Available on both iOS and Android, The Walking Dead: Assault has become one of the hottest paid games on the respective app stores, and it's clear why. Whether you're a fan of the zombie-centric comic book (or TV show) or not, this action-strategy title should suck you into its immersive storyline and unique gameplay right from the get-go.
Before you start the game, I suggest heading over to the Info screen, so you can go over the controls. There's a lot to take in, so it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself before zombies start attacking.
Just like the comic book, the game starts off with the protagonist, Rick, in a hospital room. Your job (as Rick) is to find your way out, fight your way through the hordes of zombies in the ensuing stages, and find other survivors whom you can ally with. The stages are based on comic book issues, and they incorporate a number of settings and events that should be familiar to fans. Along the way, you even encounter some of the characters from the series and incorporate them into your team.
While there's no question that the theme of zombies in mobile games is getting played out, The Walking Dead: Assault sets itself apart with the quality of action it offers and real-time strategy elements it employs. It stays committed to the original storyline of the series, and it packages the drama in a challenging, yet fun strategy game that still has its share of head shots and melee kills. Plus, the unique visuals of the game make you feel as though you're seeing a paneled comic book come to life.
With the game's axonometric perspective, you can swipe around a map, zoom in, and rotate around your characters to get optimal sight lines as you go. Your heroes will automatically attack any enemies within range, but it's your responsibility to select weapons, move around, and create effective attack and defense formations. You can direct your characters individually or move them all as a group, and each of them carries both a melee weapon and longer range item, like a rifle or handgun. With these tools, it's easy to take care of a single zombie, but a horde of them attacking at once can be trouble. For these situations, you'll need to create a diversion by setting off a car alarm or opening a fire hydrant, either of which will cause zombies to go berserk and run toward the noise.
While the controls are, for the most part, smooth and responsive, I do wish Assault would let you select characters in groups. As it is now, the game only lets you move a single character or all of them at once, which limits your strategic options. Also, the long-press gesture (for moving all of your characters at once) takes a bit too long, which can leave your characters vulnerable for an extra second.
Similar to other strategy games, Assault includes upgrades for different character attributes like Damage, Health, and Speed. Using in-game currency, you can purchase these upgrades at any time during the game, or pay to unlock new characters for use on your team. While it is fun to mix and match characters (you can bring up to four on a mission at once), the game could certainly benefit from some stronger distinguishing characteristics among them. As they are now, the characters' differences seem minor, which makes the combinations feel less effective.
Another thing that the game could improve on is its use of screen space. With four heroes running around, along with countless hordes of zombies and a number of 3D scenic elements, like cars, fires, street lights, and buildings on screen, things can get crowded. To make it even more difficult to see what's going on, attacks are accompanied by large typographical exclamations, that say things like "Slash" and "Thwack." With all this in mind, I would highly recommend playing the game on a tablet and not a smartphone.
While The Walking Dead: Assault does have a few shortcomings, the game still offers the right mix of challenge and fun to justify its $2.99 price tag. Its controls are impressively smooth and the gameplay overall just seems more polished than other, similar games for mobile. Plus, if you consider the depth of the storyline and sharp graphics, there's no question that this game is a good buy.