It’s been only minutes since you sent Glenn running out in the middle of the street to distract the walkers, but the tension is unbearable. If he can pull the zeds away from the Quick-E-Mart storefront, you just might have a chance at securing some much needed supplies. A car alarm sounds nearby and soon after, the droning, eternal guttural sigh of the walkers echoes down the alley in front of you. It’s time to move.
The Walking Dead: Assault is a stylish, isometric-perspective, real-time tactical combat game featuring your favorite characters from the hit TV series… as well as loads of zombies. While the TV show takes a much more cautious approach to gathering supplies and avoiding zeds whenever possible, Assault is more in-your-face zombie killing action.
It Takes Two
Each of the 11 chapters in the first episode, “Days Gone Bye”, feature a primary and optional objective – usually revolving around some combination of killing zeds, gathering supplies, and finding the random survivor. At your disposal is a customizable team of four characters who each sport their own Special Move (triggered ability on a cool-down) and Team Bonus (passive ability). By choosing the right combo of characters for the mission at hand, you can gun for the best possible time and the most possible points.
Once you start a mission, you’ll find your team plopped in the middle of a gorgeously illustrated cityscape. The environments in Assault are dark and minimalistic, with washes of greys and blacks filling most of the screen. This bleak design sets a perfect stage for the spatters of red blood, glowing yellow supply caches, and green “decoy” objects that you’ll soon come to love. Think Walking Dead meets Frank Miller. Yea, it’s slick as hell.
Ample Party Tricks
As the impressively complex musical score urges you out of the corner you’d much rather remain cowering in, you’re presented with some interesting controls. You can control a single member of your party by selecting him/her and double-tapping on the screen to move. Alternatively, you can tap-hold a location on the screen to move the entire team at once. As far as weapon options are concerned, each character has a gun and a melee weapon that you can toggle (toggle the entire team’s weapons with tap-hold). Guns use ammo and create noise, so use them sparingly. Once the noise meter hits the top, bad things happen… Each character also sports a special ability, each represented by an icon on the right-hand side of the screen. Glenn will run around screaming at the top of his lungs to draw the zeds (decoy) while Shane has a “freakout”, allowing him to reload guns twice as fast. With ten unlockable characters, the party dynamics can get pretty interesting.
Any given chapter takes around 5-10min to complete, depending on how cautious you are. Ideally, you’d be tactical about your decisions in order to minimize your losses but it doesn’t always work out that way. The zeds move rather fast in Walking Dead Assault, and it’s tricky in the heat of the moment to properly micro-manage your team. My first instinct was to select a character and then tap a zombie to attack, as in most real-time strategy games… but my efforts were fruitless. Unfortunately, attacking is 100% automated leaving you with a best-case scenario of dropping your party at the zed’s doorstep and hoping for a miracle. The party AI can be rather stupid at times, and they will absolutely refuse to assist other characters on their own during an attack. Instead of rushing to their aid, you must manually “prod” each party member who’s just out of range to re-engage the fight; a serious shortcoming, in my opinion.
Lack of party AI and targeting options aside, the interface is actually quite polished and responsive. And the levels can be rather tough… especially when them “herds” come a’ knockin. Pinching and spreading your fingers on the screen will zoom in and out, while a quick twist will rotate the screen; the game does both flawlessly. Touch-responsiveness on the character icon, weapons, and abilities is also top-notch – and thank God, because you need every second you can get.
There’s No “I” In Zed
After rushing through the first couple chapters, I quickly realized that this is more of a tactical game than I’d thought so take your time (unless it’s a timed mission). After you’ve played a couple missions, you’ll have accumulated some credits which you can spend unlocking new characters, buying one-shot items like flares and bandages, or permanently increasing the stats of your team (ammo, health, damage). This “upgrades & items” feature adds a nice sense of depth to the game and really builds your party into a force to be reckoned with.
During my review, I cruised through the first six missions relatively quickly and was saddened to see that episodes 2 and 3 aren’t yet available. With integration into your Google+ account, the replayability skyrockets. Aside from attempting to out-perform your friends, you can view public leaderboards and try to best other players’ times. There’s also a slew of achievements to unlock for those OCD gamer kids out there.
Walking Dead: Assault is easily one of the better games I’ve reviewed for Android, and it takes a little playing to settle into. On the cover, it seems like a balls-out slaughter fest, but once you get to the latter levels the tactical aspects begin to shine as you begin build and customize your party. Too bad that’s where it stops, leaving you wishing for more. Had the party AI supported auto-cooperation during fights and had I been able to manually target individual zeds for attack, this would’ve won my first gold-star. But alas, we live in an imperfect world. Still, for $2.99 this game is absolutely worth sticking on your tablet and keeping around for the next episodes.