The Walking Dead: Onslaught Review – Watered Down Apocalypse

The Walking Dead: Onslaught from Survios is the second VR game to release this year based on the iconic zombie apocalypse universe and the only one to feature the same cast of characters as the AMC TV show. What it gains in familiar faces though, it loses everywhere else. Read on for our complete The Walking Dead: Onslaught review to see what we thought of this post apocalyptic action game.

The Walking Dead: Onslaught is not a very good game, but it could have been. The original demo I first tried nearly a year and a half ago back at E3 2019 had promise with its gory combat and focus on replayable co-op missions. There was a clear arcade-style focus there that seemed to fill a niche and had enough setting it apart from The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners by Skydance Interactive, but most of that initial charm is all gone now.

After Saints & Sinners was announced and released, something seems to have happened with Onslaught. For starters, we knew multiplayer was getting axed in favor of prioritizing the story. Norman Reedus took on a bigger part in the project, reprising his role as Daryl Dixon. Carol and Eugene are the same actors as the show as well, but Rick and Michonne are not — it’s immediately apparent. Those two performances are pretty hit or miss depending on the moment, which is a shame considering Rick is a major character in the game from start to finish.

As it stands, Onslaught is quite literally two separate games mashed together. You switch back and forth between them over the course of six or so hours. On the one hand you’ve got the story-driven campaign that ushers you along a collection of linear levels featuring narration by Daryl and Rick as you play through a series of flashbacks that eventually culminate in a larger event. Then there’s all the Scavenge missions. This is the real meat of the game and where Survios hopes you’ll want to spend most of your time replaying missions, getting more loot, and investing the time to upgrade your camp.

But the Scavenge missions have a huge, massive, glaring flaw: exploration is heavily discouraged. So much so that you’ll literally just die if you take too long. During missions a foggy red cloud slowly encroaches on you, closing in the level from the back like something ripped out of Fortnite or PUBG. The red haze is supposed to represent “The Horde” but there are no zombies anywhere in the red cloud. It’s just…foggy. And red.

If you stand it too long then you slowly lose health until you died. The game never explains this so you just sort of find out on your own. There is zero narrative justification for why “The Horde” is a red cloud and I can’t think of a single explanation gleaned from the show. It comes off as lazy and uninspired. I’d have preferred a countdown timer until “The Horde” arrives, at which point the screen fades and you die or something. Anything other than misty red haze that saps your health for no reason.

The functional results of this red cloud is that every Scavenge mission is limited, forcing you to memorize maps and try to loot as quickly as possible. This could have caused some interesting tension, but instead it’s just frustration. The discrepancy occurs because there is a complete and utter lack of fear. This isn’t a stealth game or a survival game, at all, and it’s hardly even a horror game unless you just get really creeped out by dumb, slow-moving zombies.

The Walking Dead: Onslaught Comfort Settings

The Walking Dead: Onslaught has about what you’d expect in the way of comfort options for a VR title in 2020, especially from Survios. In addition to snap and smooth turning, there are both teleport and smooth movement. You can also use their brand of arm swinger movement, similar to how it works in Creed: Rise to Glory. There are some FOV limiting features as well and that’s about it. Everything else is just good old fashioned swinging your arms and pointing guns. I found it most appropriate to play standing, but seated does work.

The Walking Dead universe is one where death can come for you at anytime as the relentless walkers will stop at nothing to gnaw on your face. But in Onslaught, they’re nothing more than a time sink due to how unbalanced combat is.

Everyone knows melee is usually preferable in a zombie game because it’s quick, clean, and usually the stealthier option. But in Onslaught, that mantra is taken to another level. Since there is no stamina system and no weapon durability system you have basically no reason to use anything other than the knife, machete, etc. With a tiny bit of force I can kill any walker with a quick poke to the face, yank out the knife, and keep on stabbing.

Meanwhile the pistol takes three headshots to down a single enemy. It makes no sense. Shotguns and assault rifles feel fine, but I have no incentive to use them. If anything, they’re more of a nuisance since you need to eject magazines and reload clips from your belt. Knives are just indestructible.

As you gather scraps and loot you can create upgrade mods for weapons, but once again you just don’t really need to. It feels like a half-baked feature that was added in at the last minute before being fully realized.

Visually, it’s not bad other than the bland yellow/brown tones on everything. Most textures and areas look pretty good, especially from a distance, but there is a lot of clutter to prevent you from going where you’re not supposed to go. Levels are very linear across the board, save for a few destroyed buildings you can poke around in briefly.

And you can’t interact with anything at all. All of the various objects on tables and items on shelves you see lying around? They’re bolted down and can’t be moved.

With all the leaps forward we’ve made in VR game design, especially when it comes to interactivity and physics in games like Saints & Sinners, Boneworks, and Half-Life: Alyx, Onslaught feels like a major step back.

The most unique and compelling thing Onslaught has going for it is Alexandria. The small village starts out looking like a run-down farm but over the course of the game as you gather gear and supplies from Scavenge runs you’ll start to rebuilt the settlement with new buildings and more survivors walking about. It’s satisfying to see your hard work paying off with actual tangible rewards that make the world feel more alive.

But the problem is, without a compelling gameplay loop to motivate you, there is little reason to keep building the town. Ideally, I’d want a feature like this tacked onto the end of Saints & Sinners, with co-op support, and a bit more customization about how you configure your camp and what each building does. Then it’d honestly be like the dream zombie game. But as it stands in Onslaught, the Alexandria settlement is another feature that falls short of really selling itself fully.

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The Walking Dead: Onslaught Review Final Impressions

I’m struggling to think of a scenario in which I’d recommend The Walking Dead: Onslaught. Functionally, it works, and there are some bright spots here since you get to step foot inside the world of the show and interact with iconic characters — but the compliments mostly stop there. Campaign missions are extremely linear and uninspired, Scavenge runs utilize a ludicrous red fog to represent “The Horde” while you collect random scrap parts, and combat fails to ever give you much of a reason to graduate beyond the basic combat knife. I hate to say it, but The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is just a much better example of how to create an immersive VR world, much better use of the source material, and much better game in general.

Thanks for reading our The Walking Dead: Onslaught review! Onslaught is out today for PC VR and PSVR for $29.99. This review was primarily conducted on an Oculus Quest using Link and Oculus Rift S.

For more on how we arrived at this score, check out our review guidelines. 

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