Game Reviews

The Walking Dead: Assault

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The Walking Dead: Assault

If you're a fan of Robert Kirkman's epic zombie saga The Walking Dead, you'll know it's less about shambling, flesh-eating carcasses than it is the human drama surrounding the survivors at the end of the world.

That's held true across the comics, AMC's languid TV adaptation, and even Telltale Games's recent, wonderful adventure game series. So it's something of a disappointment to see this iOS offering ditch all that emotional turmoil in favour of simply shooting things in the head.

That's not to say that Kirkman's post-apocalyptic world has been completely ignored in The Walking Dead: Assault. Its real-time, top-down strategy action sports a stark, striking black and white aesthetic heavily inspired by the work of comic book collaborators Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.

And the game's episodic structure - of which this first release is but a small part - follows the series' sprawling narrative, albeit it in truncated, action-heavy form.

Story is far from the focus of Assault, though, and beyond a brief opening animatic introducing comic book protagonist sheriff Rick Grimes there's little to hold the game's shoot-and-loot stages together beyond a few familiar faces.

Aim for the head!

Levels are small, focused affairs that see you guide a party of survivors - each with his own unique firearm and melee weapon load-out - across zombie-infested locations in search of nondescript supplies.

Unsurprisingly, progress is hampered by a constant stream of undead assailants, and your job is simply to survive long enough to take them all out.

It's hardly revolutionary, but there's some smart design behind Assault's assured action. The whole thing has been carefully tailored to the touchscreen, for instance, with simple tap controls making movement a doddle. Characters, meanwhile, fire automatically once a zombie strays into the circle delineating their 360-degree line of sight.

Firearms have a greater range than melee weapons, of course, but ammo is scarce. Often, melee combat is most advisable while the odds are in your favour, saving gunfire to dispatch larger groups more quickly.

There are other reasons to keep your guns holstered - rely on firearms and the noise eventually attracts the undead in huge numbers, severely impacting your chances of survival.

Survival of the fittest

Thankfully, each character has its own unique special ability, and these prove invaluable in particularly sticky situations. Rick, for instance, is a dab hand with headshots, while angry Shane can pump out twice the number of bullets - and twice the damage - when enraged.

There are other strategic opportunities too, with certain environmental items - fire hydrants, rotting corpses, car alarms - able to distract large groups of zombies while you set about looting and shooting.

But beyond the fraught bouts of semi-strategic gunfire there isn't a whole lot to The Walking Dead: Assault. A handful of secondary objectives - rescuing a survivor, for instance - attempt to spice up the action, but it's not an experience with much in the way of hidden depths, even factoring in the RPG-style ability upgrade system tied to scavenged supplies.

Still, it's an atmospheric take on The Walking Dead series that delivers some surprisingly tense, often challenging entertainment. Fans of the Robert Kirkman series might bemoan - reasonably - the rather wasteful focus on gun-heavy slaughter, but there are still simple pleasures to be found in the game's gung-ho, skin-of-your-teeth action.

Slight it might be, but as zombie games go The Walking Dead: Assault isn't totally brainless.

The Walking Dead: Assault

It might not do much with the famous franchise, but The Walking Dead: Assault still manages to offer some enjoyably tense, if simplistic, shoot-and-loot action
Matt Wales
Matt Wales
Following a lifetime of adventure on the high seas, swabbing the editorial decks of the good ship IGN and singing freelance shanties across far-flung corners of the gaming press, Matt hung up his pirate hat and turned his surf-seared gaze toward the murky mysteries of the handheld gaming world. He lives to sound the siren on the best mobile games out there, and he can't wait to get kraken.