The Walking Dead
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: Xbox 360/PS3/PC
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date (Retail): December 11, 2012
Genre: Point and Click Adventure
Zombies have always been a staple of video games, harkening back to the days of Capcom and their token franchise Resident Evil. Throngs of gamers still go crazy for the undead buggers, just see those who swarm to the Call of Duty: Black Ops games, many of those fans shout how much they love the zombie modes. The most recent DLC for Blackops 2 introduces you becoming one of the zombies too!
However like with many trends, it becomes overplayed and overused, I refer you to the past couple years vampire sensation. It started with Anne Rice and her Vampire series, which wasn’t considered mainstream, then boomed with the introduction of the Twilight series that spawned many other copycat books and game series until the subject matter was bone dry.
I am fortunate enough to say that my Zombie craze hasn’t exactly been quelled by the rush of zombie releases, though the movie release Warm Bodies isn’t convincing me there is much room left for me to go before it gets old. That’s why I was lucky to play TellTale Games The Walking Dead before the idea had gotten tired.
Let me start by prefacing this article by saying this: I have not read the comic series or TV series by the same name. That being said, this game offers zero spoilers in any way towards the cannon of the series. So if you were worried about any spoilers to the series, and you’re like me who wants to get into the series but just hasn’t yet, then this game is safe for you.
The Walking Dead begins the same way a spin-off always does, setting you in a different location during the same outbreak. You begin as Lee Everett, a man who we find handcuffed in the back of a police car on the way to prison. Within the first 5 minutes, we are already questioning our entire situation as there is no back story handed to you. You progress through a series of multiple choice answers (a la most Bio Ware Games), though you are only given a small window to answer them before the ability to speak is all but gone. Talking to the police man driving the car, you begin to discover that Lee isn’t exactly denying he was guilty of whatever crime he committed, given the cop a better opinion of you as the drive goes on. Soon enough your chauffer loses focus on the road, forcing the car to hit a Walker, sending you crashing into a nearby ditch.
From this point on, it is all about survival and the choices you make along the way. A survivor story in the world of zombies is a bit cliché but I’ll let it slide this time.
The first thing you’ll notice, beside the quick time answer segments, is that there is no free gameplay. The Walking Dead is centered around a linear path of progression, you can only explore what the developers wanted you to explore but nothing more. In fact, one of the issues I had was, that when trying to get a look around, I’d hit invisible walls that freeze my character’s movements, forcing me to turn back. Quick Note: If you hit these invisible walls and try to move at another angle against the wall, Lee’s character model will then freeze in his position and move around like a developer is dragging the model around the map. It’s humorous but an oversight on the developers part.
Sticking to this linear path, the story progresses in one direction, but can have varied outcomes depending on the choices made throughout the game. Even just choosing whether or not to go out during the day or night to look for help changes drastically. One scenario will have you help a guy make it to safety while in the other he is a zombie and must be dealt with accordingly. The choices come often in this game, from what we say to certain characters, who we save and who we don’t, all greatly affects the entire stretch of the game. Want to lie about your past and going to prison?
People will remember that, and if the truth is found out, and trust me it can be, they will remember you lied at the very beginning and distrust you the entire game. Choose to sacrifice someone to get what you want? Some people will praise you, others will look at you in disgust and avoid talking to you.
No matter what you do in this game, it is remembered. So choose your path wisely.
As I’ve said, gameplay in this game is a linear path; you will be going one direction and have limited choice in actions. The combat style is just the same, when attacked by Walkers, you are only given a cursor and single action to use, sometimes two but it won’t always be wise to choose the second. Besides this, combat is almost nonexistent, except in later episodes where you are able to manually aim and shoot your weapon to kill off Walker hordes. I didn’t particularly enjoy the lack of free combat, but this did add a level of intensity as there were moments where in seconds you could die with one poorly timed action.
Graphically the Walking Dead was not the next Halo 4 or Uncharted, however it held the air of Borderlands style graphics that not only look passable but have a certain charm to it. I noticed many times were facial recognition and audio mapping of the characters were off what they originally intended and the range of expressions in some of the characters were very limited. I couldn’t help but feel that some more time and polish could have been used to tighten these areas up, but as Downloadable gaming goes, this game met expectations.
In the audio field, the voices were great, some of the actors were even nominated for awards for their work on this game. The music wasn’t exactly spectacular, but it only existed in certain moments to build up the tension. It did its job, as I was always on my toes during my time spent through these games. I would have to say, for all the work done on the audio, it was well put together for this masterpiece.
Hitting it home for me was the story; this game had lots of it. In my recollection of recent games played, not in a long time have I experienced such an engaging and emotional story since the earlier Final Fantasy titles. The main story, no spoilers I promise, revolves around Lee and his need to survive with an abandoned girl he meets up with named Clementine. From the very beginning, your choices affect the way you and Clem move and act within this world now infested with zombies. She becomes just like a daughter to you, and you find yourself constantly trying to protect her in every situation.
The interactions between Lee and Clem are almost the centerpiece of The Walking Dead, not a moment goes by that we aren’t talking to her, giving her advice, or having to worry about her as she does something dangerous. Sure the game does have many other interactions with the other survivors you find yourself with, but I always find the bulk of the conversations carry on with or are about, Clementine. She is so central to the story, Twitter blew up on initial release with a #ForClementine trend that is still blowing up now as I write this.
Overall, The Walking Dead was a great game, it was emotional and engaging. It may have had some bugs or issues in certain areas, but TellTale made this game so powerful that even a few bugs could dampen the spirit of the game.
• Linear Play styles are always hard on me, as I love my freedom of choice.
• Character Model lip sync issues/facial expressions limited
• Invisible Game Walls
• Some graphical hiccups that could have been polished
• Engaging story
• Memorable characters
• Decisions Make a difference
• Voice actors on a professional level
• Clementine (‘Nuff Said)
• Personal: 9
• Technical: 9
• Final: 9
The Walking Dead reminded me what it was to play a game that had a great story and linear gameplay that actually kept me entranced. Most games these days fall under short on the Story element and focus too much on the gameplay, or vice versa, leaving one aspect ignored and therefore lacking. I had to sometimes remind myself that this was a game I was playing, not a well-crafted movie or tv show. I fell in love with TellTale’s creation and find myself looking forward to the rumored Season 2.
The Walking Dead is both a Downloadable game as well as available now in hard copy with all 5 Episodes for both Xbox 360 and PS3. I highly recommend you go and pick up a copy, or download the episodes today and fall in love with it just as I have.