There is just something about zombies that people love. I know I for one love blasting them. Mix them into a horror shooter and you have got my attention.
Now, right off the bat I will say that Instinct is not really up to the graphical standards that you might expect out of a top tier title. You won’t find a lot of fancy lighting and things like that. Some other publications could not get past that fact, but we will. Instinct looks passable, and if you dive into the game you will find a lot of little things like strategically placed oxygen cylinders that can be launched like mortars, which help to make up a bit for the lack of eye candy. You can tell the developers put a lot into the game.
Instinct is the first time that Wild Hare published a horror shooter. As such, it’s a pretty good first effort.
Developed in Russia, the game features Russian characters and even Russian voice acting. As such, the acting sounds pretty realistic. Though you won’t know what they are saying, all the inflections seem right. You are given a PDA that shows the English translation of what is going on, but having to pop up the PDA in the middle of combat to read your next set of orders, since you don’t know what your team members are yelling, is quite distracting. One time I had to sit in a room filled with poison gas and scan through a translation to find out that I had to flip a switch sitting at the bottom of a long set of stairs to turn the gas off.
On the positive side, the game is told through the eyes of the three main characters. In fact, you will be going through some of the same levels at different times with different characters. This sounds like it might be boring but in fact it’s pretty interesting because events cause the levels to look different over time and it’s kind of cool to think, "ok, the other character was ambushed on this bridge, so I am going to be more careful here."
The plot of the game is told in a series of comic book sequences with spoken Russian, but thankfully with English subtitles. And it is told in a bit of a disjointed way, which makes you keep playing as you learn about the secret motivations of each of the characters, and what is really going on.
Basically the Russians are developing a virus that turns people in zombies, or actually near-zombies strictly speaking. The zombies are still alive, but move and shuffle around like classic zombies, have no real intellect and only the desire to cause destruction and death anyway they can. Mostly they use their bare hands, though some zombies can use simple weapons like axes and a select few are armed with shotguns. The Russians can’t seem to get the virus quite right and move their lab around a lot from Russia to Cuba and eventually to North Korea.
Of course, like with any good horror game, the virus gets out of control and infects the entire staff at the facility. There are still some Korean commandos wandering around outside the base, but almost everyone inside has been zombiefied. The team has an overall mission on paper to rescue a Russian scientist but most also have other things they want to do, like recovering a sample of the virus for the Russian high command.
The gameplay consists mostly walking around inside the facility, though there are some outdoor levels too. The indoor ones are much better though.
There are some small puzzles to solve too, mostly of the "find the keycard" type so you can open a door. Sometimes you simply have to reach a specific area and another team member will show up and flip a switch or something on the other side of a wall to let you travel further.
And the plot also has quite a few twists and turns. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you have ever wondered what the zombies on the other side of your gun feel like, well, you will get a chance here, at least in a way. And that is something I have not seen before in a game.
While I admire the storytelling aspect of the game, the graphics do tend to pull the title down a bit. There just are not enough character models, and the ones that they do have, don’t look Korean at all. You are supposed to be fighting Korean zombies, but the character models seem to be limited to a bald white guy, a black guy with a short afro and an axe, and one scientist who might actually look Korean. All the non-zombie commandos wear full helmets and face masks, so the developers got around that one. I just wonder why they set the game in Korea if they did not want to make Korean enemy models. The evil zombie lab might as well be in Detroit.
This is balanced somewhat by realistic blood splatters. When you have a particularly nasty firefight, you will see a lot of blood "decorating" the walls. Also the different weapons are pretty cool. At one point, I picked up a vial of liquid and saw in the corner status screen that it was actually H2SO4, which is sulfuric acid. Chucking some of that will kill either a zombie or a human in one shot.
Each weapon also has different characteristics so you will really be able to tell the difference, and will quickly pick a favorite, which will likely be either the Mossberg combat shotgun or the AK-47. There is also a sniper rifle, though it’s only really useful in the outdoor levels.
In the end it comes down to if you will enjoy the game. While Instinct does not offer the huge visuals of say, DOOM 3, it does offer some great storytelling and a solid zombie blasting experience. And that was enough to keep me up for three nights playing it until I finished it. I was sucked into the interesting storyline, but really if you just want to blast zombies, then that is okay too.