The Walking Dead: Episode 1
Game play - 8
Presentation - 10
Story / Creativity - 10
Lifespan - 8
The Walking Dead is a tale of loss and survival. It shows the best and worst in people as they try to build a better tomorrow. The game fits in well with this theme, giving players a story with depth and complexity. You’re rarely sure you’ve made the right decision, but you must live with the consequences. Telltale Games has done an excellent job with the Walking Dead, and I am looking forward to playing the remaining episodes. If they are anything like Episode 1: A New Day, then this may very well be Telltales best game to date.
The Walking Dead: A New Day is Telltale Games’ first attempt at bringing the excitement of the Walking Dead TV and comic book series to the PC and consoles. Similar to other Telltale titles, The Walking Dead will be released in episodic content. Each of the 5 planned episodes will have their own release date, though you can buy the entire season in advance. The Walking Dead game does not directly follow the TV or comic book series. Instead Telltale uses masterful storytelling to craft an original, character driven, story that stays true to the comic series in both tone and art style. Each episode provides roughly 2-3 hours of gameplay which usually ends on a cliffhanger to leave you longing for the next chapter.
The Walking Dead introduces new characters and carefully develops them so that they are complex, fleshed-out, and believable. You play as Lee, an escaped convict who may or may not be a murder. While escaping Lee comes across Clementine, an abandoned 8 year old girl, and the two set off to find sanctuary. Moral choices play a huge role in the game, with each decision having a direct and sometimes fatal, consequence. You will care about these characters, and hope that the decisions you make are the right ones for the group.
I should make it clear that The Walking Dead game is not a shoot em’ up zombie apocalypse gorefest. It’s an elaborate story with plot twists and moral dilemmas. Before purchasing, you should ask yourself what you dislike about the Walking Dead franchise. Do you despise the elaborate character development and all the talking? Are you bored with the day to day lives of the characters? Do you just want to bash some zombie brains in? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions then The Walking Dead game may not be for you. A lot of emphasis is put on story and character dialog; so if you’re just looking to blindly kill a few zombies you will be very disappointed. That’s not to say the Walking Dead isn’t gory, it is, but Telltale has a “less is more” attitude in which acts of violence are brutal, yet realistic.
At its core The Walking Dead is a point-and-click adventure game where conversations and quick time events make up much of the gameplay. You are never free to roam too far, nor will you have to fiddle with an inventory menu. Interactivity comes in the form of the difficult moral choices you are faced with. You don’t have infinite time, and once you make a choice its permanent. Characters will remember what you did or didn’t do and you will have to deal with the aftermath. Choices will follow you throughout the subsequent episodes as well. In fact, Telltale promises by the end of the 5th episode the decisions we made in previous episodes will influence who is in our group and ultimately our final outcome.
Everything in the Walking Dead is scripted and outcomes solely depend on whether or not you hit a button in time. You really aren’t free to play the game as you see fit, and this may bother some gamers. Telltale grabs the narrative by the reins and takes you on the ride of your life. In this way, The Walking Dead is more of an interactive storybook or TV show, than an actual videogame.
The Walking Dead uses a cell-shaded art style reminiscent of the comic books, which give the game a very distinct and memorable look. The sound design hits all the right notes. The voice-acting is fantastic and really contributes to the player’s overall immersion in the game. The Walking Dead has great soundtrack that peaks and valleys when appropriate.
Like most point-and-click adventure games The Walking Dead has set camera angles that change with every scene, so you rarely have the standard first and third-person angle. The controls will also take some getting used to. With one stick you control the limited movement of Lee, and with the other your control a reticule that hones in on points of interest. From here all of the face button will have different functions. This system works well and is universal no matter what the scenario is. You will use the same control scheme to pick up a candy bar as you would to clobber a zombie to death. It just works.
The Walking Dead offers three save slots and it’s beyond tempting to replay the episode to experience the choices you didn’t make the first time around. In my first playthrough I was very open and honest, and in my second I was more of a self-centered jerk. Both scenarios ended at the same location, but the loyalty of my “friends” couldn’t have been more different. Not to mention a couple of them became zombie chow. It’s definitely worth checking out both methods to see what could have been, and it adds quite a bit of replay value.
There were only a few times in the first episode where I felt disengaged. The first time was when an adult character asked me to figure why the radio was not working, only to find out the batteries were missing. After finding some batteries and handing them to the character, they were incapable of figuring out the next logical step. Another time, during my evil playthrough, a character gratefully accepted food only to turn around and scorn me once I started the next sequence. Luckily events like these are few and far between.