Video Game: The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a First-Person Shooter developed by Terminal Reality Games and published by Activision, which is set in the continuity of the AMC TV series, and follows Merle and Daryl Dixon as they fight to survive during the initial outbreak of walkers during the Zombie Apocalypse.

After the death of a loved one, Daryl Dixon and his friend Jess Collins decide to leave their mountainous retreat and find supplies and assistance from a nearby town. As the game progresses, Daryl eventually comes into contact with several survivors - and eventually Merle, who he discovers in the town of Fontana attempting to hold off a group of soldiers. Together, the duo make their way across Georgia, scavenging for supplies and meeting more survivors.

Missions typically consist of Daryl receiving quests from other survivors and/or having to find supplies to keep the survivors' convoy running. In between missions, the player can choose which routes to travel, and have opportunities to scavenge items from small villages.


The game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Commands: When a zombie gets too close you have to do a QTE minigame where you move the view to the center of the zombie's head and then press the trigger to stab them, killing them instantly. It then switches to the nearby zombie and repeats until all the nearby zombies are dead.
  • Anyone Can Die: Just like the TV show, nobody is immune to the zombie infection and anyone who gets bitten is as good as dead. If you aren't careful with your survivor management, they can disappear for good too.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Due to how the zombies are coded, some funny quirks occur. They pound on the outside of chain-link fences, but if you open one, then close it after a few slip through, they get confused and start beating on it to be let out, ignoring you and pushing the gate against their friends on the other side.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Firearms can kill zombies with a single headshot, but ammo is incredibly scarce, and firing off a single bullet will draw every zombie in the area to your direction.
  • Boom, Headshot: There isn't much point to shooting walkers anywhere else.
  • Call Back / Call Forward: Merle's first appearance has him firing off rounds from a rifle on top of a building, much the same as his first show appearance in the first-season episode "Guts".
  • Check Point Starvation: Prevalent. You can be 15-30 minutes into a level, die and have to start the whole level from scratch. Luckily, sidequests and parts of the main quest act as checkpoints, from where you can start from when you die.
  • Clown-Car Grave: The game will spawn more zombies even after you have cleared out an entire area.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The game will often spawn zombies behind you, into areas they couldn't possibly have gotten into otherwise, such as closed rooms (since it's established that they can't open doors) or rooftops (since they can't climb ladders or roof-hop). A few times the game may spawn a stationary zombie less than a dozen feet behind you when you pass through a door.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The tutorial level has you briefly playing as Daryl's father, who acts as a Silent Protagonist before being overwhelmed by Walkers.
  • Difficult but Awesome: The sledgehammer can be this. Its swing is incredibly slow, so it takes practice to get the timing right, but once you do you can reliably kill zombies with a single hit to the head each. It's probably the best melee weapon in the game, not counting those added by the DLC pack.
  • Drive-In Theater: One of the places Daryl and Merle stop at is a drive in theater where an old lady is using the giant screen to distract the hordes of zombies. One of the missions here involves Daryl rescuing her cat from a nearby house.
  • Driven to Suicide: You can find several corpses that did this throughout the game.
  • Eleventh Hour Superpower: After spending the entire game armed only with a knife and some civilian-grade firearms with extremely limited ammo, you find an assault rifle and a reasonable amount of ammo for it in the final level. This makes the finale much more of an action-packed shooter.
  • Fake Difficulty: The game is difficult, but only because there are so few checkpoints and the level designers keep spawning zombies as soon as you feel remotely safe.
  • Fake Longevity: Things like your car breaking down or running out of fuel are symptomatic of this, since you cannot send your survivors to scavenge and each of the maps are the same.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Being a prequel to the show, going in, it's obvious Daryl and Merle will make it out alive. Everyone else though is fair game.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Each survivor has their own statistics and preferred weapons, but some of them are only temporary and you can only have about three or four at most. You'll have to replay the game in order to get the other ones.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Whenever you have to grapple with the zombies, you're given a detailed close up of their rotted faces before you knife them.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Daryl restores his health by consuming energy drinks and MR Es that he finds scattered throughout the levels. The MR Es seem to restore about half of his total health while the energy drink gives him back about a third of it.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Even near the beginning of the game Daryl has no trouble carrying enough food, weapons and ammo to stock up a small militia.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted if you let Jane die, with her last words being her screaming about the zombies eating her unborn child.
