that you can interact with. The effect is both eerie and practical.
Bonus points for keeping your friends alive.
What’s frustrating about the game is how little it does with the excellent systems that it has created. Each of the missions has only one main objective: ‘Kill all walkers.’ Not only is this outside the spirit of the comics (which are more about surviving the end of the world than exterminating the undead horde), but it scales poorly. Killing 200 zombies in the final level is a challenge, but it’s not very interesting.
The game does include bonus objectives in each level, but they’re usually a matter of collecting all the supplies or beating the level in a certain time. One level asks you not to attack a group of enemy survivors, and to incite the zombies to kill them off instead. That’s a great set of objectives, and the game needs more goals like that. There are lots of things you can do in a tactical game like this, such as sneaking through areas without being detected or splitting up the party to trigger effects in different locations. It would be nice if you were encouraged to do them.
If playability was the only thing that mattered, The Walking Dead: Assault would be an easy Must Have. As it is, the game is close to that score, and some more variety in the missions would probably put it over the top. The game promises new ‘episodes’ soon, and hopefully those will shamble out with more things to do.