  • Knife Nut: Daryl's first weapon is a large knife which he uses in all of his zombie executions.
  • Level in Reverse: Randomly-generated scavenge missions use the same geometry, and move around where the zombies and items are located. Often, you start where the item was last time and vice versa.
  • Loading Screen: The first one is the longest, the rest are pretty quick and are hidden by the dotted line moving across the map which represents your car's journey.
  • Monsters Everywhere: There are walkers everywhere, and more spawn when you kill the current ones.
  • Mooks but No Bosses: As the game is aiming for realism, there are no 'super zombies'. You do get the occasional zombie herd though but you usually have to run. If you're in Herd Mode, however, there's no running away.
  • Multi-Mook Melee: The Herd Mode DLC is a single-player riff on Horde Mode from Gears of War, as well as Call of Duty's famous Nazi Zombies.
  • New Game+: You unlock 'relics' with the survivors you saved from the previous game, which can give you bonuses such as starting with a crossbow or moving silently.
  • No-Gear Level: Happens when you get Daryl's signature weapon, the crossbow.
  • No Ending: Merle stops Daryl from getting on the helicopter, and explains that the pilot is infected. They get back into their vehicle and plan to continue searching for survivors, and then the game cuts to the end credits.
  • One-Hit Polykill: Happens with shotgun kills.
  • 100% Completion: Each survivor you bring with you to the final level earns you a different perk for New Game+. Since you can only bring a maximum of 3 or 4 survivors per game, getting all possible survivors requires multiple playthroughs. The game's relatively short, though, and saving all the survivors earns you unlimited ammo.
  • One-Man Army: Zig-Zagged. While is is nearly impossible for Daryl to take on more than three zombies in head-on combat, he can still kill all the walkers with the most ease out of anyone.
  • On Site Procurement: You find most of the useful equipment in the game this way, besides some of the more special weapons.
  • Prequel: Set before the brothers met up with the Atlanta survivors.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Daryl punches a mirror in anger after his father dies. After this point, every mirror you come across is broken.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: It is impossible to kill zombies in this game with torso shots. Even if you use the infinite ammo perk, you can shoot a zombie in the torso all day and it still won't die. You either have to aim for the head, or dismember the limbs.
  • Scripted Event: Some survivors cannot die and cannot be dismissed. When you step into certain areas, they trigger a cutscene from where the players has no control over what happens.
  • Sidetrack Bonus: There are hidden items and collectables just off the beaten path.
  • Shout-Out: Several to the TV show, including Andrea and Amy being namedropped, the usage of "sorry brother" when putting down a zombie infectee, squirrels (Daryl's unofficial symbol) and Merle sniping from a rooftop. One of the achievements is also a shout out to the "arrow in the knee" meme from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
  • Stealth-Based Game: Due to the overwhelming number of zombies, the choices are either to sneak past them or take them out one by one. Walkers can be taken out in one hit with a stealth attack but you can't one-shot them outside of stealth early on in the game, so stealth wins until you get enough ammo/skills.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Even with the history of abuse and alcoholism, Daryl's dad seems to have a good relationship with his son years later that the latter won't even Mercy Kill him, suggesting that he managed to turn his life around.
  • The Unfought: At several points during the game, Daryl and Merle earn the wrath of U.S. soldiers and a gang of bikers. At no point do you actually fight them, or any other human enemies.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The plot.
  • Zombie Infectee: Daryl's friend Jess is bitten at the end of the tutorial level. Since neither one knows of the effect that the bites have, Jess sticks around for a couple missions before finally turning.
    • Sheriff Turner is shown to be this when he picks up his daughter.
    • Although it is never shown, the helicopter pilot at the end is said by Merle to be one, though it's ambiguous whether it's the truth or he is simply lying to keep his brother with him.